Letters: Maestro or Maestra?

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NPR's Scott Simon reads letters from listeners, including the proper way to address a female conductor, and reaction to our story about a college for adults with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities.


Time now for your letters.

Several listeners wrote to say how much they enjoyed reporter Susan Sharon's story about STRIVE U, an intensive education and training program that helps young adults with Down's Syndrome or developmental disabilities live on their own. Darcy French(ph) wrote: It would be wonderful to hear updates from time to time about how these graduates are thriving. I also hope that other communities throughout our nation adopt programs like STRIVE U. There really are countless economic and social benefits. Hearing this story brightened my day.

Susan McKinstry(ph) said that she sat in her car and listened to the whole story. When Christine, one of the recent graduates of the program, said that she is concerned about paying her bills, living alone, being lonely and being afraid of loud noises, I had to laugh. She could've been talking about me and I'm 48 years old, divorced and with two grown sons. We all struggle with the same concerns and fears. I would be honored to have Christine as my friend.

Several listeners felt compelled to write us after hearing an interview last week with Princeton's Edward Felten about his study on the security of Diebold voting machines. Professor Felten concluded that these voting machines remain vulnerable to manipulation.

Shawn Toole(ph) said he thought the press was naïve when he said, quote, we will eventually learn what safeguards we need and will eventually do a better job. Does he not realize that there is an election in less than 60 days and that most states have made major investments in electronic voting equipment, which is expected to work accurately on November 7th. Eventually is not good enough. Americans need to be able to cast votes which will be accurately recorded now, not eventually.

And finally, our interview last weekend with conductor Marin Alsop prompted many listeners to wonder why I addressed her as maestro rather than maestra. Ms. Alsop prefers to be addressed as maestro, as many women actors chose to be called that and not actresses. Our reference librarian, Key Moleski(ph), also points out that we do not call women astronauts astronettes, women pilots aviatrix, or call Marianne Moore a poetess.

John Devolt(ph) writes: Marin Alsop is undoubtedly used to this confusion, since men have dominated the profession and the word is borrowed from Italian, where gender matters more. By the way, when we praise a particular performance of Maestra Alsop, we would say brava, not bravo, for the same reason, and there's even one more step, cheering two or more females- bravaa - and two or more men - bravee. These may only come in handy at the opera.

Mr. Devolt, I went to the Met on Monday night. Everybody there shouted bravo. I guess they didn't get your e-mail.

We welcome your comments. You can come to our website, NPR.org. Click on contact us and write away: bravo, brava and bravee.

(Soundbite of Edith Piaf song)

SIMON: Well, maybe they'll accept it from Edith Piaf, if not me.

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