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Autor:  Ron
E-mail:  não-disponível
Data:  07/JAN/2003 3:47 AM
Assunto:  The controversy of sexist language in English
 
Mensagem:  Hi guys, I read the article "An X-treme proposal" on Boston Globe and thought you might be interested in reading it. Here it is: An X-treme proposal By Jan Freeman, 1/5/2003 MONG THE YAWNING GAPS in the English lexicon, we noted in passing last month, is a set of singular "common-sex pronouns" - words that would replace the pairs he/she, him/her, his/hers with a neater neuter. Into that breach leaps reader Adele Wick with a zippy (or xippy) suggestion for new pronouns: Xe(pronounced as in Xerox) would replace he and she, xem would mean him or her, and xers his or hers. Why the x? "Willing to belabor the obvious, I note that x represents both the sex chromosome males and females share and the unknown in algebra and calculus," Wick writes. If xe were to replace she and he, a biographer could more gracefully write up the life story of one who's crossed gender; a friend could more safely wax enthusiastic about a bald baby dressed in yellow or green and named Courtney, Spencer, Dakota, or Morgan." And, of course, we could write "Every doctor must renew xer license," presumably to the satisfaction of those who find his inaccurate and sexist, his or her cumbersome, and their ungrammatical. But as many a would-be reformer has discovered, language does not always abhor a vacuum; ours has been muddling along without a unisex third-person singular pronoun for a long time. And that's not because in some grammatically correct prefeminist era, everyone used he to mean "he or she." Centuries before Gloria Steinem learned her ABCs, writers felt the need of a non-gendered way to refer to members of a group. Those writers, since the 1300s, have used constructions like "Each of them should make themselves ready," to quote an Oxford English Dictionary citation from 1489, or "Everyone in the house were in their beds" (Fielding's "Tom Jones," 1749). The singular/plural switcheroo, the OED parenthetically notes, is "not favoured by grammarians." But the grammarians didn't even formulate their rule -- that indefinite pronouns like each and anyone must be singular - till the 18th century, and they've had only indifferent success in enforcing it. Would xe and its fellow singulars make life simpler? Maybe, but it's hard to see them succeeding. If we did want new pronouns, it's unlikely we would choose such unusual forms - consider how long it took people to accept Ms., which blends right in with its fellow honorifics Mr. And Mrs. The handful of English words beginning with x are Greek imports, and they're unnatural enough that you'll hear people say ex-avier for Xavier. Besides, we already used x to stand for the prefix ex, as in the X-acto knife and X-treme Games. If we want the sound of z, better to simply write z. (It's already taking over for the s with a z sound, the Wall Street Journal noted last week, as the Boyz N the Hood style spreads through the marketing culture.) But English will probably solve the pronoun problem with its stealth weapon, notional agreement. That's the practice that allows us to make certain words plural (my family are all nuts) or singular (my family is delightful) depending on their sense, and it's exerting its pull on they and them, making them increasingly common as singulars. In his Dictionary of Modern American Usage (1998), Bryan Garner - no usage libertine - predicts that he as the generic pronoun will be replaced by they, now often used as either singular or plural, as anybody who scans his examples can see for themself: "It will be illegal for anyone to donate an organ to their wife." Garner knows that the usage "sets many literate Americans' teeth on edge" (Britons are more tolerant), but he thinks they will triumph one day. I too hear gnashing teeth, but if English could make you into a singular (replacing thee and thou), why shouldn't they go the same way? In a language that loves to simplify its grammar, it's a lot more likely than the adoption of xe and xem. ANOTHER PROPOSAL for enriching the language comes from Milton and Betsy Heifetz of Cambridge, who for decades have collected foreign words that they think English speakers might want to adopt, or at least admire. Some are already in limited use, like the French esprit d'escalier, "staircase wit," the rejoinder you think of too late, as you're on the way out, and the Yiddish kvell, to rejoice in a loved one's successes. The German verb goennen, not to begrudge someone's good fortune, would provide a nice counterweight to the already widely used Schadenfreude, pleasure in another's misfortune. More purely poetic is the Hungarian zsong, the sound of wind in marsh grass, and Russian protalinka, a tiny area where snow has melted around, say, a fallen pine cone. The list keeps growing, so nominations and comments are welcome, willkommen, and bienvenue too.


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 English Made in Brazil -- English, Portuguese, & contrastive linguistics
 The controversy of sexist language in English  –  Ron  07/JAN/2003, 3:47 AM
Re: The controversy of sexist language in English  –  pat  07/JAN/2003, 11:01 AM
Re: The controversy of sexist language in English  –  Ricardo - EMB -  07/JAN/2003, 3:43 PM

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