chapter  2
11 Pages

Structuralism and semiotics

ByKate McGowan

MEANINGS 101: WHAT IS A SPINSTER? Perhaps this is not a very challenging question since a spinster is, quite obviously, simply an unmarried woman. Yet we already seem to know that a spinster is so much more besides. I’m sure if I asked you to describe a spinster, you would do so easily. A whole stock of images, I’m prepared to bet, would spring readily to mind. Think about it, brie y. Is Cameron Diaz a spinster? Why not? She’s an unmarried woman. Why, when you hear or see the word ‘spinster’, do you so readily think of someone who is more like the Queen of England (even though she is, in fact, a married woman) than, say, Naomi Campbell? Why do we seem to share a conceptual notion of a spinster as someone who is boring, conservative, shy and retiring, rather than someone who is enchanting, adventurous and daring? And how do we come to know these meanings even when we don’t, if you’re like me, regularly use the word ‘spinster’ in our vocabulary?