76

How can one degender the phrase "separate the men from the boys"?

Examples of how this phrase has traditionally been used:

Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the men from the boys in this class."

What has occurred to me so far:

Parent, talking about relative merits of several different possible independent special education evaluators: "It's the training and experience with the specific disability that's going to separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls."

Has anyone found a more concise way of degendering (is that a word?) this expression?

How about something of the form "separate the serious from the __________"? In place of the blank, hopefully a word similar to "dabblers."

I need a phrase that doesn't show disrespect for the folks who are not up to doing the difficult proofs, or who do not have training and experience with the specific disability.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 10 '17 at 22:21

23 Answers 23

141

In addition to Jacinto's answer, you can also avoid the human element altogether and use a phrase like:

Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the wheat from the chaff in this class."

The Free Dictionary describes the phrase as meaning:

to separate what is useful or valuable from what is worthless; to choose what is of high quality over what is of lower quality

In response to the OP edits:

You're going to have a hard time finding an answer that doesn't slight those that don't stack up (at least on some level) because your original phrase "separating men from boys" places a measure of disrespect on the "boys", essentially calling them weak, immature, and less macho.

Any equivalent phrase, no matter how degendered, will place some level of inferiority on the, ahem, inferior.

At some point, you have to step back and look at what you're trying to say. If you're trying to say that a certain process weeds out inferior special education evaluators, the men/boys or wheat/chaff expressions fit nicely. If you're trying to encourage a student, letting them know that this task will be difficult without placing inferiority on those that don't catch on, you probably shouldn't be making a "separates this from that" comparison.

I'd instead go for something that focuses more on the victors rising to meet the challenge or the challenge itself. These immediately come to mind:

Math teacher: "Learning proofs of this type is a real trial by fire."

or

Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what determines the cream of the crop."

or

Math teacher: "The crème de la crème in this class will be able to do proofs of this type.

or

Math teacher: "For some of you, learning this type of proof will be your crucible."

  • Any suggestions for Example 2? – aparente001 Mar 16 '17 at 9:46
  • @aparente001 - I honestly really like the wheat/chaff expression for that example. Your original statement comes across as an attempt to say that a certain set of factors weed out the inferior educators and help you identify the experts. – TheIronCheek Mar 16 '17 at 13:51
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    @aparente001 - "makes the cut" might be an acceptable alternative if you really hate the wheat/chaff expression. So: "It's the training and experience with the specific disability that's going to determine who makes the cut." – TheIronCheek Mar 16 '17 at 14:00
  • What makes it tricky is that I had to decide how strenuously to object to the district's candidate and how strenuously to push my own. Example 2 came up in the context of this tactical discussion with an ally. In this situation, the district held the power (as usual, sigh). – aparente001 Mar 18 '17 at 13:53
77

I like the pair grown ups/kids or grown ups/children. Here’s an example from Oxford Learner’s Dictionary (go to “noun” and click on “More examples sentences”; emphasis mine):

‘In a festival where easy laughs are mostly the order of the day, this is a serious piece of work that separates the grown-ups from the kids.’

And another example from The Business Insider (2014):

Compromising is a humbling lesson that separates grown-ups from kids.

I’d say this simply removes the gender while keeping the meaning and informal tone of the original men/boys. But if you want to focus attention on high achievement, without equating potential low achievers with anything in particular you could go for:

By being able to do proofs of this type is how you rise above the average.

Training and experience with the specific disability is what it will take to rise above the rest.

  • 13
    In a formal context the word "adult" would be preferred. – AJMansfield Mar 9 '17 at 14:03
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    @AJMansfield True. But "is what separates the men from the boys" is not very formal either, wouldn't you agree? – Jacinto Mar 9 '17 at 14:12
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    Point taken, but I still despise the term "grown-up" used as a noun; even in informal settings I don't think it is appropriate. – AJMansfield Mar 9 '17 at 16:18
  • It also has implications about comprehensibility though (assuming you are using the phrase idiomatically). Idioms should be as short and as close to the root cliche (in this case, men/boys) as possible, if they are to be readily understood as idioms. "Adults" is shorter than "grown-ups", and at least in my mind closer to "men", making it a better choice. As such "separates the men from the boys" is better than adults/kids, which is again better than either grown-ups/kids or adults/children. – AJMansfield Mar 9 '17 at 16:21
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    @AJM - I agree with Jacinto here; I think "separates the adults from the children" gets the expression too formal. I like "separates the grown-ups from the kids," as it seems to be at about the same register as "separates the men from the boys." – J.R. Mar 9 '17 at 21:07
48

You could drop the particular idiom of "separating A from B" and wind up very close with testing their mettle:

The ability to do proofs of this type is how we test the mettle of students in this class.

