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What is the difference between the following statements?

Most men have peculiar manners.

Most men have manners peculiar to themselves.

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Peculiar by itself simply means odd or strange, with a touch of eccentric. Your first statement is saying that most men act strangely.

Peculiar to oneself means unique or distinctive, not necessarily odd. Your second statement is saying that most men have habits which are easily distinguishable from other men's habits.

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“Most men have peculiar manners.”

...seems like reverse sexism to me. (A statement like only a rank femininist would make.) But in this use the word 'peculiar' definitely has the connotation of "strange", "odd" or "weird."

“Most men have manners peculiar to themselves.”

"Peculiar" here sound like it means "unique" or "able to be distinguished." It's not saying the manners are weird, but that they are distinctive and individual. You could tell each man apart -- even if they looked nearly identical -- because each one has their own set of mannerisms to distinguish each one from the other.

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Sexism is most often used to refer to misogynistic statements or actions because in Western culture men have been viewed as possessing the power. Reverse when used with sexism or racism means that the ones not possessing the power (usually the targets of the condescension or prejudice) are using the kind of elitism that they would normally be criticizing if it were the other way around. –  Tear--Here Jul 14 '12 at 0:40
    
That's just is: sexism (and similar biases preceded by "reverse") is being defined in an ethnocentric (and somewhat archaic) frame. –  Malvolio Jul 14 '12 at 16:27
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