When being specific could be wrong, when referring to a person of unknown gender, it is better to be general than specific. And, job positions ought to be neutral. Male or female, someone is a server or a flight attendant. However, I believe people are taking gender neutrality too far.
The idea for this blog came from several places: something on dailywritingtips.com (a very useful site), a bit I heard on the radio, and my exasperation with political correctness – to name a few. However, I gained a sharper focus when I tripped over an article on WritingHelp-Central.com listing gender-neutral equivalents. I find the length of that list stunning.
There are terms that, technically, specify a gender but are so common we don’t even notice. Prime example: fraternal twins. Yes, fraternal is Latin for “brotherly”; but how often do you think “brotherly” when someone mentions fraternal twins? Who puts a gender to that at all? Obviously someone does, but … really?
Anything starting with “mother” has also made the list: mother country, Mother Earth, mother lode, and so on. Basically, these are all things of origin. Until men start giving birth (the ultimate origin for humans), what is wrong with applying “mother” to such things?
And then we have the “master” references: master plan, master key, mastermind, master’s degree. My good friend, dictionary.com, does have several entries for master, the first is “a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something.” The fourth is where the gender freaks come in, “the male head of a household.” Let’s just say that any man or woman can be a master of their art or earn a master’s degree. And since English does not apply gender to nouns, why can’t the key that opens all doors be a master key?
Several colloquialisms have also made the list. As informal language, these terms evolved into our language, and will likely evolve away again, so there’s no reason to get my knickers in a twist.
Here’s the one that really got this blog going in my head: penmanship. I first heard this on the radio and it really had me scratching my head (still does). After checking three on-line dictionaries and my physical Webster’s, I could not find a definition that had anything to do with gender. It was all around handwriting. The only thing I can think of is that someone finds the fact that “man” is part of the spelling offensive.
If we’re going to start getting fussy about words simply because there is something gender-specific in the spelling, than how come “human” is not on the list, or “history”?
You know what other word avoided the list? Laundress. As far as I can tell, there is not a masculine version of the term. There is also not a feminine version of Uncle Sam – and that did make the list.
As a self-proclaimed Word Nerd, I know that words evoke emotion. How are we supposed to adequately express ourselves if we sanitize the language?
– Lorrie Nicoles
#WordNerd #TooGenderNeutral #ClearCommunication