It’s Time for Another Free Speech Movement
If you’re but a creature of your times, you’re accustomed to saying “humankind” instead of mankind, “firefighter” instead of fireman, “letter carrier” instead of mailman, “businessperson” instead of businessman, etc. We believe our readers are immune from cultural conditioning and linguistic engineering, so we’re not talking about you. But pity the zombies, for there’s a lot more Newspeak for them to assimilate.
But before getting to that, something needs to be said about the avoidance of “man” in a compound word. The erudite Jacques Barzun, in his book Dawn to Decadence, explained succinctly why “man” is correct usage: “In the compounds that have been regarded as invidious — spokesman, chairman, and the like — man retains that original sense of human being, as is proved by the word woman….” Or as the whimsical Sheldon Vanauken versified in the September 1978 NEW OXFORD REVIEW:
Her unisex temper would worsen
If as chairman she wasn’t “chairperson”:
She required that we ban
Those damned suffixes, “man” —
So now she’s become a woperson.
But most people don’t understand how the English language works, and so are easy targets for the mind-controllers.
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She required that we ban, Those damned suffixes, "man."
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