Thursday, February 09, 2006

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

This is the final line of Rudyard Kipling's poem Gunga Din (or Gungha Din). The bored part of my brain started playing around with it and asked how it would sound if Gunga Din had been a woman:

You're a better woman than I am, Gunga Din!

Is the message still the same? Or does "a better woman" make you think of something specifically female or feminine? As if this female Gunga is a better housekeeper or more nurturing or more sexy? Because clearly "a better man" refers to "a better person" here, and I'm wondering if "a better woman" does the same.

Kipling's poem was written in a very different time period, and it may be that we no longer make such distinctions in using "woman" and "man" to describe the admirable qualities of some human being. But I wonder. Think about saying

You're a bigger man than I am, Gunga Din!

Now put woman in that sentence instead of a man, and we clearly are now talking about body weight or height or both!

Interesting, isn't it? Trivial, too. Or maybe not.