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No Fooling!

Yes, April 1st was April Fool’s Day—a day for playing pranks (be kind). We’d like to draw your attention to a ‘prank’ that English has been playing on women for centuries, but it’s not funny or in good taste. NEWSFLASH:  English prefers ‘he’s. Have you noticed? Some of have; some haven’t. Like one woman told me, “I know, but I try to ignore it.” Why do we do that? Perhaps because we just haven’t known what to do about it. Fixing English to treat us with any respect feels like an immense undertaking. 

Today, that’s no longer true. Linguist Vivian Probst and her team have given English SIX WORDS to balance it into a fair language. Only six words? You might think that’s ludicrous. How could six words make a difference in a language of 177,000 words*?  

In her book, ‘Breaking The Bias of English: How English Disempowers Women and How To Fix It In SIX WORDS’, Probst shares a brilliantly easy solution that took her fifteen years to discover.  

If you’ve heard that English is already a ‘gender fair’ language, you might not have considered this: English has thousands of words that include ‘man, men, he, his, sir, and guy’. Virtually no words identify women without a ball and chain, attaching us to men. She, Her, Woman, Women, Female, and our most common word of all: THE. Every time these words appear in English, we are subliminally belittled (or chained). We don’t even make it into the 100 most commonly-used words in English, although men do nicely.  Twelve per cent of those words feature them. 

Yes, we’re used to it; after all, it’s been that way for centuries. But it struck Probst one day (August 8, 2008) that she should study why English undermines, and disempowers women, treating us like we don’t exist unless attached. More importantly, she wanted to figure out how to fix it. Could we make English fairer to women? Her answer: You bet we can! We can make English work better for us by minor spelling changes to six words. 

Everyone wants to know: What are those words? The answer:, SHE, HER, WOMAN, WOMEN, FEMALE and THEY. Why these six? It took Probst fifteen years to bring out her insights in book form. ‘BREAKING THE BIAS OF ENGLISH: How English Disempowers Women and How TO Fix It In Six Words!’ because she had to be sure and accurate. 

So even if April first is April Fool’s Day, let’s stop letting English fool around with biases. Get a copy of her latest book and/or her four-book novel series, written in WEnglish and what she calls WEnglish for WEquality. Because it’s hard to be equal when your language won’t give you any words.  

aEbook available everywhere for $2.95 or less; soft cover ( for $14. 

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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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