Illinois bans male pronoun

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Thu Jan 4 01:52:03 UTC 2007

About 15-20 years ago there was a government directive ordering local government agencies (or at least agencies in one particular locale) to avoid gender specific terminology.  The city fathers--perhaps mothers too--noticed the word "manhole" in one of the city's documents about its streets and in all seriousness changed it to "personhole." This was picked up by newspapers from coast to coast and by lighthearted radio broadcasters, with resultant widespread giggling.  The city fathers/mothers were not at all amused.  They had dutifully complied with a government regulation and did not appreciate being the butt of merriment for their efforts..
Gerald Cohen


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Dennis Baron
Sent: Tue 1/2/2007 9:19 PM
Subject: Illinois bans male pronoun

It's the season for banning.  And there's a new post about banning 
male pronouns on the Web of Language:

"The University of Illinois has banned the male pronoun.  Starting 
Jan. 2, 2007, all print and web-based publications, whether for 
audiences inside or outside the university, must follow the rules 
laid out in the style guide published by the university's Office of 
Public Affairs.  And in the section on nonsexist language, the style 
guide tells us:

Avoid gender-specific language such as the use of a male pronoun.

There it is in plain English: we may no longer refer to anyone's 
gender specifically. . . . "

Read more about what's wrong with style guides at the Web of Language:

or paste this URL into your browser:

Happy (nonsectarian) holidays.


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:

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