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PC language

Liz Johnson ejohnson at silver.ucs.indiana.edu
Mon Jan 25 14:37:36 EST 1993

In article <9301251910.AA16365 at net.bio.net> MCCAINKW at DUVM.OCS.DREXEL.EDU (Kate) writes:
>There's no perfect solution. We need to find a middle ground between the
>perception that the issue is *crap* and the perception that gender-free
>language overrides all other considerations. Pounding on tables and heads
>may change the language in a journal article, but may have the opposite
>effect on perceptions. We all need to lighten up a little.

I agree. I'm just as uncomfortable with the flaming of the original
poster as I am with her characterization of the issue as crap. I'll be
the first to admit that the phrase "politically correct" makes me see
red because it's usually used to denigrate some principle that is
important to me.  Nevertheless, flames won't change things.

A question to those who believe that masculine pronouns are generic: how
many times do you see them used when referring to a traditionally
female profession such as secretary or nurse? I find that in these
cases, the feminine pronouns are used. That says to me that the use of
"he" in referring to other professions is not so generic, but instead
indicates that we tend to think of scientists, doctors, engineers as
male.  Doug Hofstadter, in his book Metamagical Themas, proposes that
one solution is to use the opposite pronoun from what one would expect
so that our mental images are given a shake.  I like that idea.

Liz Johnson
ejohnson at cs.indiana.edu

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