Rauhe Männer - Zarte Frauen. Linguistic and Stylistic Aspects of Gender Stereotyping in German Advertising Texts 1949-1959.


Felicity Rash

Lecturer in German, Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London
E-mail: f.j.rash@qmw.ac.uk
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First published in Web Journal of Modern Language Linguistics in association with the publishers (to be announced). © 1996 Felicity Rash.

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Received January 1996, Revised March 1996


This study examines gender stereotyping in a sample of advertising texts taken from Der Spiegel between the years 1949 and 1959. The sample consists of four pairs of thematically related texts, with one pair of each ostensibly aimed at women and the other at men. Aspects of language and style are analyzed in the light of modern linguistic theories relating to (a) advertising techniques and (b) the stereotyping of the sexes. It is shown that each text uses a variety of linguistic and stylistic means to target male or female consumers. This study of only eight texts reveals a surprising variety in the linguistic techniques used during the period, suggesting that more extensive study of 1950s advertising language would shed light on an as yet understudied period as well as on developments in the decades that followed.


1 Introduction
1.1 Gender Stereotyping
3A. "RESIGNATION" (4. 8. 1949)
3B. "IMPATIENCE" (23. 3. 1955)
5A 8. 5. 1957
5B 26. 6. 1957

1 Introduction

The subject of this investigation is German advertising language in the 1950s, a period which represents an important yet somewhat neglected stage in the development of advertising language and techniques. The particular focus of this paper will be the linguistic and stylistic means employed to target male and female consumers. I shall show in particular how the linguistic techniques used to reinforce gender stereotypes and the strategies for addressing members of each sex, which both form major parts of studies of the advertising texts produced in later decades (see in particular Vestergard and Schrøder 1984; Heller 1984), were well developed in the 1950s and in many respects for the basis for later developments in advertising language. The increasing interest in the linguistic targeting of men and women as separate consumer groups since Römer (1976), who paid relatively little attention to this aspect of advertising, encourages the view that there is considerable scope for detailed work on the German material.

Hohmeister (1981) is one of the few scholars to have analysed advertising texts of the 1950s and to have set the language of that decade in historical context. He takes a selection of texts from the Gießener Anzeiger from 1800 to 1975, dealing with 20 texts from the year 1950. He points out that the advertising practices of the early 1950s were affected by the restricted availability of products during the post-war era, when demand exceeded supply in all areas of commerce. Despite the fact that advertising is at its most varied and prolific in times of over-production, advertising techniques developed considerably throughout the 1950s: `Trotz der wenig vorteilhaften Rahmenbedingungen der Nachkriegsjahre haben die Anzeigen eine verbesserte Optik erhalten, der Wortschatz läßt Neubildungen erkennen und die Argumente haben sich verändert' (1981:229f.). Further developments included: increased personal address of the prospective consumer, increased use of rhyme in texts, and the advent of the `idealisierter Verbrauchertyp', for example the `richtiger Mann' and the `gute (Haus)frau' (1981:238-41).

Most other recent studies examine advertising language from the 1960s onwards, with Ruth Römer (1976) providing a useful model. It seems to be increasingly fashionable to analyse the most up-to-date texts available, with the result that nothing much new is found - texts nowadays largely exhibit similar features: short sentences, nominal style, disjunctive and abbreviated grammar (as defined by Leech 1966:91-97) and excessive use of Anglicisms. The texts are often very short and it is therefore surprising that they are seldom examined in their entirety. Frequently, analysis is confined to headlines and/or slogans (e.g. Möckelmann and Zander, 1978); this gives a rather limited picture of advertising language as a whole. Furthermore, the most popular advertising texts of the 1980s and 1990s are of a supreme brevity. Hemmi (1994:35) attributes this state of affairs to a commercial `Informationsüberflutung' which tends to overburden the consumer, who has become increasingly selective in what he or she reads and who is more readily influenced by visual images, the latter taking less time and effort to process. Also, according to Hemmi, the content of the brief modern text is likely to be less reasoned and more emotional than a text of the 1960s, when the market was not yet saturated with largely similar products and information about these products was still valued. One is thus left with a decade, the 1950s, between Hohmeister's assumed improvement in the length and quality of advertising texts, and Hemmi's posited decline and it would appear that this decade presents us with a unique window in the history of advertising, one that has not been exploited to the full. After addressing gender stereotyping in general, I will present a detailed analysis of eight representative texts from the 1950s. Each text has been chosen to illustrate one type of gender stereotype, or, in one case, a stereotype-reversal. The eight texts are grouped into four pairs, in which advertisements aimed at men and women are contrasted. The analysis of each text will include discussion of general stylistic matters, followed by an examination of vocabulary- choice and, finally, of syntactic features.

I have based my notion of stereotypes on Vestergard and Schrøder (1984:71-108). According to their analysis, texts aimed at female consumers portray women in a variety of circumstances, which may include one or more of the following: women within a decorative setting; women with passive or patient natures; women as decorative objects; women as dependent upon men for help and guidance; women as provides of emotional security for their families. Texts aimed at the male consumer present a picture of one or more of the following male roles and characteristics: men employed in occupations outside the home; men as busy or overworked individuals; men with aggressive or impatient natures; men as providers of material security for their families. The sample of eight texts which illustrate the linguistic reinforcement of these stereotypes is taken from a corpus of 500 advertising texts (300 aimed at men and 200 at women) collected from Der Spiegel. Their representative nature has been established on the basis that for each stereotype at least five similar texts exist (usually the number is considerably higher). I have endeavoured to show the extent to which the stereotypes are confirmed in these texts and highlight cases where there is an unexpected deviation.

1.1 Gender Stereotyping

It can be difficult to separate issues of a linguistic and stylistic nature from themes and other aspects of content that relate to the advertising message. In the main I have followed Ruth Römer, who blurs the distinction between linguistics and stylistics, and also discusses content. In particular, she classes vocabulary- choice as intrinsic to any linguistic study: to Römer, `Wortwahl' is the statistical analysis of the occurrence of different word-classes and also the study of sentence-length and sentence- patterns; `Stilistik' she sees as a term which is often used misleadingly, is in any case vague and difficult to define, but is usually used to refer to vocabulary-choice (1976:75). Leech and Short quote Halliday's view that `all linguistic choices are meaningful and all linguistic choices are stylistic' (Leech and Short 1981:33). They themselves define two types of style: STYLE 1, which is the study of linguistic choices in the most general sense and includes quantitative stylistics applied to texts; and STYLE 2, which is the analysis of the ways different linguistic forms may be used to represent the same referential reality (i.e. different ways of paraphrasing the same content) (1981:39).

I have taken Der Spiegel as my sole source, although it is usually regarded as "männerorientiert". However in the 1950s the periodical was a rare and particularly rich source of commercial advertisements apparently aimed at women. It seems to me that if one's aim is to compare texts selling to each sex separately, it is advisable to use the same source for both, because then all other aspects of the targeted audience apart from sex will remain constant (class, educational background, income, values, aspirations, etc.). It is rare to find a periodical whose advertisements target men and women individually and in equal proportions as Der Spiegel does; for example advertisements in Time magazine and the Sunday Times magazine of the same decade were not generally gender-specific.

