WCEU 2017

What is this?

This page provides sources to quotes and data I referred to in my talk “Big little Shame: A tale of empowered user experience through localisation” that I gave at WordCamp Europe 2017.

(Some sources regarding the generic masculine in German are only available in German.)

Black and white illustration of an angel surrounded by ornaments holding a tablet that says: “In the beginning was the word”
Title leaf illustration from „Deutsches Wörterbuch“ by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Public Domain)

On this page

  1. Video
  2. “Big little shame”: stats
  3. “Paragon of grace”
  4. “Generic masculine” as a standard
  5. Localisation as a part of UX
  6. “Design for the majority”
  7. “Caring is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do”
  8. Past proposal for inclusive L10n for German
  9. “Language is a birth right”
  10. “Minister of Language”
  11. “Denial is not a strategy”
  12. “There was a Twitter thread …” (cognitive bias)
  13. “Not everyone has the same choice”
  14. Study “Yes I can!” (“person + masculine = man”)
  15. “Lead Developer” to “Lead Development”
  16. “Mystery Man” to “Mystery person”
  17. “Mr. WordPress” to “A WordPress Commenter”
  18. A new translation framework
  19. #Stringintelligenz plugin


“Big little shame”: stats

Almost every second install who uses WordPress use it in another language than English.

refers to locale stats from WordPress.org from June 2017:

  • English US (default): 50.2%
  • English UK: 3.1%
  • English AU: 0.6%
  • English CA: 0.4%
  • Non-English languages: 46.7%
WordPress locale stats

And among the most used other languages are [French, German, Italian, Spanish et al].

refers to the same locale stats.

So we are talking about systemic exclusion of hundreds of thousands of people—simply by use of certain languages.

refers to trivial math/assumption. It seems fair to assume that at the scale of WordPress, 47% of non-English websites mean at least a couple of hundreds thousands of female users, and that probably still is an extreme underestimation.

Someone dig up more accurate stats?

“Paragon of grace”

Fast forward to the 1960s, these example sentences are still present in later editions of the same works, but their tone has slightly changed. A “daughter” who was attributed with “grace” back in 1917, now has become “a manifestation of ugliness who cannot stir any warm feelings amongst men”.

refers to an essay by Prof. Ursula Doleschal in which she investigates the development of the generic masculine in German from renaissance until the post modern age:

Das generische Maskulinum im Deutschen—Ein historischer Spaziergang durch die deutsche Grammatikschreibung von der Renaissance bis zur Postmoderne

“Generic masculine” as a standard

The use of masculine forms to refer to feminine characters, later on labelled as the “generic masculine”, gets explicitly mentioned as preferable practice by philosopher of language and professor of German studies Henning Brinkmann in his book “Die deutsche Sprache”.

refers to the same essay by Prof. Ursula Doleschal.

“Natural [personal] versus grammatical gender”

refers to a general linguistic stance, articulated for example in this article by linguist Peter Eisenberg published in Süddeutsche Zeitung from March 2, 2017:

“Das missbrauchte Geschlecht”

Localisation as a part of UX

refers to the general importance of copywriting for user experience.

When (micro)copy gets translated, localisers—whether they are aware of it, or not—take on the role of UX designers in having to come up with authentic phrasing in their language while accurately conveying the meaning of the original message.

Translations of major brands all around the web illustrate how disempowering and confusing localised UIs can become.

“Design for the majority”

refers to the WordPress Philosophy (as from publish date of this post):

Many end users of WordPress are non-technically minded. They don’t know what AJAX is, nor do they care about which version of PHP they are using. The average WordPress user simply wants to be able to write without problems or interruption. These are the users that we design the software for as they are ultimately the ones who are going to spend the most time using it for what it was built for.

“Caring is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do”

refers to a quote the source of which is unknown to me, as well as to a WordCamp talk I later turned into a blog post:

Thoughts on plugin UI

This excerpt seems relevant:

Your plugin is not a separate entity; it is part of a community of components, and actively, or passively it will contribute to the way people perceive WordPress as a whole.

Past proposal for inclusive L10n for German

Last year, I proposed changes to German WordPress to introduce inclusive language instead of male-centric language.

refers to my “localisation feature proposal” on the German Polyglots P2 from October 13, 2016:

Stringintelligenz – Vorschlag zur Verbesserung der deutschen Lokalisierung für WordPress 4.7

which—among other reactions—received this response from a popular WordPress-related blog in German:

Warum es wichtig ist, dass WordPress frei von Ideologien bleibt?

“Language is a birth right”

Language is a birth right no-one can ever take away from a person. When it gets taken away, history holds plenty of terrifying evidence that those events pretty much always correlate with deceit, violence, suppression, or even genocide.

refers to general history, as well as this paragraph from the Preamble of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, […]

“Minister of Language”

And maybe in a community like Germany, that was what some people reacted to so intensely: The objection against an imaginary Minister of Language trying to dictate how everyone had to think and speak?

While this is an unverified assumption (as indicated later in the talk script), there definitely was a time in Germany when a “Minister of Language” was not imaginary at all, but horribly real. His name was Paul Joseph Goebbels, his official title was “Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda”, he framed the public Nazi book burnings from Mai 10, 1933, as “education”, and later on referred to the murdering of two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe (which he helped perpetrating) as a “clean sweep”.

“Denial is not a strategy”

I think I made that one up, but it clearly is inspired by “hope is not a strategy” which I last heard from Chris Lema.

“There was a Twitter thread …” (cognitive bias)

refers to this post by Nicole Hallberg:

Working While Female

as well as this Twitter thread by Martin R. Schneider:

Working as a woman can #suck

Cognitive biases (there are a bunch of them) are explained on Wikipedia, but you might prefer a simplified cheat sheet.

“Not everyone has the same choice”

refers to choices individuals make as humans. I’m aware that certain spiritual world views may argue every soul choose their personal human experience, however, as always, context matters.

Study “Yes I can!” (“person + masculine = man”)

refers to a study titled (in full) “Yes I Can! Effects of Gender Fair Job Descriptions on Children’s Perceptions of Job Status, Job Difficulty, and Vocational Self-Efficacy”.

It got published online in Hofgrefe’s journal of Social Psychology in 2015. (Copy must be purchased to view full text; previous link is non-affiliate.)

“Lead Developer” to “Lead Development”

refers to the German translation for the core string “Lead Developer” that got changed from “Leitender Entwickler” (denominative) in WordPress 4.5 to “Leitende Entwicklung” (descriptive) in WordPress 4.6.

“Mystery Man” to “Mystery person”

refers to this changeset:

Increase both mystery and humanism

“Mr. WordPress” to “A WordPress Commenter”

refers to this Trac ticket:

Increase humanism in first comment

A new translation framework

I may not be a developer in the narrower sense of the word. Dominik Schilling (@ocean90) is, and he mentioned this to me. It sure looks promising:


#Stringintelligenz plugin

The Stringintelligenz plugin swaps language files for WordPress core with a custom set of language files for a given locale. This can enable translators to quickly install and explore custom, experimental versions of their locales.

Currently, the only locale shipping with the plugin is German (informal); WordPress Polyglot teams are invited to contribute experimental versions of their own locales.


GitHub repo (PRs welcome!): http://github.com/glueckpress/stringintelligenz