When you indicate a woman who holds the role of dungeon master, will she be the master, the master or the mistress? A brief linguistic analysis to compare the Italian and English norm and usage, so as to finally have an answer.

Since we always talk about linguistics and everyone literally says everything, often without much knowledge of the facts, let's talk about made feminine, in the Italian context, of dungeon / game master.

Will you say "the master", "the master" or "the mistress"?

Let's find out and, as always when it comes to linguistics, don't expect simple answers.

Linguistic norm VS linguistic use: a small premise

Before embarking on this little adventure, it is essential to make a distinction between the linguistic norm and linguistic use, since these two levels of analysis often tend to be confused.

La linguistic norm is basically the series of rules and phenomena judged correct by grammars and therefore coincides with everything found in the variety of language called Italian standard.

Standard Italian is not the only existing linguistic variety, but it coexists in use with many other varieties. Some of these varieties are considered sub-standard, as they are placed lower than the standard in diasystem of Italian, that is the scheme that describes and traces the "geography" of our language. You can get an idea of ​​the Italian language diasystem in the book Sociolinguistics of contemporary Italian di God Gaetano Berruto.

Consequently, thelinguistic use of Italian is the way in which the language is actually used, regardless of the rules of the law. Linguistic use can, over time, influence the linguistic norm, making certain phenomena obsolete (such as the use of this, for example) and introducing into the norm phenomena that previously belonged only to substandard varieties.

This phenomenon is said re-standardization of the language and has been in existence since the Second World War, that is, since Italian was really spoken by sixty million people. When a language is really used for everyday life by a large mass of individuals, in fact, and above all it is not only written, but also spoken, it is normal for it to undergo changes and simplifications. The current one was formed from the re-standardization neo-Standard, which is gradually changing the grammars.

The acquisition of the term from English dungeon / game master it is part of this perspective of perennial language change and must be framed both in relation to linguistic use and in relation to the norm.

What is the role of the master really? (source)
What is the role of the master really? (source)

Master o mistress? English uses

Before analyzing the Italian usage, it is useful to take a look at how English-speaking players and role-players use master e mistress in relation to role play.

In fact, one of the major arguments in favor of using mistress it is precisely due to the fact that this word is believed the correct female English alternative a master, in the sense of dungeon / game master.

Let's see if that's true.

An overview of the meanings of master e mistress

Although mistress be it often considered un dates relatively obsolete in English in the sense of "mistress [of people, of a house or business]" and "mistress of a married man", it is still in use in the sense of "mistress [of an animal]" and "particularly good person in a certain activity ".

In the world of BDSMInstead, mistress it is widely used to indicate the woman in control of the situation, as we have also seen with the comic sunstone. Either way, it is evident that mistress he has one strong connotation of female gender and it is not used in reference to people who are not women.

Masterinstead has a range di meanings wider. In fact, it can refer both (in the historical sense) to the owner of someone or something, and (currently) to the man in command of an organization or group, both the expert in a discipline, and the person in possession of a master's degree.

In many of its meanings, therefore, master has a felt gender connotation male, including that of the BDSM world. However, in the sense of "expert" and "master's degree", master is used in neutral and is also currently applied to women.

It is then interesting to note how mistress has historically been used as a feminine of master. According to a scientific article by Amy Erickson (2014) on History Workshop Journal, summarized in this popular article, mistress would be the basis of the moderns Mrs., Miss e Ms, although initially it had only been abbreviated to Mrs. as equivalent of Mr.

When it comes to mistress, that's what you usually think about! (source)
When you are talking about mistress, that's what you usually think of! (source)

Norm: in English mistress it is acceptable but perhaps not mandatory

However, in the sense of dungeonmaster or game master, this term does not have the meaning of "master of the dungeon / game", but rather "Dungeon / game expert". Consequently, master in this case could be used without a gender value also applied to women. Of course, if you want you could also use it mistress with the same value, but it would not be mandatory.

But it must also be said that the role of the dungeon / game master it is often also managerial and therefore, especially if referred to the dungeon, it could also convey a sense of authority and of responsibility. In this sense, master it is specifically male and the female consideration should be mistress, to be used compulsorily against a woman.

In this sense, according to Oxford Dictionaries il game master would have a meaning closer to that management:

A person who organizes and oversees a role-playing game, in particular by narrating the details of the story that are not controlled by the players.

Similarly, some academic articles also talk about it, such as The Game Master (2005) by Tychsen, A. et al. in Proceedings of the second Australasian conference on interactive entertainment (pp. 215–222), Sydney, Australia.

However, the role of facilitator and organizer of the game presupposes knowledge of the regulation, which makes the actual semantics of game master rather opaque. Not too surprisingly, however: the actual role of the master in role-playing games has been the focus of much discussion, During the years.

