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Some of you are already aware that English is a ‘man’s’ language because it contains thousands of words that prefer men.

We like men; we also believe it’s time for the world’s most commonly used language to have some words for those of us who aren’t men, and we’ve come up with a simple way to do that.
We hope you’ll join us on our amazing journey to make English inclusive.



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If we could choose only ONE word to bring English into balance between our two primary sexes, what would it be? If you knew what it was, would you be interested? I hope so! WElcome to WEnglish for WEquality, Lesson One.

You might think that as a linguist, I’d have discovered this ONE WORD long ago.( If you consider August of 2008 a long time ago, that concept works.But our English language has been in use for hundreds of years, so my ‘aha' is quite recent–only fourteen years as of this writing). Be sure to check your search engine if you want to get more specific about how old English is, and expect to see a variety of opinions.

That ONE WORD insight changed everything for me. It began as I noticed ‘He’ on our Periodic Table of Elements. ‘He’ in that context is how ‘helium’ is abbreviated. Helium: defined as a ‘noble gas’ might cause some humorous responses, but that’s not what caught my eye at first;

it was ‘He’, a decidedly masculine word (intentional or otherwise).

As I studied ‘he’ words more closely, I discovered, quite by accident, that ‘THE’ is the most common word in English. If we put ‘T-H-E’ through our WEnglish Word Collider (more about that in a later blog), it’s easy to see that it’s a masculine word because it has ‘HE’ in it, as do thousands of other English words. Some language enthusiasts suggest that how we spell words has a subliminal influence that we’re not even aware of.

In her book, ‘Unspinning the Spin, renowned linguist Rosalie Maggio calls ‘he’ a pseudogeneric word. Donald G. McKay (in Cheris Kramarae, ed., The Voices and Words of Women and Men) says that each of us hears the pseudogeneric he over a million times in our lifetimes and the consequences of this kind of repetition are “beyond the ken of present day psychology.”

In other words, as we read English, words containing ‘HE’ are seen so often that we subconsciously can’t HElp but think of men. Consider that even our words ‘sHE’ and ‘HEr’ contain ‘he’ as do thousands of other English words. T-H-E set me off on a journey that hasn’t ended. Once you feel ‘THE’ impact, it’s hard to ignore.

WEnglish for WEquality(™) has a fix for T-H-E that makes it a neutral word. Once we show you, (which is our next blog) you’ll see how easily WE can open our language doors to include all of us. Meanwhile, take a look at anything you’re reading and identify all words containing ‘he’ to observe how pervasive these are. Don’t despair! Next time:


Yours for an inclusive English,



I’ve spent years studying how unkind English is to what it calls ‘woMEN’. I’ve also researched how often English uses ‘man words’, even to describe those of us who aren’t.

Woman, Women, Female, She, Her, Lady and so on.

Once I became aware that there are thousands of words for men and, almost NONE for those of us who aren’t (that don’t have ‘man words attached), I had to ask,

Does it matter?

Do we care?

And I found I did–enough to spend years researching a better way for English to include us. I believe I’ve found an easy way to make English include us.

As a linguist, I’m aghast that discrimination against us in vocabulary hasn’t become a mainstream topic, especially since a lot of us (I’d use ‘many of us’ but ‘many’ is a ‘man word) care about rights for our sex. We fought for years to get the right to vote. In fact, Women’s Equality Day just passed. Did anyone notice?

August 26th is the day the 19th aMENdMENt (see what I mean about ‘man’ words?) passed into law. If you celebrated, we’d love to hear from you. SEND US AN EMAIL! If you didn’t, you’re not alone. That’s why I ask if we care.

And in case you’re wondering, No, I don’t believe we’ve achieved equality. Our right to vote was ONE important step in the right direction, but more are needed to become equal. Language is an easy way to tip us into being included.

My lingering question: Can changing some words in English tip the scales to include us? Your opinions will be greatly appreciated.

English is a man’s language. We’ll present evidence in future blogs. Would we (globally) want to do something about it, if we were (globally) aware? Do we realize that those of us who aren’t men must use ‘man’ words to describe ourselves?

Check it out. Right now, write down words that describe those of us who aren’t men and underscore any that include ‘-man’, ‘-men’, ‘-he-’. You’ll see it right away.

PSST: Slang and derogatory words are excluded in our exercise here.

That should narrow your word options considerably.

English is also now our world’s most commonly spoken language. (Please feel free to check that fact out on your search engine. Yes, Chinese has the most native speakers, but English has the highest total number of speakers if we count those who learn it as a second language.)

So obviously, I care. I want to change a few things about English so that WE count; so that we’re included in some English words without a ball and chain of ‘man’ words around our ankles. If we change how we spell a few words so they’re spelled like they sound instead, we solve our problem. Sound too easy? It’s not; it simply requires us to change a few words. We are no longer a group of people who care about how and why things were; we’re all about how we want things to be NOW.

If I can show you over 10,000 ‘man’ words; and give you a few words for us that don’t attach us to ‘men’, ‘men’, ‘he’, are you ready?

Great! We’ll visit ONE WORD that makes a huge difference in our next blog. If you change only one word, it'll be this one. Sign up for my newsletter to get a head's up on the next blog and other language goodness.

Yours for an inclusive English!

Vivian Probst

*Men whether by birth or preference. There are two primary sexes, Man and __man. See what I mean? WEnglish doesn’t go into gender variables. Our sole purpose is to correct an old patriarchal issue with English to see if it opens a door to greater equality.

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