TheFreeDictionary.com defines mettle as

The ability to meet a challenge or persevere under demanding circumstances; determination or resolve

...which I feel captures most of the nuances of separating men from boys.

  • 7
    With out belittling the latter group. +1 – Des Horsley Mar 9 '17 at 2:31
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    Sometimes we need to let bygones be bygones. Just dropping the expression for another that both conveys the meaning and is neutral is a better choice. well done, sir. (also second what @DesHorsley said) – Mindwin Mar 9 '17 at 13:47
  • It's with proofs of this type that students can show their mettle in this class. Training and experience with the specific disability are what will define the candidate's mettle. They're good. They will require some practice to use. The sentence has to be planned carefully. It remains to be seen whether my listener will capture my idea. – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:32
26

"It is time to separate the masters from the apprentices" might work. Although it is probably not a common phrase, it does imply a growth in your learning level and skill while being gender neutral.

In craft working there are typically four skill levels:

  1. Novice
  2. Apprentice
  3. Journeyman
  4. Master

The phrase I suggest does gloss over two of those levels, but Apprentice and Master are probably the most recognizable on the scale.

Being used as a noun master is defined as:

A skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity

And apprentice is defined as:

A person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:07
22

The ability to do proofs separates the professionals from the amateurs.

The terms have same meaning as in this quote (which is sometimes attributed to Julie Andrews) :

Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.

  • 1
    "until it can't get it wrong" sounds like it should be "until they can't get it wrong." – Monty Harder Mar 13 '17 at 15:03
  • Doesn't work for the second example, as far as I can tell. (Both candidates make their living at least partially from special education evaluations.) – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:33
9

Consider the following example, which draws a parallel with riding a bicycle:

Math teacher: "The students who master this type of proof have truly removed the training wheels from their 'mathematical bicycle'."

  • 1
    I very rarely upvote D-I-Y suggestions (usually quite the opposite), but in this case I've made an exception. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 11 '17 at 15:50
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    The UK English equivalent "taking off the stabilisers" does get some metaphorical usage, so I'm not sure if this is DIY - I think it works well though – Silverfish Mar 12 '17 at 8:40
6

Separate the triers from the criers.

triers, defined by Oxford Living Dictionaries

A person who always makes an effort, however unsuccessful they may be.

‘Kelly was described by her teachers as a real trier’

criers, from The Free Dictionary.

One that cries, such as a person who sheds tears more readily than others

The more familiar use of crier is (from TFD, link above):

an official who made public announcements, esp in a town or court

But the definition with the crybaby connotation is also legitimate, and is apt. Crybaby, from dictionary.com.

a person, especially a child, who cries readily for very little reason

My editorial comment: The important thing is for the student to try, and try hard. Some students may never succeed at the most difficult proofs or problems, but a wise teacher will reward sustained effort.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:13
5

One I've actually heard in the wild from multiple people, going back more than 30 years (my 7th grade history teacher was fond of it), is "separate the sheep from the goats".

This is a biblical reference (Matthew 25). The basic idea is that the two types of livestock are being used as a metaphor for those who have earned salvation (sheep) and those who haven't (goats).

A couple of caveats if you want to use this one yourself:

  1. Different people have different emotional reactions to hearing biblical references. Sometimes bad, sometimes good.
  2. If you say this to a modern person who isn't familiar with that passage, or livestock, they are likely to not understand that one of the two is considered better than the other (I'll admit to being in that camp, until I looked it up).
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:05
5

You could use:

....is what separates the veterans from the rookies.

I like how TFD defines the original expression:

separate the men from the boys
(Fig.) to separate the competent from those who are less competent.