In short, based on the semantics of dungeon / game master it is complex to say if mistress according to the linguistic norm, it must be used compulsorily towards a woman. Certainly, mistress it is an acceptable and not an erroneous choice.

Deborah Ann Woll is always "the Dungeon Master", for example
Deborah Ann Woll is always “the Dungeon Master”, for example

Use: mistress it is rarely used and English speakers prefer master even for women

At this point, therefore, we should go and see how game / dungeon master / mistress are actually used in writing (easier to analyze than speech, in this case).

We specify however that at this time it is not possible to give precise statistics on the actual use of dungeon / game master e dungeon / game mistress. In fact, to get the numbers on the frequency of these terms, a specific corpus would be needed, or a search should be done with the “web as corpus” strategy. However, the latter strategy would give us bogus data, as we would mostly find uses of dungeon master / mistress in relation to the BDSM world. So, at the moment we will rely on some very small samples, which however I believe are still quite significant on the diffusion of master e mistress in the English world of role-playing games.

Women are almost always "the Dungeon Master"

For example, in the news reporting the campaign Relics & Rarities di Deborah Ann Woll, the latter is never called dungeon mistress.

THEofficial announcement the show defines Woll first "Dungeon Master and storyteller", then “female Dungeon Master”, while in the comments to the article she is called “GM”, “storyteller”. There are many articles (this, this, this, this, this, this, this) which then define Woll simply "Dungeon Master", "DM" and his work "Dungeon Mastering" (Thu). Even in some forums where Woll's passion for D&D was discussed, she was not called mistress, but “DM” was used.

Also in relation to other female masters, users tend to use the term game master o dungeonmaster. In his article, Kristine Hassler generally defines herself as “GM” (and also defines her boyfriend as “GM”), using “female GM” only to specify that she did not feel judged for being a woman. Similarly, the author of this blog, talking about his experience as a master, he mainly used the terms "Dungeon Master" and "DM". "GM" turned out to be an umbrella term also inarticle by Katrina Ostrander, who never defined herself game mistress, but only game master.

In a discussion on Reddit regarding female masters challenges, the initial user uses the term “Female Dungeon Master” to emphasize gender belonging. Subsequently, the other women involved in the discussion have always referred to themselves as "DM" or "GM" when they wanted to talk about their role in a neutral way, or "female DM" to specify their gender. Similarly, male masters also defined themselves when they wanted to specify their gender "Evil DM".

The uses of Dungeon / Game Mistress: it is emphasized that the master is a woman

This does not mean that mistress is not used. However, it seems that its use is not neutral, but placed in contexts in which we want to emphasize that the master is a womandespite previous expectations or habits.

For example, in this article di The Mary Sue, a well-known geek and feminist information site, "Dungeon Mistress" is used in contrast to "Dungeon Master", precisely to emphasize a female master. However, even in this case it is a isolated use, made to attract attention, and in the article we use "Dungeon Master" against a woman.

Pure in the Wiki di Dexter's Laboratory the term “Dungeon Mistress” is used in relation to a female character, although it is used in a context of specification"Dee Dee managed to become Game Master (or rather, Game Mistress)". Again in terms of contrast, dungeon mistress is used in connection with Lysa Chen, one of the organizers of Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League. In this case, we read that "Lysa is also proud to be the first female dungeon mistress at her friendly local game shop".

It is also interesting this announcement on Roll20, where a campaign is proposed to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (which we talked about Thu!), underlining that it is managed by a "DUNGEON MISTRESS", chosen from a series of "Lovely Dungeon Mistresses" or “lovely lady DMs”. This advertising and pounding attention to the genre of masters shows how this factor is not considered in a neutral way, but wants to be presented as an attractive value of the proposed campaign (for a fee). However, the announcement then underlines that "Lovely as they are, they will gladly TPK you as easily as any other DM".

In a other case yet, dungeon mistress was used to refer to an announcement titled “FEMALE DUNGEON MASTER WANTED” for a bachelor party. On this occasion, a woman expert in role-playing games should have been the master of the future husband and his friends topless, stressing however that no one would have requested services of a sexual nature. The author of the post (not the ad) initially showed up uncertain about the title to give to the master, writing "he wanted a young woman to administer (serves as Dungeon Master (Mistress?)) the session", Then went directly to"He also wanted the lady (Dungeon Mistress) to play out the night topless".

In short, on all these occasions dungeon mistress it was used not as a neutral term, but in a context where you want underline the gender of the master. In some cases, this focus is contrastive and made to emphasize that there are also female masters despite stereotypes or habits, in other cases the focus is made to make the prospect of role-playing with a masters tempting.

