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Old 06-08-2012, 08:56 PM
Location: Toronto
3,338 posts, read 5,536,761 times
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Since the feminist movements of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and onwards, there has been an increase in the proposal of gender-neutral speech, especially when it comes to social roles and occupations.

People have since replaced "chairman" with "chairperson", "fireman" with "fire-fighter" in contexts where you do not know if the person holding the job/title is male or female. Also, there has been a trend as well in not marking gender in these cases sometimes even when it is known.

However, for some occupations and roles, more than others it seems it is more socially acceptable to mark gender. For instance, the rather old-fashioned lady doctor or male nurse would be words/phrases that, would by now, offend many people's sensibilities (even saying male doctor or female doctor seems unnecessary, attention-drawing or awkward instead of just saying doctor, as well as nurse). However, for other occupations (eg. waiters and waitresses, or actors and actresses*, cleaning lady, postman, garbageman etc.), gender can be marked without people feeling any sense of "incorrectness".

Now, personally, I'm of the mindset that attitudes come first, and whatever language usage change that happens tends to follow if people want it, and changing one isn't necessarily going to do anything for the other, in and of itself, just like that. While I do respect the thought of trying to use gender-neutral language, I would appreciate some consistency in people's usages if some people are to complain about language being not gender neutral (though of course, real-life language use is rarely consistent and there's no reason why it should have to be, other than sharing common ground).

*Yes, I know the use of "female actor" and "male actor" has been in the Oscars but interesting enough, that gender-neutral term doesn't seem to replace actress vs. actor, when people continue to use the latter in day-to-day conversation in real life anyways, even though some other female words have became outdated -- such as sculptress, where everyone says sculptor. It seems for some (for example, for a doctor, it doesn't matter for the doctor's job whether they are male or female, but for actors it could, so people don't mind using non-gender-neutral terms for acting professionals, but not medical professionals)
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Old 06-11-2012, 12:52 PM
706 posts, read 1,721,225 times
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I refuse to try to improve my penpersonship. You'll just have to put up with my sloppy writing.

"The yeopersons were called to person the lines on the person o' war." Good lordess. Do the wopersons of the world really feel that put upon by these words?
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Old 06-13-2012, 06:03 AM
Location: Brooklyn
40,057 posts, read 29,713,783 times
Reputation: 10450
Originally Posted by CowanStern View Post
I refuse to try to improve my penpersonship. You'll just have to put up with my sloppy writing.
Things could get a lot more ridiculous! For instance, someone could point out that "person" ends in three letters that denote a male. So to eliminate any gender completely, the word should be "perone."

Then, of course, there's that other example in need of politically correct surgery, "woman." You can't redesignate her "woperson." So you'll have a lot of "woperones" running around.

Will it ever end? One can only dream.
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Old 06-14-2012, 11:01 AM
Status: "Even better than okay" (set 8 days ago)
Location: Coastal New Jersey
51,202 posts, read 50,499,962 times
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Do you like Persongoes? You know, the fruit?

And you can go to a store and ask to speak to the Personager.

And those things they are trying to save in Florida can be Personatees.
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Old 06-15-2012, 08:51 PM
5,757 posts, read 13,323,224 times
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And of course there's the 33rd president, Harry Truperson.

Stumbler, I think you hit on the key point about occupations and social roles, with the idea that the gender distinction works best when it makes a difference. A doctor is a doctor, regardless of sex. An actress is different from an actor. Not in the basic job actors and actresses do, but, well, do I really have to go into it?

I think that some of the past distinctions could get kind of silly, such as authoress or murderess. I once read that there was a time when people really discussed the question of whether an American woman should be referred to as an Americaness (long winded as well as silly). I've seen old texts that referred to black women as Negresses and Jewish women as Jewesses. Now that's just dumb.

But we get kinda silly in the other direction nowadays. Like being offended by the term Founding Fathers even though they were in fact all men. Or objecting to referring to a law enforcement officer as a policeman or a person who puts out fires as a fireman when we're referring to particular individuals who happen to be male.

Maybe the silliest example I've ever seen was something I saw a few times on current events shows at one point in the '80's, about a gender-neutral version of the Bible. The passage quoted as an example every time I saw that story was, "For God so loved the world that God gave to the world God's only child, that whoever believes in that child should not perish . . . ." Especially silly was refusing to attach gender to Jesus. Whatever one believes theologically, the historical figure Jesus was a man. To consider it offensive to refer to a man (even a famous man who is believed by many in some religious traditions to hold a special relationship with God--the historical figure was still a man) in the masculine gender is, well, as above with Negress and Jewess and Americaness, just dumb.

Last edited by ogre; 06-15-2012 at 09:07 PM..
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:47 PM
5,721 posts, read 5,237,432 times
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It's all about context. I was a political science major and when I had male professors I would write "congressmen." When I had female professors I always made sure to say "members of congress." I am not anti-PC but I am pro-writing what comes naturally. I will not bend over backwards to accommodate PC language when it reads awkwardly to me.
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Old 06-17-2012, 06:53 AM
706 posts, read 1,721,225 times
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After giving it some thought, I think I'm inclined to advocate for "body" instead, such as in the present form of 'anybody', 'nobody' or 'somebody'. Then we would have 'chairbody' and 'spokesbody'. In less formal usage, we could use "stiff" as the gender-free catchall. Like a "working stiff" instead of working man or woman. Chairstiff and Spokestiff, instead of Chairperson or Spokesperson.

Robert Burns was very nicely gender-neutral with his "Gin a body meet a body, Comin thro' the rye,"
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:03 AM
Location: Brooklyn
40,057 posts, read 29,713,783 times
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And I guess that baseball commentators should no longer refer to "25-man rosters," even though there only males are playing in the major leagues...at least, at present.
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Old 01-06-2013, 02:38 AM
80 posts, read 95,368 times
Reputation: 99
A fireman is a person on a steam locomotive who keeps the fire going in the firebox. A firefighter is someone who puts out fires.
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Old 01-07-2013, 01:11 PM
Location: Maryland
1,667 posts, read 8,151,116 times
Reputation: 1593
When I was in the military, I was a Radioman. We had lots of female Radiomen, also. Nobody ever cared what we were called. Now, the rank has changed to Telecommunications Specialist. Whew! It seems the only people who care about gender specific titles are those who aren't in that occupation. I've never heard of a female fireman to be concerned with the "man" part of the title. I think some people just have too much time on their hands to worry about these things.
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