On a sports team (or in other avenues of life), we often use the term rookie mistake, so the term rookie already carries some semblance of "less competence".

So, the math teacher could easily say, "The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the veterans from the rookies in this class." Since veterans and rookies are all part of the same team, the expression is not marginalizing the "rookies," but it does let everyone know the litmus test for mastery of the material.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:09
5

Separate the cream from the curd.

Although in countries which do not celebrate a strong dairy culture this may prove sour. Perhaps I should let my brain churn a bit more on this one.

  • This one almost worked. – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:40
  • Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk. – mccainz Mar 14 '17 at 17:48
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:13
  • 1
    How in gods name was two comments extended discussion? – mccainz Mar 14 '17 at 22:15
  • Because we're trying to encourage people to use chat rooms and not get into discussions in comments as though we were a forum not a QA site. I found the relocated comments to be chatty ones that were probably not meant as lasting statements, right? Sometimes we just delete those after a while, but I was cleaning up the comments all over here and was trying to preserve most everything across the board. – tchrist Mar 15 '17 at 0:02
4

Separate the fish from the fry.

Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the fish from the fry in this class."

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:11
4

"Separate the determined from the dilettantes."

'...men from boys' is of course macho and taunting. While my suggested phrase doesn't have a snappy rhyme, it's artfully alliterative.

[**> dilettante noun [ C ] US ​ /ˈdɪl·ɪˌtɑnt, -ˌtænt/ usually disapproving

​ a person who is or seems to be interested in a subject, but who is not involved with it in a serious and determined way: To serious artists, he was merely a dilettante.**]1

Note: I find it troublesome to include children in any of these euphemisms. It has a negative connotation in which children are inferior to adults.

Given the OP is interested in neutral/inclusive language, and 'men from boys' has an undertone of "macho," a gender-neutral phrase needs to be absent of hierarchical intent, thus be actually, "neutral."

The analogy here is that matriarchy and patriarchy are not mirror images of each other, they differ from each other in more ways than they are the same. So in 'de-gendering' a phrase, it is incorrect to transfer any gender-based bias. The phrase chosen ought to be devoid of comparing/contrasting adults and children. It's rude.

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    But the whole point is the inferiority of one group to the other. – Casey Mar 10 '17 at 15:47
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    Boys are inferior to men? – M.Mat Mar 10 '17 at 16:38
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    Well, the downside of that is that it's not a commonly used expression like the original. In my opinion this is a solution in search of a problem. – Casey Mar 12 '17 at 20:29
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    I think this answer would be strengthened by removal of the screenshot. I find it distracting. – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:44
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    Helpful analysis. // Thanks for removing the screenshot. // @Casey please note that in the two example situations, the skills of the subset are superior. – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 23:58
3

The 8th of March is International Women's Day. Chinese students have long designated 7th March as Girls' Day. The thinking is that a girl may be only one day away from becoming a woman.

In the expression to separate the men from the boys it is important to remember that a boy may be only one day away from becoming a man. Every man was once a boy. Every boy, regardless of his personal qualities, merit or competence, will become a man. It is not the case that only the strongest, best or most macho boys turn into men. All boys become men. Therefor I feel that ideas such as wheat and chaff. sheep and goats, etc., miss the point that a boy and a man are intrinsically identical in all essentials, differing only in how far along they are in life.

A particular man is not superior, as a being, to a particular boy. When the boy is older he may be a better man or a worse one (however we define a good man). When the man was younger he may have been a better or worse boy.

I also do not like words like kids or children or lambs in this context. A boy may be an older teenager, on the verge of manhood, no mere kid.

Suggestions that the concept behind the phrase is not effective as a means of promoting learning may be right, but that is a separate matter to how the phrase might be degendered. I like suggestions re apprentice and master, or rookie and veteran, although master is masculine (to me) and I wrongly associate rookies and veterans as male.

So I am going to suggest "here" and "near" as distinguishing between those who have already reached a particular standard, and those who may be as little as one day away from reaching it.

The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the here from the near in this class."

However this doesn't fit well with the second example so perhaps "really" and "nearly" might work.

It's the training and experience with the specific disability that's going to separate the really from the nearly."