Until 1953, adverts in Der Spiegel addressing men and women separately were to be found in equal numbers. In July 1954 Der Spiegel published the results of a reader-survey which suggested that 95% of all their readers were well-educated and affluent men. The editor commented on the fact that few women had participated in the survey: `offensichtlich ist, daß die Männer ihren Frauen das Ausfüllen abgenommen haben' - perhaps he cherished his female readers and did not want to believe the results. Nevertheless, from this time onwards advertisements aimed at women began to decline, while the amount of space devoted to advertising in general slowly increased. In 1950 only 9.8% of total space had been reserved for advertising; by 1960 this percentage had increased to 47% (Yang 1990:33) and of this 47% more that 75% of adverts were aimed at men (although there were still enough women's adverts in 1959 for my purposes). By 1966 advertisers using Der Spiegel had decided that it was not worthwhile targeting women at all - they could be reached more efficiently through Stern and Hör zu (Der Spiegel, 17 January 1966, p. 3). Thus a comparison of adverts for men and women in the 1990s would probably require more than one source.

My data consist of advertisements that are obviously aimed at members of one sex or the other: men or women are either mentioned specifically or presented in visual images. The two sexes are either directly addressed (as consumers), or spoken about (as consumers or as representatives of the advertiser); or they speak themselves (in imaginary monologues and dialogues). The most obvious distinctive features are largely associated with key themes, most notably of women as delicate, decorative and largely passive counterparts to active, aggressive and over-worked men. Linguistic differences are more elusive. It is also quite difficult to draw straightforward conclusions about the use of so-called "women's language" or "men's language", because all or most of the copywriters of the 1950s (in Germany at least) were men - and therefore all advertising language was men's language: hypothetical women in conversation were using language that men thought of as typically feminine and the adjectives were those which men thought would appeal to women.

There are clearly useful observations to be made about the linguistic means of appealing to men and women, but attempts to define how this is done have so far failed to stay within reasonable boundaries of linguistic investigation. Vestergaard and Schrøder have written a book with the promising title The Language of Advertising (1985). This starts out very well with an approach based on text linguistics and communication strategies, but by the fourth chapter, entitled `Strategies of Address: Sex and Class', the authors have limited their scope to descriptions of content, ideology and psychology. The half chapter on addressing the sexes barely touches on vocabulary-selection beyond where this is determined by the various themes that are examined. For example one headline is said to have a brutish image: `the civilised way to roar', we are told that this is accompanied by a visual image of a figure which is half man and half lion, whose stare is said to be `Earthy, Primitive, Fiercely masculine' - from here on we are expected to draw our own conclusions.

Where gender stereotyping is concerned it is, of course, valid to take account of ideology and psychology, an understanding of which can help one make useful statements about language use. A good starting point when examining 1950s advertising from this point of view is Vance Packard's analysis of consumer motivation (despite the findings of later research which attempt to discredit the notion of subliminal influences). According to Brand (1978) Packard's views have been superseded: few if any consumers are seduced by advertising messages, instead people rely on adverts to inform them and confirm consumer choices that they have already made. I would like to demonstrate a link between Packard's `eight hidden needs' and the type of language used to sell the products which will satisfy them. In Chapter 7 of his Hidden Persuaders, Packard (1970) lists the `subconscious needs, yearnings and cravings' which are targeted by advertisers: emotional security, reassurance of worth, ego- gratification, creativity, love objects, power, sense of roots, and immortality. In Packard's view, all of these can be bought and most of them can be sold by mentioning sex in connection with them (Packard, Chapter 8). Möckelmann and Zander suggest that the first two of these needs, emotional security and reassurance of worth, are appealed to particularly strongly in German advertising (`wohl wegen der beiden verlorenen Weltkriege'). They translate the first need as `Sicherheitsbedürfnis', which includes the senses of both material and emotional security and which manifests itself most commonly as `Prestigeverheißung'; the second need is translated as `Wertbestätigung' which, they claim, is most commonly encountered as `Verheißung sexueller Selbstbestätigung'. Hohmeister (1981:229) claims that advertisers started to appeal to people's emotions at the turn of the twentieth century: `entweder beschreibt man Waren und Leistungen mit affektbeladenen Begriffen oder setzt die Aussagen über Nutzen und Wirkungen der Produkte in eine Beziehung zu menschlichen Trieben und Stimmungen wie <<Sicherheitsbedürfnis>>, <<Gesundheit>>, <<Wohlbefinden>> oder <<Eitelkeit>>'. The popular Rolex slogan, advertising to "die Großen der Welt" is a typical example for the 1950s. `Erfolg' (chiefly for men) and `Sicherheit' (for women possibly more than for men) are key words for the 1950s and beyond.

According to Eva Heller (1984), sex had become the main subconscious drive that could hook the consumer by the 1970s. The language of sex (Liebeswerben) was identical with the language of advertising; it could woo the consuming public into buying more or less anything. Products were sexy (1984:83) and advertising was sexist (1984:123). Heller tells us that in 1980 the Deutsche Werberat (the German advertising standards authority) issued a recommendation that sexist advertising should be toned down: agencies should `künftig auf allzu Anstößiges verzichten'. It is the allzu that is the key word here: it was feared that if agencies did not curb their sexist excesses they would have to give up sexist advertising altogether. The agencies got round this by claiming that they were only reflecting social reality and society would therefore have to change before they did. Of course this was not a problem in the texts of the 1950s. Sexual discrimination in advertising was not unacceptable, or perhaps it was not noticed in the same way. It must however be noted that neither the plumpe Zweideutigkeiten nor the naked breasts and bottoms that Heller feels so out of place were present in 1950s advertising.

1950s sexual stereotypes seem fairly innocent if seen in isolation, although they are less harmless if we consider what they were allowed to develop into. Adverts from this decade flatter neither men nor women: both sexes are portrayed as limited in their aspirations and abilities, and lacking in individuality, although men are shown as being able to perform a wider variety of tasks. The Spiegel man is a manager or a travelling salesman, his main goal is success at work, but he is all too often thwarted by Manager-Krankheit, uncomfortable underpants and having to shave. The chief characteristics of manliness are irritability, heroism and martyrdom. Spiegel women are the wives of professional men and managers (seldom of travelling salesmen, for the women appear to be social climbers), their goals are beauty and to be a perfect wife, and their obstacles are mostly associated with housework. Femininity seems to involve smelling sweet, being good tempered and having good legs.

Apart from a slight shift in recent years from images of women as domestic drudges to a more glamorous ideal, and the occasional representation of a man doing the housework, the stereotypes of the 1950s appear to be largely unchanged by the time that Vestergaard and Schrøder are writing. Their description of advertising techniques vis-à-vis the sexes are as valid for 1950s Germany as they are today. They maintain that the consumer expects gender stereotypes and that advertisers use language and visual images to reproduce our gender identities because we need to have these confirmed and reinforced (1985:73). They claim that adverts address men and women as separate entities in such an extreme manner that men have to be "proper" men through and through (even 1% effeminacy is abhorred) and women have to be 100% feminine ("mannishness" is the unacceptable alternative). According to Vestergaard and Schrøder (1985:106), the ideals of masculinity are of active, dominant men: strength and virility are important, as is success in the world of business and politics and in the competition for women; the ideals of femininity involve passive, subordinate women who are inferior to and dependant upon men; male-addressed adverts tend to portray women as whores or as servants; where the sexes engage with one another, men watch women and women merely appear. But as I have pointed out above, Vestergaard and Schrøder do not explain how these stereotyped ideals are portrayed using linguistics means.

