Monday, February 6, 2012

Semiotics of the "Murse"

I was particularly taken with Sausser’s concept of semitotics and the way word’s sound and the cultural construction of their meaning.  I was able to clarify his concept for myself by thinking of it in terms of something we’ve already talked about, which is the “murse”.  The way the word sounds is similar to the way the word “purse” sounds, and the word “purse” brings to mind feminine images.  That’s why so many men cringe at the idea of having a murse.  I have a friend who carries around a bag and when I tried to tell him that he was carrying a murse, he adamantly replied “This is NOT a murse, it’s a messenger bag.  I would never carry a purse”.  It’s because purses have gained a feminine association over time.
            Many men feel the need to create a name for their bags that are independent of the feminine word “purse”.  But why did purse gain such a feminine association?  After all, a purse is just a bag, no different from a messenger bag.  While I can understand that the purse has developed a feminine association over time, but how did this happen?  At what point in time did having a purse become exclusive to women?  Media probably played a significant role by portraying only women with purses and therefore fed into the idea that purses are only for women, but why did they target purses to women in the first place? It is hard for me to completely agree with the fact that a word is culturally constructed when I understand how it is constructed but don’t understand why it was constructed that way.

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