Seminal work – Yes, that seminal

Phrase: Seminal work, I used to think this meant someone’s masterpiece, their signature piece, such as Pachelbel’s canon or Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ but its proper meaning is a work which caused a movement, more like Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species’, where the book brought about a change in the way people think.

The seminal here, is the same seminal as in semen, and comes (no pun intended) from the idea that, like the sperm creating new life, the seminal work has birthed a new way of looking at things.

The comparison to the male part of creating life, is yet another example of the gender bias in the English language.


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