Gender in Estonian phraseology

Anneli Baran

The present study is the first attempt to analyse Estonian data on gender marking in figurative language use. The article will take a closer look at gender-specific reference in figurative speech, more specifically in Estonian phraseology. on the basis of examples, the article will highlight the primary characteristics that have been attributed to women in different periods, primarily in the 19th-early 20th century. It will attempt to draw a collective portrait of the woman as it appears in Estonian phraseology. The present study is based on studies conducted on German phraseology, an important influence on early Estonian phraseology. The results show that the opinions and attitudes are quite similar in the case of the two cultures: in the specific sarcastic-teasing manner of phraseology, women have above all been criticized for talkativeness, power, argumentativeness, frivolity, etc. As can be seen from examples about men, presented here as a contrast, men have been ridiculed for obeying women or being defeated by them. As archival sources are inconsistent, it is hard to draw firm conclusions about what lies behind these expressions. Similarly to other recordings of past folklore or language, the material does not give us sufficient information about specific language users to enable us to make valid generalizations about peoples worldview. On the other hand, we also cannot overlook these texts. Rather, we should attempt to analyse why such expressions have endured in language for centuries and why they continue to be used today.