Since the beginning of this century, linguists and social scientists from a variety of disciplines have sought to uncover the causes of the supposedly mysterious differences in the speech of women and men; in the process, far too many inaccurate generalizations about female and male speech have been made. From Jespersen’s work in 1922, to Lakoff’s pioneering 1973 article, to Tannen’s popularized 1990 depiction of women’s speech, we can trace a well-established pattern of widely read and frequently cited writings about women, men, and their language differences based on introspection and anecdotal information but for which there is little empirical foundation. I single out these three works because of their historic value: although Jespersen’s portrait of women was extremely stereotyped, his work was unique in devoting an entire chapter of a book on the nature of language to a discussion of the characteristics of women’s speech. The publication of Lakoff’s work legitimized the study of women’s language within sociolinguistics and simultaneously provided a political context for the interpretation of women’s speech. The release of Tannen’s book, for better or for worse, brought the topic of potential differences between women and men’s speech to the attention of an enormous general public.