Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gender Neutral

I used to have this professor in college who hated man-centric language so much that he thought the book Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl should be renamed. I was about to write how completely bananas his opinion was, but then I just looked it up and the book was originally trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager, which Babel Fish tells me translates to something like Say nevertheless to the life: A psychologist experiences the concentration camp. Later, it was called From Death-Camp to Existentialism, so sayeth Wikipedia.
So it's not like changing the title to not be gender specific would be to change the words in Frankl's mouth, but it would still be bananas. We can't go back and make history gender-neutral.
I'm all about trying to make the language more gender neutral now, more for the sake of correctness than political correctness. But I found this crazy book called Talking About People by Rosalie Maggio that made renaming Man's Search for Meaning seem totally sane.
Some vocabulary Maggio suggests we eliminate:
Bad guy
kaiser roll (this isn't fundamentally bad, per se, we should just be careful with the fact that so many things are named after male characters... or something)
man hole
master and any words derived from master
say uncle
aide (apparently only used for women, though I've never experienced that to be the case)
Fill 'er up
Yammer (also apparently only applies to women).
In addition, it is condescending to refer to women getting dolled up, but in the case of men, it's not usually patronizing. What?
The author also says that it's offensive to call people who are pro-choice pro-abortion, but it's probably more accurate to say that people who are pro-life are actually anti-abortion. Holy bias, Batman! 
Girl Friday would be better phrased Woman Friday. It says nothing of the racism inherent in the term - the fact that Man Friday refers to Robinson Crusoe's brown-skinned man-servant.
I'm still processing this. We live in strange times.

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