The remainder of this paper will illustrate how 1950s advertisers targeted men and women through language and, more specifically, through an adaptation of linguistic stereotypes of the type described by Key (1975), Trömel-Plötz (1982:48-52), Coates (1986:102-114), Frank (1992:78f.) and others. These authors report on the long- standing prejudices about women's and men's linguistic behaviour. Feminist linguists brand all language as "man-made", sexist and responsible for the subordination of women in society (Irigaray 1990:11-12 and 1993:15-22; Sellers 1991:19-38), therefore a "men's language" (German Männersprache, see Pusch 1990). Irigaray also refers to "women's / men's discourse" (1993:29-36), linking the notion of "man-made" language with that of preferred, gender-specific systems of communication and communication styles. Similarly, Penelope (1990:xxvi-xxix) defines a "Patriarchal Universe of Discourse" as a man-made communicative system within which only men operate effectively and through which they maintain their dominance over women. Coates and others adopt a less political stance in their identification of gender-specific speech styles, which are frequently termed "women's / men's style" (Coates 1986:102-107; Irigaray 1990:389-401) or "women's / men's language" (German Frauensprache / Männersprache, Trömel-Plötz 1982:1-52). Pusch also uses the term in this latter sense, and I adopt this terminological framework in this paper. Designations such as "women's advertisements" and "men's advertisements", "women's adverbs" and "men's verbs", and the like, derive from the terms "women's / men's language" and will refer to texts and individual lexical items which are apparently intended to appeal to male or female consumers individually.

It is clear that the presumably male writers of the advertising texts examined below were aware of certain linguistic stereotypes and exploited them in an attempt to appeal to male and female consumers.

According to Key and the other writers listed above, women are held to be more subjective and emotional than men, more tentative in their utterances, and more polite and eager to please in conversation. Women are considered to limit the validity of many of their utterances by using hedges (weißt du, wirklich, eigentlich) and tag questions (nicht wahr?). Coates (1986:112-113) also refers to choice of vocabulary by women, in particular the preference for empty or emphatic adverbs, such as so, really, divine, charming (see also Trömel-Plötz 1982:48-52), and to the theory that women have a particular capacity for semantic differentiation not shared by men.

More work still has to be done on the perceived vocabulary preferences of women and men, and on the way in which such apparent preferences are used by advertisers to create texts addressing women and men respectively. I believe that future statistical analysis of the 500 texts of my corpus will demonstrate that the women of the 1950s were believed to favour words such as zart, weich, schön, Anmut, Wünsche, aussehen, schmeicheln and fühlen, and that many men were felt to be attracted by words such as stark, kräftig, rauh, Erfolg, Hast, Eile, schaffen and meistern. Each field of vocabulary would appear to support the stereotypes of women as passive and delicate and of men as tough and active.

Women are believed to be more inclined to ask questions and enter into dialogue than men (Irigaray 1990:396-97). A common prejudice is that women talk more profusely and about more trivial subjects than men, and that they have smaller vocabularies; also that they produce fewer complex sentences than men. Finally, women supposedly use more phonetically and grammatically "correct" forms. Men are generally considered to be more objective, direct and forceful than women in their linguistic behaviour. They are more at ease in the occupancy of subject position in discourse than their female counterparts (Irigaray 1990:389-91). Men are held to interrupt others in conversation, speak loudly and sometimes aggressively. They are felt to use more agentless passives and express more "universal truths" than women (Penelope 1990:144-46). Men may speak less "correctly" than women and are more likely to use coarse language. It is generally agreed nowadays that these stereotypical patterns of linguistic behaviour have more to do with social power structures than with any genetic predisposition of the sexes. The stereotypes are, however, prevalent in advertising texts of the 1950s, well before Key et. al. defined them.


2A. "DELICACY" (4. 4. 1951)

Rauhe Männer, zarte Frauen

[1] Richtige Männer geben sich zuweilen ein bißchen rauh. [2] Und doch: wo etwas Zartes in ihrem Blickfeld auftaucht, wenden sie ihre Augen dem Zarten und Zärtlichen zu. [3] Dies weiß niemand besser als die Mode, die ihre Ideen oft von Männern empfängt und seit jeher - vertraut mit männlichen Wünschen - die Frau mit zarten Stoffen umkleidet. [4] In nichts aber hat sie neuerdings soviel Liebe gelegt wie in die Strümpfe der Frau, wissend, wieviel es auf die Schönheit der Beine und der Strümpfe ankommt. [5] Ein Verdienst von ARWA ist es, durch die ARWA-Beinmaß-Aktion die Gesetze für die Entwicklung der ARWA-Paßform ermittelt zu haben. [6] Dies gibt dem Bein den vollendeten, plastischen Sitz, den Arwa-Stil. [7] Und bei aller Feinheit ist Arwa ein dankbarer Strumpf, der wirklich was aushält und der sich so wunderbar anfühlt ... schmeichelnd für die Frau, die ihn voll Anmut trägt, schmeichelhaft auch für den Mann, der ihn mit zärtlichem Blick verschenkt!

This advertisement for stockings is intended to appeal to women, although they are kept very much in the background throughout. The text is accompanied by an image of a pair of graceful legs which has survived into the 1990s.[1] The stereotyping is obvious from the headline: men are `rauh', women are `zart' (tender, gentle, delicate) and `zärtlich' (tender, loving, affectionate), they are the recipients of `zärtlichen Blicken' from men. The advert presents women as passive objects: they merely wear the stockings; they are watched and admired by men; they are dressed by fashion (personified) which is decided by men, who ensure that `Mode' knows what they want. The leg-experts from Arwa help Mode and the men in their enterprise to dress women `in zarten Stoffen'. The stocking produced by Arwa helps the woman look good indirectly by making her legs attractive: the end result is that the `real' woman pleases the `richtige(n) Mann' who is still watching her at the end of the advert. Despite the complicity between Mode and men in the enterprise of making women pleasing to men, it is Mode and ARWA, not men, which are the real authorities behind this advertisement: Mode `weiß' and ARWA `ermittelt'.

Neither women nor men are directly addressed in the text. The accompanying illustration depicts a pair of unattached legs. In the headline and sentences 1 and 2 men are the main actors: women are mentioned second in the headline and reappear in sentence 2 as abstract nouns formed from adjectives: etwas Zartes, dem Zarten und Zärtlichen - they are well and truly `derived'. The only verbs describing women's actions are auftauchen (in the man's field of vision) and tragen (which hardly identifies an action in this sense). Most of the verbs refer to attributes and actions of the product: anfühlen, aushalten, schmeicheln, umkleiden - the latter two of these have the woman as a passive recipient. Men are slightly more active: they are shown as having a certain behaviour (geben sich [...] rauh); most importantly, they constitute the scene by using their eyes (wenden ihren Augen and verschenken Blicke).