  • 1
    The listener would have to have somehow intuited my idea beforehand. I don't think either of these phrases would convey the idea by itself. – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:43
3

Your hope is to convey a comparison between skill sets, and highlight a specific skill set that is vital to one's ability before they can call themselves "proficient".

With that in mind, I would offer:

This is what separates the Pros from the amateurs.

If you don't like amateurs, these can work with "pros":

  • Amateurs
  • Novices
  • Newbies
  • Wannabees

Here's some other choices that have specific tandem partners that give a certain synergy

  • masters - students
  • proficient - non-proficient (pretty bland, though)
  • big kids - little kids
  • adults - children
  • makers - fakers

A different phrasing that has a slightly different meaning of one that is more like a pass/fail situation:

This is what will make or break you in this class.

It seems like you might want to convey that, but I'm not quite sure.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:12
3

There is no need to "degender" the expression. The implication is that men, being what boys grow up into, have more experience than the boys and that the knowledge and toughness that this experience brings will make them more effective. It's a very obvious and clear metaphor.

Imagine instead that we were discussing separating the sheep from the goats or any other such metaphor. There would be no need to assume that a comment were being passed about sheep and goats in real life.

Similarly, when men and boys are the exemplars of mature and immature, there's no implication that the female of the species aren't covered, nor is there any suggestion that they are in any way less than the male of the species.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:12
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    How would you feel if you were a student in a class outnumbered by female students, and your professor walks in and says Today, we're going to separate the women from the girls. Would you still feel included? I realize that the men vs boys version is the one we have grown up with, the one that is familiar to our ears and our culture, that the term man encompasses both sexes, but spare a thought about reinforcing stereotypes, and how you would feel if the other shoe were on you. – Mari-Lou A Mar 15 '17 at 8:40
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    -1. This in no way attempts to provide an answer to the question as framed. It is instead a comment. – Chappo Mar 15 '17 at 9:24
  • @Chappo - this is a direct answer to the question. I'm saying that leaving the phrase unaltered is better than any of the other alternatives I've seen so far, if only because you can't immediately create a new idiom by edict. Mari-Lou I'm not saying that 'man' encompasses both sexes, but that the distinction is between mature and immature. – Dominic Cronin Mar 15 '17 at 14:12
3

The challenge of de-genderizing this particular phrase is that the underlying purpose is to remove the unwanted message of separation by sex, but not of ability. Is the intent though to separate, or to identify a distinctive difference? Why hang onto separate then?

Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what distinguishes the motivated achievers in this class."

Parent, talking about relative merits of several different possible independent special education evaluators: "It's the training and experience with the specific disability that's going to reveal our optimal choices."

Just as there are very good social reasons to rebuild language with fewer gender barriers, there are good reasons to remove the winner/loser polarization when it is not really necessary.

  • Thank you! As a former advocate for the developmentally disabled, I'm disturbed by the whole idea of using polarizing language in education, especially when talking about special education evaluators. You alone seem to have grasped and addressed this issue. – Mark Hubbard Mar 15 '17 at 14:41
2

It seems like a lot of these answers are trying to abstract away the subject, whereas I'd probably go the other way and use the context to de-gender it.

In essence with regard to the Navy:

This is what separates the Seals from the Sailors

or in academics:

This is what separates the scientists from the hobbyists

Relevant to the special education evaluation comment you might say:

This is what makes the difference between surviving and thriving

  • "Seals from the Sailors" has a lot going for it. It would be perfect if more people were familiar with the progression of rank in that context -- which I am guessing is the Navy. I have to test this out and see if people understand. – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 13:02
1

In both cases I believe you are trying to show that some individuals have achieved a milestone which is a clear differentiator. Math skill in general and completing proofs specifically are tied to brain development. Also, in alignment with theories of brain plasticity, overcoming a disability can be tied to the ability of the brain to reroute either from congenital or acquired disability. In this case answers that separate based on motivation or attitude while technically good English, are not accurate in describing the underlying problem. Thus we can rework the first sentence.

Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type shows that the student has aptitude for success in this class."

In the next sentence it seems you are talking about the doctors or educators responsible for special education, not the 'disabled'/differently-abled.

