[lg policy] linguistic hygiene: Language policy should exclude archaic terms

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 31 15:16:40 UTC 2010

Language policy should exclude archaic terms
 March 25, 2010Letter to the EditorTO THE EDITOR:

In Andrew Stiles’ letter-to-the-editor (“Gendered language hardly the
root cause of injustice,” March 24), he argues that getting rid of
gendered terms like “freshman” and “chairman” creates a slippery slope
that would lead to getting rid of terms like “upper-level students”
because it suggests juniors and seniors are more serious students than
first-years and sophomores.

But the term “seniors” already privileges fourth-year students over
third-year students whom we refer to as “juniors.” What would be
better to use than either “upper-level students” or terms like
“juniors” and “seniors,” are first-years, second-years, third-years,
fourth-years, and so-on.

Much of the rest of the world, including the University of Virginia,
already uses this terminology. I suspect that those who protested to
end the use of sexist language in the DTH would also like to get rid
of words like “sophomore” and “junior.”

Getting rid of sexist language is the first step. Let’s join the rest
of the world and use a number to refer to each level. Then no one
would have to say “I’m a fifth-year senior.”

I have friends who went to school in Canada and Great Britain and they
tell me they never missed sexist terms like “freshman” when they were
at college. They also find “sophomore” insulting (given “sophomoric”)
and “junior” and “senior” meaningless.

One of them asked me, “If you take the word ‘junior’ seriously, why
aren’t first-years called ‘juniors’?”

So in addition to ending sexist language like “upperclassmen,” let’s
go further and get rid of these archaic terms that really make no
sense when applied to undergraduate students. We need more change, not

Andrew Frost


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