The other day
I was exchanging msgs with a fellow noder who is studying Spanish
. She made the common error of saying , thinking that the final a
would make the word feminine. So she used las
for the English
"the" instead of the correct los
. In all the languages I know, except perhaps for artificial languages like Esperanto where language can be whipped into consistency
, there are always exceptions to rules about identifying gender
Of course in English most nouns don't give much trouble in that regard. Since we don't have much of a case
system, the noun doesn't change to indicate gender, but on occasion the pronoun
s can be tricky. Nouns are generally "it" unless your talking about your girlfiend
, which we assume is feminine
, or your favorite quarterback
, which we have to assume is masculine
. It's tempting to observe
that with the new morality and the move to gender-neutral language all that might change. A wife may be masculine and a quarterback feminine. Come to think of it, that's already happening.
For reasons unknown to me, automobiles and ships are feminine -- we speak of them as "she." And I think we can get away with calling most machines "she," as well. But, I can't think of any inanimate
object that we refer to has "he." There are many instances, however, of collective nouns that appear masculine, such as "man" in the generic sense. Still, feminists are beginning to point out problems in English that I never knew existed. For example, I've seen a report title that read "Development of the Uterus in Rats, Guinea Pigs, and Men" which conjures up a strange picture. It's also obvious that this writer appeared confused by linguistic gender in "As for man, he is no different from the rest. His back aches, he ruptures easily, his women have difficulties in childbirth . . . "
I personally am not very happy with the solutions presented so far, but, then, I'm a linguistic conservative
. Here is one example around a search for a gender-neutral English.
Generic 3rd person singular
- Currently the standard is "each student turns in his report at the end of the period." Does that mean that female students don't have to?
Solution: "each student turns in their report..." making the 3rd person plural the generic 3rd person singular. Sting evidently prefers this solution when he sings, "If you love someone, set them free..." Or we could say, "each student turns in his or her report..." Now that is a mouthful!
Instead of "mankind
" use humanity
, human being
Instead of "man's achievements" use human achievement
Instead of "the best man for the job" use "the best person for the job"
Instead of "man-made" use "synthetic, manufactured"
Instead of "the common
man" use "the average person, ordinary people"
Instead of "nine man-hours" use "nine staff-hours"
There, gentlemen, I mean gentlepersons, is the problem. What is your solution