Parent, talking about relative merits of several different possible independent special education evaluators: "It's the training and experience with the specific disability that's going to separate those who can make a difference from those who will just attempt to."

I recognize that your title is asking for a specific answer about degendering, but just in case you actually are in situations to use the problem sentences, I am suggesting a different cognitive approach to the problem.

  • You've successfully translated the precise intention of each example sentence to plain English without using any idioms. Hopefully that will help others understand the question. // I am still hoping to find an idiom that will help get the idea across. Or it could be two different idioms, one for each situation. – aparente001 Mar 11 '17 at 20:53
1

Brainstorming here (the answers have been helpful, but I'm not sure any of the phrases is completely working yet). Looking forward to hearing what others think of this idea (based on voting):

Separate the distinguished from the decent.

It's alliterative; the "decent" are better than mediocre....

  • I like your suggestion serious/dabblers better than this one, distinguished/decent. I take you want to avoid belittling the less proficient. Different people have different views on this, but I’m perfectly happy with the pairs men/boys, adult/children, grown-ups/kids, veteran/rookies, pros/beginners and so on in this respect; I don’t think they belittle the boys, kids, rookies, etc., especially as there is an expectation that boys will grow into men, rookies will graduate into veterans. >> – Jacinto Mar 13 '17 at 18:55
  • >> Ability X separates men from boys to me means that ‘Ability X is the difference between men and boys’; I have quite a different view about wheat/chaff, sheep/goats; here, in the original meaning, separate means ‘physically separate’, and then ones are saved and the others are damned. – Jacinto Mar 13 '17 at 18:55
  • @Jacinto - I think in the first example, the men/women would get an A and the best the others could aspire to was a B; in the second example, the parent is strategizing with an ally, deciding whom to accept, reject, or insist on. (There were no perfect candidates. We reached a dramatic last-minute compromise on someone with medium experience but the right attitude toward self-study about the specific disability.) – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:48
  • Please do not ask “to hear what others think of something”: that is soliciting discussion, and discussion is the bane of Q&A sites. If you're looking for a forum, please use chat. – tchrist Mar 14 '17 at 21:58
  • @aparente001 I imagined a different situation. In the classroom I could use these phrases to set the goals, as an encouragement, like “this is what you’re expected to achieve”. I know all too well, of course, that many students have other priorities. In your second example, them, I think you’re using the men/boys phrase very loosely; it’s more the one who suits your needs the best, not someone who’s on a higher level. I added an alternative to my answer above anyway. – Jacinto Mar 14 '17 at 22:45
0

You need to take care. It isn't always going to be correct to replace that statement with a gender neutral one. A lot of times that exact phrase is meant to either convey uniquely male issues, or issues that are that the expressly meant to convey a "macho" or male dominant attitude.

In fact that exact phrase is very much supposed to invoke macho, male dominated, harry chested, "mine is bigger then yours" feelings.

For example, "committing and trying to be a good father is what separates the men from the boys."

That said your exact example is a good place where we could probably do away with that sentiment.

The general idea in that phrase, aside from the uniquely male feelings it invokes, is the separated group needs to have come from the "from" group by way of "being better", while at the same time, implying that staying in the larger group is a negative, and undesirable.

Because your talking about math your sample should focus on math:

Solution from the problem.

or

Serious mathematicians from those that can barely use a calculator

or

Expert mathematicians from the amatures

may work well.

When choosing you need to keep the scorn being in the larger group conveys. That's rather the point.

You don't want to be a boy you want to be a man (macho feelings again).
You don't want to be a amateur you want to be an expert.

