Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is Your Language Sexist?

By the mid-eighties the movement toward nonsexist usage had gained so much momentum that researchers who studied its impact by analyzing three recently published American dictionaries of new words were prepared to state, in the cautious phraseology of scholarship, that their results showed "a trend toward nonsexism" in written language.  The data, they said, "provided a judgement of the efficacy of feminists' efforts toward nonsexist vocabulary," and they ventured the opinion that the "importance and justice of the subject have been recognized."
The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing, 2nd Edition,
Casey Miller and Kate Swift, Harper, New York, 1988

Have you noticed a trend toward nonsexist language? 

Perhaps in the increase use of 'their' instead of 'his' as a grammatically flawed, but happily gender inclusive solution? Or perhaps in the appearance of such works as The Inclusive New Testament by Priests for Equality (March 19, 2004), or The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version  by Victor Roland Gold, Jr. Thomas L. Hoyt, Sharon H. Ringe and Susan Brooks Thistlewaite (September 7, 1995).  Or perhaps in the change from "...boldly goes where no man has gone before..." to "where no one has gone before..."

"Manning the event" is giving way to "staffing the event."  Spokesman, man-overboard, mankind, it's all changing.  And in the awkward moments between then and now language struggles to find elegant solutions.

It's an exciting time for our language and Newt List is about the business of producing updated, gender neutral versions of timeless classics.  Producing these versions takes time and mindfulness to maintain the style and voice of the writer while finding elegant solutions to old, and now outdated, language conventions.

You might also enjoy "Why Gender Neutral?"

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