The only neutral example is that of nickname of one of the organizers of WagonCon 2019, who calls herself “The Dungeon Mistress”.

Chiara di Morgengabe is a well-known Italian example of a female master (source)
Chiara of Morning gift is a well-known Italian example of a female master (source)

So what do we Italians have to say?

Now that we have clarified the use of master e mistress in English (that is: mistress you can use it, but generally it is not used, except to emphasize the genre of the master), we come to the part that interests us most: Italian.

Let's start from another premise: loans from other languages ​​in Italian are invariable. This means that they must not undergo changes according to their gender, or according to whether they are used in the singular or plural.

Non-sex referents: car, spoiler, emoticons and other

We also take into account the fact that the English lexicon does not provide for the assignment of words to the genre category: chair in Italian it is feminine, but chair in English it has no gender. Basically, therefore, when we transport English words in Italian we have to assign them a gender, without however changing the English word, but by combining them with the articles and adjectives in the right form. However, if English words don't have gender, what gender should we assign to them?

Generally, as theBran Academy, the type of loans (not only English) is assigned in two ways. In the first case, gender is assigned for analogy to an Italian consideration that we hear as a translation: the city ​​car it is feminine like cars, bugs, it is masculine like error. In other, more nebulous cases, the assigned gender is automatically that male, since perceived as less marked than the female: it spoiler it is masculine despite anticipation both female. In still other cases, the genus is still dancer: we have both "emoticons" and "emoticons".

Sexual referents: leader, fan, master e mistress

However, i sexually referenced (horse e sea, sister e brother, cow e bull, master e mistress) in English possess a gender, although this genus is not expressed in the morphological form of the word, unlike in Italian. This means that if nurse e nurse they belong to the same lexeme, that is to the same basic lexical unit to which only the final morpheme is changed, master e mistress they belong to two different lexemes.

In this case, as well as in the case of anglicisms that refer to people (like leader), the gender assigned in Italian corresponds to that of the reference person. So Angela Merkel is a leader, where Sergio Mattarella is a leader; Seeker G is a fan, Seeker Y is a fan; Francesca is a boy scout, Andrea is a boy scout; my sister is there sister, my brother is the brother.

For more information on the whole issue of gender assignment in Italian to foresters, see the essay by God Anna Thornton, Gender assignment in Italian (2003), visible Thu.

LA master, please!
LA master, please!

Norma: we must say "the master"

Now if you remember, master e mistress are two different words, belonging to two different lexemes. They are not the same word, to which different genres have been assigned, such as leader o storyteller.

We, when we imported role-playing games from English-speaking countries, have imported even the words master, dungeonmaster o game master. We never imported mistress, dungeon mistress o game mistress, also because it seems it is not even used much in the English-speaking area.

You may think that, being the female alternative of master, mistress is to some extent part of the package, and that we speaking have borrowed it together with master. But is not so: mistress it is a word that, in the context of RPGs, we have never borrowed from English.

Consequently, in our Italian lexicon related to role-playing games there is only the term master. Term that, if we want to decline it in the feminine, it must remain unchanged in its form.

This means that we Italians, by rules, should say "The master" to indicate a female master, as we would say "the leader" and "the player".

In this sense, "The mistress" would be an erroneous hypercorrection, as in the case of the addition of the "s" in the plurals of English words, used in an Italian context: here too, they are "the fans", not "the fans". Applying the English rules correctly does not mean adhering to the Italian rules, which still in our language should have priority.

Use: do whatever you like

Now, as we said in the first paragraph, norm and use are two different things and use can influence the norm.

If at the moment it seems that the loan taken by the English-speaking world of role-playing games is master, this does not mean that in the future we will not actively use too mistress. However, since this term seems to be little used even in the English-speaking context, I personally find it difficult that it really takes root in Italy.

Also, you have to take into account that mistressin our country is mainly associated with practices BDSM: to notice this article de L'Espresso and definition di dominatrix on Wikipedia. therefore, mistress it carries a whole range of sexual meanings that not all masters would appreciate.

However, this does not mean that each of us is not free to use "the master" or "the mistress": in the end, in use we can express ourselves as we prefer. We just have to take into account the fact that our freedom of expression does not oblige others not to judge us: in some environments, using "the mistress" can cause grim looks. In this sense, in turning to a master it may be wise to first ask her how she wants to be called.

For sure, each master can be defined as he sees fit.

But let's see what the usage situation is like in Italy.

These clarifications are needed because role-playing games are greatly expanding their audience (source)
These clarifications are needed because role-playing games are greatly expanding their audience (source)

Mistress: infrequent and of doubtful (or ironic) use

In the world of Italian RPG, dungeon / game mistress is a term practically nonexistent in the articles dedicated to these issues, which prefer other solutions, as we will see.

