LINGUIST List 4.580

Wed 28 Jul 1993

Disc: Gender

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 4.562 Sum: Gender Markedness
  2. David Heap, Re: 4.573 Epic'they'

Message 1: Re: 4.562 Sum: Gender Markedness

Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1993 10:26:27 Re: 4.562 Sum: Gender Markedness
From: <>
Subject: Re: 4.562 Sum: Gender Markedness

>Date: Fri, 16 Jul 93 23:24:57 -0300
>From: (Leland Mccleary)
>Subject: Gender Markedness
>On 16 Jul 93 I posted the following query:
>But I wonder if we haven't been going about this whole
>business of de-biasing gender in the language all wrong.
>Instead of changing all the derivative words, wouldn't it be
>more efficient, in this case, to establish a single new marked
>form for the male gender -- something like "xoman/xomen",
>"yoman/yomen" or "zoman/zomen" -- and leave the unmarked "man"
>and all of its compounds to stand exclusively for both sexes.
>Any comments?

Having been out of the office during most of last week, I am coming
late to this discussion. Some time back I posted a query to
alt.usage.english about an experience I observed my seventeen-year-old
daughter in. I'll try to reformulate it here. It got no response
from the newsgroup.

I was attending a women's soccer tournament that Rachel was playing
in. I don't know how soccer populations are elsewhere, but in
Indiana, girls who play soccer also tend to come from homes where they
will have been exposed to discussion of gender sensitivity. In a
soccer game, the usual protocol when a player observes a teammate
handling the ball and being attacked from the rear by an opposing
player is for the observing player to yell "Man on!" The young women
at this tournament used this protocol regularly, and I didn't hear any
alternative forms. I suspect that given the speed of a soccer match
they didn't have time to worry about the gender issue. My question is
whether there is some other form that might be used in this context or
whether this is in fact so specialized a context that "Man on!" is
simply not going to change. If the latter is the case, are there then
contexts in which other considerations might outweigh gender

Herb Stahlke

Herbert F. W. Stahlke (317) 285-1843
Associate Director (317) 285-1797 (fax)
University Computing Services
Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306 00hfstahlkebsuvax1.bitnet
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Message 2: Re: 4.573 Epic'they'

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1993 23:14:45 Re: 4.573 Epic'they'
From: David Heap <>
Subject: Re: 4.573 Epic'they'

I wholeheartedly agree with the general thrust of George Aaron
Broadwell's comment on 'they' as a nonsexist alternative to 'he' which
is less clumsy than 's/he', less shocking/bewildering than 'hann' and
its neologistic or calquing equivalents, and also GOOD COLLOQUIAL
ENGLISH. Indeed, I remember using sentences like "if anyone comes by,
tell them I'll be back soon" long before I was aware of
sexism-in-language issues. While prescriptivist may frown, it is a
very useful alternative when one wants to be genuinely unspecified as
to gender. Regarding George's 2 caveats:

> yes, someone sensible has suggested this in print: Ruth King's
_Talkng Gender: a Guide to Nonsexist Communication_ (Copp Clark 1993),
[and likely among many others as well]. This book is also a handy
reference work on many aspects of these issues, in English and French.

> confusion with the plural really isn't a problem, and neither are
odd-sounding examples like ?An assistant professor should prepare
themselves... What is wrong with 'An assistant professor should
prepare themself...' ? I am SURE I say things like this quite naturally,
and while it may shock now, I am willing to bet it will become common
in writing eventually as well. Compare the formerly plural 'you' which
has adapted just fine to its singular/plural status (cf.
yourself/yourselves). Analogy lives!

Regarding a recent, related posting: 'shaman' does not need a
nonsexist alternative (any more than 'mandate' or 'history' do) since it
does not contain the morpheme {man}. I am not certain of its etymology
(my OED offers Russian, Georgian adn Tungusian) but English it ain't.
See King (1991) for more discussion of this false 'man' issue.

David Heap
University of Toronto
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