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Do We Care that English Ignores Those of Us Who Aren’t Men?

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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As a linguist, I've studied English for (let's say) approximately fifteen years. No kidding. What about English could possibly enthrall a linguist that long? So glad you asked. Even if you didn't, it'


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