The only article where we talk about game mistress è this, dedicated to the analysis of Kagematsu, a role-playing game in which the master is always a woman who plays a ronin and the other players play the role of the women of the village. In this sense, game mistress it is used only once, and always in a contrastive key, as we had already seen for English uses. In the rest of the article, the role of the game master is expressed in the male.

The rest of the uses of mistress that they found come from Facebook groups of some large Italian role-playing communities. In these groups, basically mistress, game mistress e dungeon mistress are rarely used by women to describe themselves.

Much more frequent, however, is to see them used in questions (also posed by women), in which one wonders if one should call one's master dungeon mistress.

[...] wife and co-master (mistress?)

[…] And a female master? Is she a mistress?!? XD

[...] I'm an excellent Master (or you say mistress in my case .. boh .. never understood)

Similarly frequent are also i semi-ironic post in which users (always men) ask if the female master is the dungeon mistress, or invite women to claim this term for themselves:

It is time for the players to claim correct use in terms of the game: as female characters are referred to as warrior / sorceress / cleric etc. if the campaign is arbitrated by a girl this is a MISTRESS dungeon and not a master.

[Follow quote from Wikipedia on the meaning of mistress]

In general, it seems that also in Italy the use of mistress it is neither frequent, nor free of double meaning, nor used without a heavy dose of doubt.

“The master” or “the master”: fluctuations between role and referent

As then happens for many institutional officeseven when using the English loan correctly there are fluctuations in its yield when it involves women.

The rule would like us to behave as with other anglicisms referring to people, such as the already seen leader, and approach the word master feminine articles and adjectives. So we should have "the good master", "the master forgot" and "Deborah Ann Woll will be the dungeon master".

However, this is not always the case, because we often tend to to maintain dungeon / game master in the masculine. This happens because, as also happens to many professional names, women recognize themselves "rather in a function or a condition as such, regardless of the sex of those who exercise it", as he says God Luca Serieanni in this article. It is the same reason that we hear more often, referring to a woman, "the head of department" instead of "the head of department" (both equally acceptable, however), as noted in this voice ofEncyclopedia of Italian.

However, as is also stated in this and this article of the Accademia della Crusca, declining the names of professions in the feminine (obviously following the right word formation rules) is not only correct, but also desirable, since it would make the language more transparent. Therefore it would also be desirable to decline the British loan for women master, calling the women who narrate a role-playing game "le game master", "le dungeon master" or "le master".

But, as has been said before, dungeon masters should be free to call themselves as they wish, so if they prefer to be “the master” (or “the mistress”) we shouldn't worry.

Effective use of "the master" and "the master"

Always taking as reference the articles dedicated to Relics and Rarities by Deborah Ann Woll, we see that terminology is used towards it.

Now, as was to be expected, given the tenor of the English news to which the Italian sites have referred, Woll is never called mistress not even in Italian. However, our local writers have fluctuated a bit between “the master” and “the master”.

Out of nine articles consulted, two (this e this) do not name the role of the master, therefore they are excluded from the games. Of the remaining seven, four articles (this, this, this e this) define Woll "The Dungeon Master", one of whom even calls her "narrator". The last three articles (this, this e this), on the other hand, define Woll as "The Dungeon Master".

Although even the columnists are free to do as they wish, the fact that journalistic Italian should coincide with standard or neo-standard Italian should push the writer of these articles to abide by linguistic norms. So, basically who writes articles, to be correct, should use "the master".

Yes, you should call it "the dungeon master" if we're to be fair
Yes, you should call it "the dungeon master" if we are to be fair

Let's summarize: “the master” is the most correct form. Don't use English rules to justify the way you write in Italian

As a writer, you are completely free to write as you wish and therefore you can choose to use “la master”, “il master” or “la mistress”.

However, if you use "the master" or "the mistress" you are doing it because you follow your own (legitimate!) personal taste, not because you want to be somehow more correct.

If you use "la mistress" because "that's what they say in English", you are wrong: in English the rule is unclear and the use attests little dungeon / game mistress. Furthermore, as regards the Italian use, the English standard does not interest us: we Italians, when we write in Italian, adhere to the norm of our language. This does not make us ignorant in English, it only makes us aware of how Italian works.

If you use "the master" because you want to focus more on the role you play, than on your gender, that's fine, but keep in mind that the female article in front does not in any way compromise the seriousness of your role.

tend, “The master” is the most correct choice, as it uses the real English word we borrowed and applies all the appropriate gender modifiers to it, leaving it unchanged.