Certain lexical elements of the text are probably intended to appeal to women: the abstract nouns: Liebe, Schönheit, Feinheit; the poetic language of the last sentence with words and phrases such as voll Anmut, schmeichelnd and schmeichelhaft, verschenken; adjectives such as zart and schmeichelnd; and the paired noun epithets dem Zarten und Zärtlichen. Adverbs which are often classed as "women's adverbs" occur in the text, e.g. wirklich, so wunderbar in the final sentence: these seem to imitate so-called "women's speech" (Coates 1986:17). In the first sentence the behaviour of the `rauhe Männer' is moderated by the adverb zuweilen and modifier ein bißchen . These and similar strategies are frequently cited as typifying women's tendency to be less direct and forceful than men, and weaken the impact of any criticisms that they may wish to deliver. They appear to excuse the `rauhe Männer' and make the women who have to put up with them appear passive. The phrase Und doch ... at the beginning of the following sentence contradicts any remaining notion that man is always `rauh' and introduces his softer side.

The text displays a syntactic feature which is frequently found in 1950s advertisements aimed at women: in this text, as in others, connectives commonly start sentences, whereas in "men's texts" a grammatical subject more usually appears in initial position, particularly where the subject is the man himself. We are led through this text by a series of connectives: conjunctions - und and und doch start sentences 2 and 7; the demonstrative pronoun dies- acts as a pro-form (a pro-sentence, in fact) in sentences 3 and 6.

2B. "VIOLENCE" (2. 7. 1958)

Wehe den Gehetzten[2]

[1] Sie wissen nicht, was sie tun.[3] [2] Ständig in Hast und Eile, getrieben von einer unsichtbaren Macht, immer auf vollen Touren, einerseits um den Anschluß zu halten, andererseits immer dabei zu sein, nichts zu versäumen, ohne abzuschalten. [3] Wehe dem Gehetzten! [4] Er ahnt nicht, daß er mit seinem ,,nervenzerrütteten Leben" Raubbau an den besten Kräften treibt, seine Existenz, ja sein Leben selbst gefährdet. [5] - Denn verbrauchte Nerven belasten das Herz und führen eine Veränderung des Herzschlages und der Herztätigkeit mit sich. [6] Die Gehirnnerven - wunder Punkt der Nervenmenschen - werden gereizt und in ihrer Leistung empfindlich gestört. [7] Der fortgesetzte Spannungszustand gewinnt Gewalt über Herz, Gehirn, Magen, Leber, Galle, Darm und Nieren, also den ganzen Menschen. Der Schlaf wird gestört. [8] Ein Glück für alle Strapazierten, daß es Eidran gibt. [9] Eidran hat seit Jahren erstaunliche Erfolge erzielt und sein Ansehen mit dem Ausspruch: ,,Nimm Eidran und Du schaffst es" begründet. [10] Wenn Sie zu den vielen heruntergewirtschafteten, verbrauchten und vorzeitig erschöpften Menschen gehören, können Sie nichts Besseres tun, als auch der Devise folgen: Nimm EIDRAN und Du schaffst es!

The stereotype in this advert is of a working man who pushes himself beyond all reasonable limits. The keywords here as in so many other "men's adverts" are Hast and Eile. The man is, however, absolved of responsibility for the damage that he has done to himself because he is (a) ignorant and (b) driven by an invisible force: he is thus a passive object not unlike the `zarte Frau' of the previous advertisement. He is not mentioned in the elliptical second sentence which lists the attributes of the active man (immer auf vollen Touren, immer dabei, etc.) without an expressed subject or a main verb. The advert aims to educate men through fear: the message is conveyed by means of violent images and dramatic warnings. At first men under pressure are referred to as a group, rather than addressed individually. The first Wehe den Gehetzten of the title is followed by the pronoun sie in the next sentence. The first Wehe den Gehetzten of sentence 3 is followed with the depersonalizing third person singular pronoun er in the next sentence, so that the male reader can still imagine that it is another Gehetzter, and not himself, who is the object of the warning. However if the reader of this advertisement recognizes himself as the Gehetzter, this adjectival noun formed from the past participle of the verb hetzen (`to hound, agitate') supports the impression of him as the innocent object of outside pressures. He is a typical active man in one sense, but being this turns him into a passive victim.

The verbs in the text fall into two main categories. The first type are the verbs expressing ignorance and inaction. Two are stative verbs which are negated: Sie wissen nicht, Er ahnt nicht. Men do not know what they are doing to themselves and are thus absolved from a portion of guilt. The advert will of course tell them what they are doing wrong and solve the problem for them. Negative particles and adverbs join two more verbs of inaction: nichts zu versäumen and ohne abzuschalten. The problem is not what men do in a positive sense, but what they dare not miss or neglect to do if they are to be dabei. The second type of verb expresses violent or disruptive actions: gefährden and Raubbau treiben are the only verbs that have a man as their agent. The others have non-human agents or no agent at all: belasten, werden gereizt, wird gestört, getrieben von; and Gewalt gewinnen has an abstract subject der fortgesetzte Spannungszustand. The absence of an agent helps take responsibility away from the Gehetzter. Agentless passive constructions are mentioned by the feminist linguist Julia Penelope (1990:151) as being typical of "men's language": men are claimed to use them in order to avoid explicitly taking blame themselves or apportioning it to other men or institutions (Penelope 1990:144-6).[4] Both main types of verb portray men as not responsible for their actions, or even for their inaction and unknowingness.

Thus far we have only observed linguistic devices for diluting the warning expressed in this advert. The impact of the message is at first weakened by the indirect way in which the verbs are used, but the adjectives used later on make up for this to some degree. They express destruction and misuse and are directed towards the male reader. The Gehetzter has already been characterized by additional adjectival noun epithets which express misuse at the hands of a third party; the victim is further characterized as der Strapazierte and der Nervenmensch; his whole existence is nervenzerüttet. In the final sentence the focus is finally on the man who needs help: the adjectives heruntergewirtschaftet, verbraucht, and erschöpft all derive from past participles and denote abuse. The possibility of outside agency still exists, but the worrying message is now addressed directly to a particular male reader via the second person pronoun Sie. The reader realizes that the whole text has been about him and not some other Gehetzter. The final slogan promises the reader that he will survive, finally addressing him with the more familiar Du. This slogan negates all that has gone before and reintroduces a typical "man's " action with the verb schaffen, but it should also be noted that the transition from body-copy to slogan is often reflected by a break in style.


3A. "RESIGNATION" (4. 8. 1949)

,,Eigentlich wollte ich ihm ja böse sein ...!"

[1] Wütend war ich nämlich gestern abend. [2] Kommt der Erich nach Hause und das erste und netteste, was er mir zu sagen hat, ist eine Bemerkung über meine Händ! Das sei ein Skandal, wie die aussähen, und so braucht keine Frau sich gehen zu lassen und all solche Weisheiten mehr. [3] Nun sahen sie ja fürchterlich aus, aber immer dieses Herumwirtschaften im Haushalt und das harte Wasser hier - das halten sie eben nicht aus. [4] Ich also totbeleidigt. [5] Schließlich aber hatte er mich doch bei meiner Eitelkeit gepackt, und vor Lädenschluß habe ich mir dann noch rasch eine Tube Kaloderma-Gelee geholt. [6] Na, heute wollte er natürlich wieder einlenken und sagte mir hundert Komplimente und wie phantastisch meine Hände jetzt wieder aussähen und so - und damit kriegte er mich dann natürlich mal wieder herum. [7] Aber diese Kaloderma-Gelee ist wirklich wunderbar. [8] Macht die Hände ganz zart und glatt. Und so schnell wie das wirkt! [9] Da hat sich der Krach wirklich gelohnt! Zur Pflege der Hände KALODERMA GELEE DAS SPEZIALMITTEL.

