Re: Even more on gender neutrality

Subject: Re: Even more on gender neutrality
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 19:00:08 -0800

Corecomm wrote:

The word "monn" existed in Old English, where it
was a gender-neutral pronoun corresponding to "one" as it is used in Modern
English. The word for "man" meaning a masculine human being was "ceorl",
pronounced "churl". The word for a feminine human being was "cwaen", which
became ModE "queen". So, who got the better deal there? Certainly not the
churls. The word "woman" derives from Old E "wifmonn" which meant,
literally, "wife-person".

I'm not an Old English expert, but I did study the language long enough that, at one point, I could read it well enough to appreciate poetry ("Beowulf" in the original has some wonderful passages, let me tell you). So, I hope you'll excuse these contradictions:
- "monn" was not simply a gender-neutral pronoun. It was widely used for men in particular.
-"ceorl" did not mean "man," but a non-aristocratic man: anything from a poor man to a reasonably prosperous small farmer. Originally, it didn't have the suggestion of "uncouth."
- "wif" was not originally "wife" but a general term for "woman." It survives in "fishwife" and "midwife" in its original meaning.

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"There's a fading beauty talking in riddles,
Rome burns down and everybody fiddles,
Poor deportee,
But a thousand dollars won't buy an American wife, alas,
There's a thousand years' history in that whiskey glass."
- Elvis Costello, "The Deportee Club"


Order RoboHelp Office X3 by March 14 and receive a $100 mail-in rebate,
plus FREE WebHelp Merge Module and FREE iMarkup Software, for a
total giveaway value of $439! Order today at

Help celebrate TECHWR-L's 10th Anniversary starting this month!
Check out the contests at
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday TECHWR-L....

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as:
archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Even more on gender neutrality: From: Corecomm

Previous by Author: Re: Perceptually true, Technically wrong, Pedantically Geeky?
Next by Author: Re: Smarter person than me - shifted slightly
Previous by Thread: Even more on gender neutrality
Next by Thread: Re: Even more on gender neutrality

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads