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The gendered noun comedienne—the female equivalent of comedian—has been growing in prevalence over the last few years, but its use in 21st-century English is questionable for a few reasons. First, most female comedians refer to themselves as comedians, not comediennes. Second, gendered terms can be distracting, especially where the traditionally male forms have long been standard for describing people of both sexes (as is the case with comedian). Third, such gendered terms can be interpreted as sexist, especially when the person’s sex is beside the point.


Here are a couple of examples of the questionable comedienne used in context:

Comedienne Kathy Griffin showed once again that she is no wallflower as she  stepped out in yet another swimsuit on her getaway in Honolulu. [Daily Mail]

Those who also made the list of leaders, thinkers, artists and heroes include comedienne Amy Poehler. [Washington Post]

And as these writers show, comedian is a perfectly good word to describe female comedians:

Amelia Bullmore is a brilliant radio comedian, as listeners to Radio 4’s Down the Line and other entertainments will know. [Telegraph]

The comedian was on the third stop of a promotional tour for her new memoir, Bossypants. [Slate]

For many of us, American comedian Tina Fey has been our first, best defence against the charge that feminists are not funny. [Winnipeg Free Press]

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