In this advertisement a woman tells of how she has discovered that her hands are in need of Kaloderma handcreme. The text is presented as a monologue, but features of a reciprocal "gossip"-type style as defined by Deborah Jones are clearly present, i.e. `a way of talking between women in their roles as women, intimate in style, personal and domestic in topic and setting, a female cultural event which springs from and perpetuates the restrictions of the female role, but also gives the comfort of validation' (Jones 1990:243).

The tone of her account is apologetic and self-deprecating; the modal particles of the headline and the first sentence weaken the effect of the woman's anger with ihm, the individual named as Erich in sentence 2 and who is presumably her husband. Also the modal verb wollte and the stresses on the words eigentlich and böse take much of the force from the woman's complaint. Schließlich in sentence 5 similarly tones down the protest (Ich also totbeleidigt.) of sentence 4. Senta Trömel-Plötz describes the tendency of some women `abschwächend und verharmlosend zu reden' and she places this within a broader "language of apology" which was first classified as belonging to so-called "women's language" by Mary Key in 1975 (Trömel-Plötz, 1982:46). Nun sahen sie ja fürchterlich aus is equally apologetic and the modal particles nun and ja lend a tone of self-blame and resignation. The remainder of the text is peppered with modal particles which are presumably intended to mimic the incidence of these particles in German Umgangssprache (cf. Durrell 1991:174) and therefore make it believable as an example of colloquial language.

The italicization of eigentlich and böse are almost certainly supposed to be typical of women's intonation; such indications of stressed words are commonly found in adverts aimed at women and they fit in with Jennifer Coates' view that women are inclined to `speak in italics' (1986:112). Coates also refers to `women's excessive use of certain adverbial forms' as a common linguistic stereotype[5], and occurrences of such adverbs in this text would appear to support this stereotype: fürchterlich, wirklich, so and ganz; also the modal particles natürlich, eigentlich and possibly schließlich. Phantastisch and wunderbar are adjectives that frequently occur in adverts aimed at women; zart and glatt also occur in men's adverts, in particular those for electric razors.

The non-standard syntax of the text presumably imitates colloquial usage (cf. Keller 1978:525-534) rather than women who, according to an old stereotype, cannot construct grammatically correct sentences (Coates 1986:24). Sentence 1 topicalizes wütend and sentence 2 begins with a verb, probably reflecting ellipsis of da . Other sentences begin with na, und and nun. Sentence 4 is also elliptical; sentence 8 has no subject and is actually the second half of the previous sentence, in fact this text could be taken as an early example of disjunctive syntax, which is frequently taken to have its origins in the advertising texts of the 1960s.

3B. "IMPATIENCE" (23. 3. 1955)

,,Der Tag fängt wieder mal gut an - verschlafen - das Gesicht wie ein Kaktus - dabei hab' ich mich gestern abend erst rasiert - wo bleibt denn das heiße Wasser! Sie hat schon recht: Morgens bin ich wirklich unausstehlich - kein Wunder ... - jetzt sind auch noch die Klingen alle - ob ich mir doch einen Vollbart wachsen lasse? Quatsch ... - Was, schon so spät? - verdammt, jetzt muß ich wieder ohne Frühstück los." Warum eigentlich? Das bessere Ich verweist auf: BRAUN 300 DE LUXE mit ihm geht es besser und bequemer. [Due to the extreme disjunction of the syntax in this text it was decided not to number the sentences.]

In this first-person monologue, the man with the five-o'-clock shadow is presented as typically masculine, and is bad-tempered in the mornings because his social life has not left him enough time to have a (wet) shave and have breakfast. Fragmentary sentences and stream of consciousness style reinforce our sense of the man's impatience: he has to get to work. Der Tag fängt wieder mal gut an... is, of course, ironic, as one familiar problem is heaped upon another: ... jetzt sind auch noch die Klingen alle ... jetzt muß ich wieder ohne Frühstück los... wo bleibt denn das heiße Wasser? Whereas in the previous text the modal particles helped to convey a sense of relaxation by imitating informal spoken language, peremptory denn and the expletives verdammt and Quatsch, typical of "men's language", add to the tone of agitation and impatience, as does the repetition of the adverbs wieder and jetzt.

A nameless sie resides in the background, which is likely to refer to the man's wife, who would probably be making breakfast for him. Her opinion is important and he realises that she had a point when she called him unausstehlich. His self-recognition is seen as a virtue and compensates for his morning irritability. The solution to the man's problem is found in a dry shaver -- the Braun 300 de luxe -- articulated by a besseres Ich who uses a verb (auf etwas verweisen) and construction characteristic of formal style (the text does not read damit geht's besser [...]). The besseres Ich implies that there are two sides to this man's personality, and indeed, the man with a split personality is a stock figure of men's advertising texts of the 1950s. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the better side of his nature is associated with being clean-shaven, having time and becoming the person the woman in his life wants him to be. Even the rough man of the 1950s could be seen as having the seeds of his own role-reversal within him, a topic I shall turn to now.



Weiche Welle von Herz zu Herz[6]

[1] Ein Erfolgsgeheimnis für viele: die weiche Welle von Herz zu Herz! [2] Nicht der eiskalte Verstand, nicht der starre Eigennutz, nicht der Rechenstift bringt den Erfolg, sondern die menschliche Wärme, die Kunst, mit Ihren Mitmenschen guten menschlichen Kontakt zu halten. [3] Versuchen Sie, in Ihren Mitmenschen das Herz zu entdecken und zu gewinnen - dann werden sich Ihnen viele Herzen aufschließen. [4] Lassen Sie sich in diesem Sinne von der weichen Welle tragen - von der weichen Welle des Chantré. [5] Milde wie der Chantré ist seine Wirkung - er beschwingt Sie, ohne Sie zu beschweren.

This advertisement for brandy is accompanied by a visual image of two smiling men enjoying a glass of brandy together. This is the opposite of the stereotypical image of `rauhe Männer'. These men have obviously been converted by Chantré's weiche Welle[7] and instead of competing against one another they are united in menschliche Wärme. These men are not expected to change their main goal in life, namely achieving success - Chantré would not wish this type of effeminacy on them. Erfolg is still the accepted masculine goal, but it is achieved by non-traditional means: the antithetically paired adjectives and nouns demonstrate how. Eiskalt and starr are masculine characteristics of the past; the new, softer man of 1957 is menschlich and weich; the nouns tell a similar story: Verstand, Eigennutz and the Rechenstift are out; Herz, Kontakt and Wärme are in. All that is warm and soft now brings Erfolg, whereas formerly success was only achieved through harshness and coldness. The human being in the man is stressed: the adjective menschlich and the noun Mitmenschen are both repeated twice. Contact rather than rivalry is the secret: Chantré's Erfolgsgeheimnis - and the contact is von Herz zu Herz: the word Herz is repeated 6 times in the text. The headline emphasizes this contact and implies that the weiche Welle is the invisible agent that joins the two hearts.

The verbs represent processes of change and discovery: bringen, aufschließen, entdecken, gewinnen. As in the Eidran advert, men are not portrayed as actively taking responsibility for themselves. Chantré will help them find a new, more humane side to their nature; they are advised to seek it, but they are not expected to do so unaided: sentence 4 advocates passivity on the part of the male consumers (lassen Sie sich ...tragen). In this text Chantré is the agent and the man the passive beneficiary: he can be successful without having to do anything as long as he has a glass of Chantré in his hand.


Mit Eleganz gemeistert

[1] Frauen unserer Zeit meistern die Hürden des Alltags auf elegante Art. [2] Was zum Beispiel bedeutet für sie noch waschen? [3] Nichts. [4] Außer einem Druck auf den Knopf. [5] Und schon sind sie frei. CONSTRUCTA ,,de luxe" hat ihnen diese Arbeit völlig aus der Hand genommen. [6] Vom ersten bis zum letzten Arbeitsvorgang - vom Einweichen bis zum Trockenschleudern - führt volle Automatic Regie. [7] CONSTRUCTA ,,de luxe" präsentiert eine Vielfalt technischer Vorzüge: moderne Drucktastenschaltung, automatische Temperaturregelung, automatische Waschmittelzugabe, automatische Regulierung der Flottenstände, 3 automatische, 5 kombinierte Waschprogramme. Mit Überzeugung vertritt man heute den Standpunkt: Es gibt nur eine Constructa.

The image accompanying the advertisement depicts a woman on a horse jumping over a washing machine. The headline has both feminine and masculine elements: Eleganz is a common feminine attribute in 1950s advertising texts; the verb meistern is usually reserved for men. There is a partial repetition of Eleganz in sentence 1 as the adjective elegant, and meistern is also repeated.

In this advert the woman masters everyday obstacles elegantly, i.e. by switching on a machine and letting it take over the task of washing for her. The implication is that the machine frees the woman to go away and `master' other things - the visual image supports this idea by showing the woman engaged in an unrelated activity. As far as the woman's traditional tasks are concerned, the washing machine is seen as having full control, as in sentence 6: führt volle Automatic Regie. The extent to which the woman may delegate responsibility to an automatic machine is emphasised through paraphrase in sentence 6 (vom ersten bis zum letzten Arbeitsvorgang) is further clarified in the phrase which follows: vom Einweichen bis zum Trockenschleudern. This emphasis could be seen as helpful in that its intention may be to instil confidence in the product through repetition of its properties, or it could be seen as patronising: a woman, expert as she is in the matter of washing, might not expect to have the washing process explained to her in such detail, and certainly not if she expects to master life.

A selection of lexical items are intended to appeal to a female purchaser. These lexemes fall into two categories: those referring to luxury and elegance and those referring to the technical advantages of the machine. The technical terminology of sentence 7 is not complex and much of the potential fear of technology on the part of the female consumer is diluted by the use of the word automatisch before four of the terms. The automatic properties of the machine are highlighted by use of bold-face for the words volle Automatic in sentence 5. Reference is also made in passing to the modernity of the machine and its appropriateness to the lifestyle of Frauen unserer Zeit (sentence 1).

The syntax of sentences 1-6 is reminiscent of colloquial speech. Sentences 2 and 3 contain a hypothetical question and answer; sentences 4 and 5 continue the answer using constructions typical of German Umgangssprache: sentence 4 is elliptical and sentence 5 begins with a conjunction.


5A. 8. 5. 1957

[1] Ich wählte die Sicherheit den behaglichen Komfort eines großen Wagens, in dem ich die Meinen gut aufgehoben weiß.

[Y] Deshalb fiel die Entscheidung für BMW.

[2] Schon das Wissen um den kräftigen Vollschutzrahmen, der diesem eleganten Wagen die stählern elastische, einmalige Festigkeit verleiht, gibt mir das Gefühl absoluter Geborgenheit.

[X] In unserem BMW fühlen wir uns wohl.

[3] Er überträgt auf uns die souveräne Ruhe eines Wagens, dessen außergewöhnliche Kraftreserve und hervorragende Bremsen jede unvorhergesehene Situation auf schnellen Straßen überlegen meistert.

[4] Bevor Sie Ihren neuen Wagen wählen, unterrichten Sie sich bitte über die Frage >>Automobil mit Vollschutzrahmen.<<

[5] Ihr BMW Vertragshändler gibt Ihnen gern und unverbindlich auch hierüber Auskunft. BMW mit dem Vollschutzrahmen.

The above text is obviously aimed primarily at the female motorist. A full page illustration accompanies the text and depicts a woman with two young children standing in front of a car and looking down at two children, one of whom is pointing at the car. The woman may, of course, be waiting for her husband to drive the car, but the overall impression is of a car intended to be used as transport for the family.

5B. 26. 6. 1957

[1] Ich wählte die Sicherheit die sorglose Beschaulichkeit unbeschwerten Reisens.

[X] In meinem BMW bin ich zu Hause.

[Y] Hier finde ich Erholung nach einer anstengenden Konferenz und die Ausgeglichenheit, die ich für neue Aufgaben brauche.

[2] Die mit dem verwindungssteifen stählernen Vollschutzrahmen kompakt verschweißte Karosserie gibt mir auch bei schlechten Straßen und hoher Reisegeschwindigkeit immer das sichere Gefühl häuslicher Geborgenheit.

[3] Dem Wagen aber verleiht sie zusammen mit der wundervollen, direkt ansprechenden Lenkung und den großdimensionierten Bremsen die so selbstverständliche Herrschaft über die Straße, die gerade bei langen Strecken immer wieder angenehm entspannt.

[4] Bevor Sie Ihren neuen Wagen wählen, unterrichten Sie sich bitte über das Thema ,,Automobil mit Vollschutzrahmen".

[5] Ihr BMW Vertragshändler gibt Ihnen gern und unverbindlich auch hierüber Auskunft. BMW mit dem Vollschutzrahmen.

This text is clearly aimed at men, possibly single men or men who are used to travelling alone on business trips. The man portrayed in the full page illustration is holding a set of car keys and is obviously about to get into the car and drive it away. This man is thus shown as having a greater degree of control over the car in the illustration than the woman in the previous advertisement.

On a superficial level the wording of sentences 1-5 and X appears very similar in both texts. Text A, which is obviously aimed at female readers, was published first (8.5.1957); Text B, which addresses male consumers, appeared one month later (26.6.1957), may have been adapted from it. The two texts have the same basic structure, even the same number of sentences. Sentences 1-3 and X of each text and sentence Y of Text B take the form of first person narrative and are the most significant for purposes of comparison. Sentences 4 and 5 of each text are identical, apart from one word (Frage - Thema), and consist of a direct address by the advertiser to the reader. These sentences will be omitted from the analysis.

In each text identical items of vocabulary appear at strategic points, giving an initial impression of a shared basic vocabulary: Sicherheit, Geborgenheit; Vollschutzrahmen; BMW. The Vollschutzrahmen is the main focus of the technical information about the BMW in both texts, and the word is accentuated typographically; Sicherheit and Geborgenheit represent the abstract emotional qualities of which the BMW driver can be assured. Thus it would seem at first glance that the texts have identical themes. But if we compare the most clearly parallel sentences, labelled as sentence X in each text, we immediately see the different attitudes of the narrators:

In unserem BMW            fühlen wir uns            wohl. (Text A)            
In meinem BMW             bin ich                   zu Hause. (Text B)        

The man's main focus of interest is himself: he is shown alone in the accompanying illustration, close to the car, holding the keys; the women is concerned with herself and others: she is pictured some distance from the car and looking at her children. What both the man and the woman are concerned with is Sicherheit, but I would like to suggest that Sicherheit means something slightly different to the man and to the woman. The vocabulary and syntax of each text together help to create this difference in thematic emphasis.

The lexeme Sicherheit contains two distinct semantic values, reflected in the English translations which are listed as polysemes in most German-English dictionaries, such as the Collins: Sicherheit (a) is translated by two near-synonyms: `safety' and `security'; Sicherheit (b) is translated as `certainty'. The woman chooses safety and certainty for her family: safety is her main concern, and this is reinforced by her certainty of this safety, expressed in sentence 1 with the adverbial phrase gut aufgehoben and the verb weiß. The Vollschutzrahmen of sentence 2 gives the woman and her family absolute Geborgenheit. In contrast, the man chooses certainty that he will feel comfortable and relaxed in his BMW. He is portrayed as being chiefly concerned with his own well-being, and about being able to unwind as he travels to his next appointment. The Geborgenheit that the man seeks is häuslich rather than absolut, it is inward-looking in comparison with the protection sought by the woman. The man is also concerned with safety, Geborgenheit is contrasted with schlechte Straßen and hohe Reisegeschwindigkeit, but a comparison of the final sentences of each text shows that the emphases continue to be on safety for the woman, and relaxation linked with certainty for the man. Text B ends with the verb entspannt: the man is able to experience a stress-free journey because the Herrschaft über die Straßen that the BMW provides is selbstverständlich. The man feels assured that the car's safety will contribute to his main goal, that of personal relaxation. The woman, on the other hand, is still thinking about the safety of her family in the final sentence, and the peace of mind, die souveräne Ruhe that the knowledge of this safety brings. The woman's final sentence ends with the verb meistert, which forms an interesting contrast to the man's entspannt, because meistern is generally considered to a stereotypically "male" concept. The car is responsible for the action of mastering unforeseen difficulties on the road. It helps the women protect her family. Thus, although on the most basis thematic level the two texts appear to provide the same information about the car, and an emphasis on the need for Sicherheit, the Sicherheit means different things to the man and the woman.

A closer examination of the key abstract vocabulary in each text supports the theory that male and female readers are seen as looking for different qualities in a car.

Text A                           Text B                      
Sicherheit                       Sicherheit                  

Komfort                           Erholung,  Beschaulichkeit, Ausgeglichenheit

Ruhe                           Herrschaft
meistert                             entspannt                   

We immediately see that the man expects more from his car than the woman does. In Text A, Komfort and Ruhe are both secondary experiences deriving from the feeling of safety. The Geborgenheit which is experienced is absolut and the Ruhe is souverän; the two adjectives emphasise the certainty that the woman is seeking for herself and for her family. In Text B, the adjectives sorglos, unbeschwert and häuslich contribute to the overall image of the man as a comfort-seeking creature. He is not the stereotypical caring family father so often portrayed in advertisements of the 1950s.

In some respects the vocabulary of the two texts supports the sexual stereotypes. The vocabulary used by the woman narrator appears to be vague, that used by the man more precise and technical. This can be seen in the adjectives in particular. The women describes the Vollschutzrahmen as kräftig and the man uses the epithets verwindungssteif and stählern; the women describes her car's brakes as hervorragend and the man uses the term großdimensioniert. The man also has at his disposal technical vocabulary with which to praise his car's Lenkung: direkt ansprechend; his Karosserie is kompakt verschweißt, the women does not refer to a Karosserie or to Lenkung. The man uses adjectives and adverbs to support his air of confidence about the qualities of his car: immer occurs twice and the adjective selbstverständlich is bolstered by the particle so. The woman describes her car as elegant, an adjective frequently used to appeal to women, and its Festigkeit as stählern elastisch and einmalig, the Kraftreserve is außergewöhnlich. Einmalig and außergewöhnlich are commonly found in adverts aimed at women in the 1950s, but hervorragend is more of a "man's adjective". The woman's nouns are nondescript: Festigkeit and Kraftreserve refer to abstract qualities of the car rather than specific mechanical advantages, although the brakes are also important to her. The man is interested in the Karosserie, Lenkung and Bremsen. The Vollschutzrahmen is common to both adverts. Both man and woman use the adjective stählern, but in Text A it defines an abstract quality, Festigkeit, and in Text B it qualifies the concrete Vollschutzrahmen. Although it appears that the man is in command of a more technical vocabulary he is as inclined as the woman to reinforce his adjectives with vague adverbs and adjectives: his Lenkung is wundervoll as well as direkt ansprechend; Text B also makes use of the particle so which is often seen as an intensifier found chiefly in so-called "women's language".

It is also interesting to compare the description of a hypothetical journey by the man and the woman. The woman anticipates having to cope with unvorhergesehene Situationen. The adjective has a euphemistic quality, and its vagueness suggests that the situation controls the woman. If any dangerous situation were to arise she would be the passive and unprepared recipient. The roads would be fast: she would not be responsible for driving fast. But is the man portrayed as less passive? It is his BMW that has Herrschaft über die Straßen. It is the car that helps him cope with schlechte Straßen, hohe Reisegeschwindigkeit and lange Strecken: the man does not have grammatical agent role in any of the situations in which he imagines himself. The car rather than the man is in control.

On the level of syntax it is the shared sentences 2 and 3 of both texts and the interposed sentence X of Text A that are of most interest. These sentences are reproduced below. All adjectival and adverbial expressions which are not essential to the content of the text are italicized; essential elements are emboldened; in the cases of dessen and absoluter in sentence 2 of Text A and häuslicher in sentence 2 of Text B the words are split into essential (syntactic) components and non-essential (lexical) components. Embedded clauses and participial phrases are enclosed in square brackets.

The syntax of Text A is less formal than that of Text B. Note the embedded clauses of sentences 2 and 3 in Text A contrasted with the extended participial phrases and embedded prepositional phrases in Text B. Extended participial phrases are a particular feature of "men's advertising texts" in the 1950s, as is demonstrated by their frequent occurrence in my corpus, whereas only one such phrase is to be found in over 200 "women's texts".

One effect of this is to change the information structure of the texts. Deleting adjuncts demonstrates this clearly:

Text A

[2] Schon das Wissen um den kräftigen Vollschutzrahmen [, der diesem eleganten Wagen die stählern elastische, einmalige Festigkeit verleiht,] gibt mir das Gefühl absoluter Geborgenheit.

[X] In unserem BMW fühlen wir uns wohl.

[3] Er überträgt auf uns die souveräne Ruhe eines Wagens, [dessen außergewöhnliche Kraftreserve und hervorragende Bremsen] jede unvorhergesehene Situation auf schnellen Straßen überlegen meistert. (52 words)

These sentences contain 23 deletable words, or 27 if we exclude the relative clause in sentence 3. (These relative clauses have been included in both texts because the communicative dynamism of the texts places a high information value on meistert and entspannt respectively.) There is a clear attempt to associate Geborgenheit in sentence 2 to the BMW in the interposed sentence X by means of linear thematic progression and the BMW therefore forms a clear pivot between sentence 2 and 3, becoming the theme and subject of sentence 3.

Text B

[2] Die [mit dem verwindungssteifen stählernen Vollschutzrahmen kompakt verschweißte] Karosserie gibt mir [auch bei schlechten Straßen und hoher Reisegeschwindigkeit] immer das sichere Gefühl häuslicher Geborgenheit.

[3] Dem Wagen aber verleiht sie [zusammen mit der wundervollen, direkt ansprechenden Lenkung und den großdimensionierten Bremsen] die so selbstverständliche Herrschaft über die Straße, die gerade bei langen Strecken immer wieder angenehm entspannt. (56 words)

These sentences contain 38 deletable words, almost 50% more than in the equivalent sentences in Text A. The extended participial phrase in sentence 2 (first set of brackets) allows the inclusion of essential technical information for the man while still stressing Karosserie as the theme and last lexical item in first constituent position; consequently, the link between Karosserie and Geborgenheit, as last lexical item in the rhematic position which carries the highest information value, is maintained despite the insertion of important information about the ability of the car to cope with bad roads and high speed. The prepositional phrase of sentence 3 has the same effect: it allows important technical information about brakes and steering to be included while connecting the car as theme of sentence 3 with Herrschaft über die Straße as rheme. The Karosserie is the subject of both sentences 2 and 3, but is backgrounded in sentence 3.

In the case of the man's text, a plausible explanation for the use of tthe more formal journalistic style characteristic of quality dailies such as the FAZ, SZ or NZZ is that the copywriter associates it, perhaps unconsciously, with his male readership and uses therefore uses it to mark a male-oriented text. After all, these newspapers were more likely to be read by men than women. The nominal blocks characteristic of this style of writing are efficient in densely packing in the technical information which forms a part of the stategy of the man`s advert. The woman's text, on the other hand, uses a less formal style more reminiscent of those texts likely to be read by women.


This analysis of eight gender-targetted advertising texts has provided support for the theory that sexual stereotyping in 1950 advertising was common but by no means uniform or predictable. The results of this survey of a small selection of texts suggests that a more comprehensive study of the full corpus of 500 texts might confirm some or all of the tendencies observed here.

Some interesting deviations from the expected stereotypes have been revealed. Despite a superficial impression conveyed by many adverts that men are naturally active and women passive, a closer reading of the above texts shows both men and women as largely passive both in their lives and in the consumer market: they are controlled more by outside forces than by their own efforts and personal qualities, and are dependent upon help from commercial products. The most obvious stereotype reversals occur towards the end of the decade.

Of the eight texts examined, Texts 2A, 2B, 4A and 4B purport to reproduce he kind of language used by men and women in the 1950s; the others address either men or women, either directly or indirectly, often in a didactic manner. The language devised as an imitation of real speech is that invented by male copywriters and may be quite unlike the real colloquial language of any group of men or women. Texts aimed at both men and women show identical disjunctive syntax, incomplete and "ungrammatical" sentences, showing that this type of style is used to characterize the spoken language of both genders rather than women's language in particular.

"Women's advertisements" have their share of stereotypically feminine vocabulary as defined by Coates (1986:112-114) and Trömel-Plötz (1982:48-52), for example: so, wirklich, zart, elegant, Liebe, Schönheit. Yet they also contain words such as stählern and hervorragend, and meistern occurs in two of the adverts aimed at women. "Men's advertisements" contain words such as rauh, gehetzt, verdammt, Erfolg, but also weich, menschlich, Herz, and the "woman's adverb" so.

The introduction to this article refers to the prejudice that women use much superfluous vocabulary, yet text 4B shows a man using more unnecessary descriptive terminology than the woman of text 4A. Texts ostensibly aimed at men occasionally contain more complex syntactic structures than "women's texts", as is shown in texts 4A and 4B. Technical terminology, which is generally believed to be more profuse in texts aimed at men, is conspicuously toned down in text 3B, which is aimed female consumers, but it is not over- technical in the "men's advertisements" 1B (which contains medical or pseudo-medical jargon) or text 4B.

It is important to bear in mind that although a large proportion of the texts taken from Der Spiegel during the decade 1949-1959 were apparently aimed at men or women exclusively, many may have been covertly aimed at both or even at the opposite sex. Thus the advertisement for the Constructa washing machine may have been aimed at the man who would have had the means to buy it for his wife and who enjoyed imagining that the references to elegance could include his wife; the advertisement for Eidran may have been aimed at the woman who would worry about her overworked husband and buy the product for him; equally she may have been tempted to uncover her husband's `besseres Ich' by making him a present of a Braun 300 de Luxe.

I believe that a more detailed statistical analysis of the full corpus of 500 advertising texts taken from Der Spiegel (1949-1959) will provide interesting points of comparison between 1950s advertising language and later styles. As mentioned in the introduction to this paper, evidence of preferences for certain types of vocabulary has already been identified in the corpus but has yet to be quantified. Further work on the variety of epithets used to describe potential male and female consumers would certainly be rewarding, as would a statistical analysis of syntactic patterns and sentence lengths. Although there have been significant changes in the style of advertising texts since the 1950s, with the decrease in average text length having a marked effect on the range of vocabulary and the complexity of syntactic structures, many of the linguistic features associated with gender stereotyping during the 1950s are still in use and should not be neglected. The number and fullness of the available texts makes further investigation an entirely feasible proposition.


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[1] A full-page advertisement for tights in Brigitte of 19.10.1994 contains an almost identical illustration of a pair of legs to that of this 1951 advertisement for stockings. The text is brief: "Sie haben die Beine. Wir die Mode. Die blickdichte, glänzende Strumpfhose, die sich traumhaft anfühlt und trägt: Glamour opaque von Hudson."

[2] Synactic and semantic reflections are found in Isaiah 30,1: Weh den abtrünnigen Kindern ... and Isaiah 33,1: Weh aber dir, du Verstörer. (In fact, this is a common phrase in Isaiah, chapters 28-33.) Note also the translation of Livy's well-known phrase Vae victis! "Wehe den Besiegten."

[3] The Biblical passage Sie wissen nicht, was sie tun (Luke 23,34) offers an obvious parallel.

[4] Penelope classes the suppression of human agency as part of the "Patriarchal Universe of Discourse", which is, she claims, the preferred dialect of a patriarchal society, and which is used to subjugate woman. Agent suppression functions to imply universality and that gender forces are at work, and to evade responsibility for actions - all are features of men's language.

[5] Coates (1986:17-19). Coates quotes Otto Jespersen's opinion that women favour the adverb so, and the connection that he made between the use of that adverb and the fact that, in his view, women frequently fail to complete sentences.

[6] Imitates the syntax of the more common von Mensch zu Mensch.

[7] Chantré's "Weiche Welle" advertising campaign started in 1956 and was first aimed at women. The first advert appeared in Der Spiegel on 28.3.1956 and was accompanied by an illustration of a woman with a softly permed hairstyle. Since that time, the phrase weiche Welle has entered the German language in a number of senses, primarily that of `appeasement' in the field of politics and law, and also `soft music' and `pretty clothing for women' (Küpper 1981:16).