More on neutrality

sagehen sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM
Tue Oct 7 01:35:00 UTC 2008

on 10/6/08 9:50 AM, Wilson Gray at hwgray at GMAIL.COM wrote:

> Full disclosure: the author and I have been friends since 1980.
> On Fri, Oct 3, 2008 at 12:04 PM, Angilly, Robert
> <staffba3 at> wrote:
> "An idea to bounce off the dialect group.  Another profession to take
> on the mantle of gender-neutrality in recent years is Theatre (and
> Philm).  Female thespians are no longer being referred to as
> "actresses." Rather, "actor" has become gender-neutral. Presumably, on
> the premise that "male" and "female" are just roles to be played and
> any actor worth _its_ greasepaint is expected to be able to play
> whatever roles suit _its_ talents."
> BTW, hasn't anyone else noted that it's always the femine equivalent
> that is the member of a pair to suffer extinction? Why not kill
> "actor" and refer to all such as "actresses?" It seems to me that the
> fact that the feminine term is always the one to go merely emphasizes
> the socially-superior position of the masculine.
> Birds are the exception. No one speaks of flocks of ganders, drakes,
> or roosters. Indeed, most people that I know always refer to mallards
> as "ducks," despite the fact that any fool can plainly see that the
> birds are all drakes. (I'd bet that most people don't even know the
> words, "gander" and "drake," anymore. I had to study over it awhile
> myself to come up with "gander.") OTOH, a Franco-Canadienne once
> pointed out that, if on had a set consisting of one thousand femmes et
> one chien, then on would refer to that set with the masculine pronoun.
> -Wilson
> --
Oh, women have been taking note of these slights for many years now, but the
catalog of insults inflicted on women is endless.  I introduced my own
proposal, under the title, "Man the Epicene," to offset some of these to the
world ten years ago, but no notce was taken, alas.  My thesis was that it
was the spirit of Old Adam -- he from whom the rib was taken --- that caused
him to identifyhimself as the true type & women as a mere subset.  This gave
him the first option on all nouns of agency, leaving  a lesser, usually
belittling, term to be picked up as needed by women.  My corrective for this
unfortunate state of affairs was to assign a special derivative term in each
case (where it mattered {does it matter whether a flyer is a -tor or a
-trix?]) to male agents.  I began the process by reassigning  the pronouns:
he, him, his would be neutral; she, her, her would be feminine; a new set.
ne, nim, nis  would be the new masculine ones.  "Man" would be neutral &
thus everyone's.  Except for the giggling of a few friends, the world was
not shaken up by  this, & we go on year after year with the awkwardness of
he/she, his/her, they/their.    I suspect that snipping the risers  of the
h's was taken to be too uncomfortably symbolic for some.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list