Re: Gender bias (was Evolving language or laziness)

Subject: Re: Gender bias (was Evolving language or laziness)
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 15:13:00 EST

At 09:02 AM 3/19/96 +0000, you wrote:

>You've missed the point. Language is changing. Nobody's asking you
>to forge a path through the wilderness, just to walk down the path
>that's being cleared. For example, I recently noticed that Pampers
>commercials say "pamper your baby...keep them healthy and dry." Why
>do you suppose they did that? Do you think most new mothers are
>"rabid" feminists who "loathe" men? And I'm not saying we should
>learn grammar from commercials. I'm just saying this is an example of
>how the language is changing around you.

Sorry. Got the point. Still disagree. I think you're confusing surface
changes in word spellings and vocal usages with the deeper aspects of the
language. Many words in English are still fundamentally the same as they've
been for centuries, and many forms of sentence construction haven't changed
in nearly as long. When you say "language is changing," you're not taking
into account that certain parts change readily, while others don't. Further,
it's been accepted for a long time that spoken (or advertising) language
shifts much faster than the written form, and is often quite divergent.
That's mostly because when speaking we can pick up meanings and
misunderstandings very quickly, by watching each others' eyes and body
language. Writing carries no such cues, so it must be more exacting.


>When I read something that refers to me as "he," I'm not insulted.
>But I *am* distracted. And I think "What old fart wrote this? Is
>the whole company's thinking this outdated?" You may think your
>customers don't care. You've probably even talked to 2 or 3 who
>don't. And they may not. Yet. But you are fighting a losing battle.


Perhaps you find it distracting, but I can hardly think of this as a
problem. The threat of war is a problem. Losing one's job is a problem.
Bankruptcy is a problem. Illness is a problem. This is merely a leisure time
pursuit.

Tracy, when I see usage that extends back for generations, is in common use
today, and bodes well to be in common use tomorrow, I don't think I'm out of
line in using it. I don't use USA Today or a Pampers commercial as my guide
to usage. I prefer those who are behind whatever curve the fad is following
this week: The Wall Street Journal, for example, or the New York Times,
William F. Buckley, George Will, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, James J. Kilpatrick,
William Raspberry, and so on. When these wordsmiths resort to
gender-inflection, I'll consider it. In the meantime, I suppose I'll have to
take the risk that writers like these, with their millions of readers that
avidly write back in a recurring iteration pattern, are terribly, terribly
misguided and will fall from grace tomorrow or the day after that for sure.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)
http://www.iquest.net/simply/simplywritten


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