A couple of interesting developments in the housing market in the United States are set to make subtle changes to the English language.
In Seattle, there have been efforts to introduce a new kind of micro-housing as a way of saving space. Apodments, as they are called, are small living spaces in a block with access to shared kitchens – the perfect solution it would seem for young people looking for a cheap way to live.
But they are not so perfect for many in the city, with protest forming against plans to develop these Apodments. With Seattle seemingly the only place where they might spring up, their rejection might see a natty new housing word stifled at birth. But never say never – if Seattle can change the world of coffee drinking, then it may yet revolutionise apartment dwelling.
Meanwhile on the other side of the country, the Washington Business Journal has reported on a well-established housing term that could be set to bite the dust. According to a survey, an increasing number of housebuilders in the area are ditching the term ‘Master Bedroom’ because they say it is sexist or has connotations of slavery. ‘Owner’s Bedroom’ is being used instead.
Ignore the fact that owner’s bedroom simply doesn’t feel like it means the same thing – master bedroom implies the main room, owner’s bedroom is ultimately any bedroom, because the owner, logically, owns all of them. I agree with others who feel that this is political correctness gone potty. Yes, there are elements in English which are inherently sexist, and yes, there are times when it is important to be aware of that and change it where necessary.
But I remember years ago working on the subject of ‘unequal lexical pairs’ and considering ‘Master’ and ‘Mistress’ as examples where the feminine form of the word has wildly different meanings to the masculine one. In particular I suggested that ‘Mistress of Arts’ implied you’d be paying for them. ‘Mistress Bedroom’ doesn’t sound much better. So there are issues with the word Master. But I don’t think they really apply with Master Bedroom. I think that it’s a phrase where the male-ness of the word Master is actually irrelevant. For me, it simply means the biggest room, the gender question has simply never struck me as a problem.
So I see no reason for the phrase Master Bedroom to disappear. Unless you are buying an Apodment, of course.