Hm, long time no blog! What have I been up to? Well, a bit of non-blog writing (but not much), trips to Brussels and Manchester for work, the odd gig, quite a lot of stress (also work) and reading The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies, which I recommend to you.
There’s a specific thing that has prompted me to write this post – nothing significant, but I can’t resist writing about it. Before I explain, a quick story… When I was a student, I was at a college “feast” – quite a lush and elite affair – and in the company of a fellow Scholar (sic), who we’ll call Chris. At drinks after the meal, we encountered our erstwhile supervisor and all-round super bloke Adam Smith. Adam was on the outside of a few drinks by this stage – he wasn’t alone in this, in fairness – and introduced us to his girlfriend, to whom he had been explaining a theory expounded to him earlier that day by another history fellow.
The theory was this: that there is a characteristically “masculine” approach to writing essays, and a clearly distinct “feminine” approach. The masculine approach is to fix on a line of argument, and then make the case firmly for that position throughout the essay. The feminine approach is to look at the pros and cons of each facet of the argument and each piece of evidence, giving a more reflective but less forceful essay. I recall Adam’s girlfriend being rather sceptical about this, and Adam having to back-pedal slightly, emphasising that these were a colleague’s views, not his.
Nonetheless, he couldn’t help himself from relating the theory to his own students. “Chris here, y’see,” he… well, to say slurred would be going a bit far, I suppose… “Chris has a very masculine essay technique, while John here, on the other hand, John has a bisexual writing style!” It remains perhaps my favourite thing that anyone has ever said about me.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered, courtesy of Lianne Light & Shade, a website that claims to be able to divine the sex of the author of an item of text by analysing the contents! OK, it’s not quite the same thing, but still interesting. I was in equal parts relieved and disappointed to find my own blog posts come out as resolutely male (though in fairness it doesn’t have a “bisexual” output option). Paton too was correctly identified. But when I entered not one but two posts (this one and this one) from the superficially manly MJ Hibbett, both were identified as being written by a female author! I didn’t dare try it with a third post in case it got it right and stopped being funny.