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I've noticed that when discussing political demographics or candidates, many reporters use the phrases "women voters" and "women candidates". This feels horribly awkward grammatically. It's hard to imagine referring to male voters or candidates as "men voters" or "men candidates". Is there a reason that the word women is more commonly used than female in these situations?

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Can you provide an example? I know what you're talking about, but a little context would be good. – user11550 Mar 8 '12 at 19:34
Here is a sentence from an article I read earlier today: "With women voters in particular, Lott said, 'Newt certainly has problems in that area.'" – B Sharp Mar 8 '12 at 19:38
I agree that it is a bit ugly, but it is mainly a matter of style. As Barrie says, noun adjectives can be appropriate in some contexts, though they are sometimes overused. – Cerberus Mar 8 '12 at 19:55
Woman as an adjective is in the dictionary; perhaps the adjective women is an eggcorn. So its use isn't grammatically awkward, since it's popular and recognized in the dictionary, but it's still an interesting question why woman is popularly used as an adjective when man isn't (at least only very informally). – Daniel Mar 8 '12 at 19:56
In the example provided above, women is stated explicitly because in the example given, the voters' sex matters. Very often candidates and voters are not distinguished because, for present purposes, their sex does not matter. Men voters is very commonly used as well when the maleness of the voters is a distinguishing feature for the purpose at hand. – Ryan Haber Mar 8 '12 at 22:11
up vote 3 down vote accepted

There's nothing grammatically awkward about it. Nouns are often used to modify other nouns. The reason 'women' is used rather than 'female' is a general cultural one rather than a specific linguistic one. I'd speculate that 'female' may sound too impersonal, and possibly inhuman, to some ears.

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I agree that there's nothing grammatically incorrect about it, but hearing men voters grates on my ears; in fact google ngrams shows a flat 0.000% for men voters – Jim Mar 8 '12 at 22:26
@Jim: you were looking for men vorters with an extra r. Try this instead – Henry Mar 9 '12 at 1:28
Oops! Good catch- but even corrected it is corroborating. – Jim Mar 9 '12 at 1:32

protected by RegDwigнt Jan 17 '13 at 19:56

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