  • Serious mathematicians have no use for a calculator. They hardly use numbers. Without being entirely serious, if you want someone who can count beyond 3 then look for a physicist or an engineer rather than a mathematician. – Peter Taylor Mar 9 '17 at 21:33
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    Why should we think an amateur is less competent than a professional? – davidlol Mar 9 '17 at 23:47
  • It's not really about that. It's about making the end grouping more deiserable then the larger starting group. However with the additional edit, this answer is less viable. The point of my answer is that "men from boys" is supposed to be derogatory to the people that get stuck in the "boys" category. That's what this term frequently means. – coteyr Mar 10 '17 at 0:17
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    THIS: " It isn't always going to be correct to replace that statement with a gender neutral one. A lot of times that exact phrase is meant to either convey uniquely male issues, or issues that are that the expressly meant to convey a "macho" or male dominant attitude. In fact that exact phrase is very much supposed to invoke macho, male dominated, hairy chested, "mine is bigger than yours" feelings." -- I concur – M.Mat Mar 10 '17 at 1:01
  • @PeterTaylor: There was an eminent mathematician working on the Manhattan project who complained that he was reduced to working with actual numbers - and worse they had a decimal point! – Martin Bonner Mar 10 '17 at 10:57
0
  1. Math teacher: "The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the Phds from the Bachelors in this class."

The second version is trickier, depending on the disability of the students in question, and their age, when looking for the perfect candidate (the parent is strategizing with an ally, deciding whom to accept, reject, or insist on) you could use the following concept

  1. "It's the training and experience with the specific disability that's going to help find the jewel in the crown."

I would think this British English idiom is easily understood, and heard in the US but I might be mistaken.

Collins Dictionary defines it

jewel in the crown
the most valuable, esteemed, or successful person or thing of a number

  • 1
    Jewel in the crown is a relatively common idiom in the US. – J.R. Mar 16 '17 at 21:39
0

Surely the most correct way to remove the genderization would be,

separate the adults from the children

which you could characterize in any number of ways e.g

separate the supercomputers from the pocket calculators

separate the marlins from the minnows

separate the factorials from the fractions

or indeed,

separate the serious from the slackers

or less defamatory,

separate the serious from the satisfied

etc. etc.

  • The fish from the minnows is intriguing. Perhaps minnows are too numerous, though. // Your answers will be better received if you turn on live spell-checking in your browser. (After you do that, you can edit your answer. Just click where it says "edit" below your answer.) – aparente001 Mar 14 '17 at 12:52
  • @aparente001 like that? – Jodrell Mar 14 '17 at 12:59
  • @aparente001 extended after reading your edit. – Jodrell Mar 15 '17 at 9:54
-5

I'd suggest:

"The ability to do proofs of this type is what separates the mathematicians from the parlor beauticians in this class."

Pros:

  • Similiar in grammatical structure to the original
  • "Men", "Boys" = 1 syllable each; "Mathematicians", "Parlor Beauticians" = 5 syllables each. So maintains the equi-syllabic meter.
  • Has a derogatory and condescending aspect to it, not dissimilar from the original; and OP did only ask to de-gender the expression.

Cons:

  • Almost all "parlor beauticians" are women and that role is associated with women and with femininity.
  • May sound too contrived.
  • Boys eventually grow into men; beauticians rarely become mathematicians (although they can; actually, they can even be mathematicians at the same time).

A second suggestion, which departs much further from the original, could be:

"The ability to do proofs of this type is what tells me who has actually bothered to learn anything in this class.

  • 5
    The problem I have with this is that almost all "parlor beauticians" are women. So it doesn't in fact de-gender the statement. – T.E.D. Mar 9 '17 at 16:09
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    @T.E.D.: You could actually say that's a feature. That is, the expression itself is non-gendered, but society has gender roles. So what I suggest is a minimalistic de-gendering, or a de jure de-gendering. On the other hand, "mathematician" is not a very male-associated role. I mean, it's typically male, but not masculine. So it's a bit more complex of an insinuation. – einpoklum Mar 9 '17 at 16:12
  • I see what you're saying. But I'm having trouble imagining a scenario where I'd want to go through the hassle of degendering the statement, without actually doing the job all the way. – T.E.D. Mar 9 '17 at 16:34
  • @T.E.D.: Would you actually even want to make a statement such OP's math teacher even to an all-male classroom? It's not the most encouraging thing to say... – einpoklum Mar 9 '17 at 16:37
  • 1
    You left out one big con: In the original expression, boys eventually grow into men. However, not many beauticians turn into mathematicians – there's more to the parallelism in the original than syllable counts. As a footnote, this also seems disparaging to beauticians, many of them are required to go through a fairly rigorous and extensive licensing or certification program. – J.R. Mar 9 '17 at 21:21

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