Man as Human

Why do non-linguists think they can disintegrate language. As this rant targets a certain class of illiterate feminists, I’ll disclaim at the start that I fully support feminism and egality across all intersections. The rant is aimed at wilful ignorance and has been a peeve of mine since at least the 1980s. This is further a subset of PC speech, this rampant scourge of Liberal political correctness by the American Liberal establishment.

The problem I have is of people who have no understanding of the meaning or origin of the word man—people who insist on extracting it from everything. I don’t have any need for waitresses, actresses, or even mistresses, dominatrixes and other gender-marked terms. I’ll even add a further disclaimer: I don’t support gendered terms. Case in point: I love French, but I feel it’s time to lose the gendered nouns. It serves little purpose. I’d go as far as to say that it serves no purpose, but then I’d be as guilty as these feminists I’m railing on about. I also have to issue with referring to people as it and they rather than the typical he, she, him, and her. In fact, I’ve been called out for calling a human it.

Feminist Philosophy of Language, a guide on sexism in language and feminist language reform, also discourages the usage of man and -man as gender-neutral because it has male bias and erases women under a masculine word.

Wikipedia: Gender marking in job titles

As a male, I may come across as mansplaining. I don’t even care about retaining some old word out of tradition. Get rid of it, and good riddance, but don’t do so on the grounds of faulty reasoning. George Carlin shared my sentiment, but his take here is on the use of euphemism to obscure meaning.

I am well aware that meaning drifts over time, and I am wholly sympathetic to the insufficiency of language. Let’s crack on.

Considering the root, in Latin, we had homo—an undifferentiated human being—and vir—an adult male, whence comes virtue. Old French gave us human, which derives from the older term, ghomon, which meant earthling, obviously non-gendered.

The word man comes from Old English and meant person with no gender intent. This is the same man as mankind and the still non-gendered, yet somehow offensive, man. The genesis of the confusion is when man split off and was also used to refer to a human adult male. Evidently, this is confusing to some.

The word man comes from Old English and meant person with no gender intent. This is the same man as mankind and the still non-gendered, yet somehow offensive, man. The genesis of the confusion is when man split off and was also used to refer to a human adult male. Evidently, this is confusing to some.

Before man was split to also refer to an adult male, Old English had distinguished the sexes by wer and wif. Wer came from the aforementioned Latin vir, which had heretofore already merged into its ungendered vulgate form. It is retained in English the word werewolf, common to most English-language speakers. Less common human-animal hybrids bearing the were- prefix are werebears, wereboars, and the rest as illustrated in this page from Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. Note the lack of gender specificity.

At one point, wifman was used to distinguish a woman-man from a generic man. For the most part, wer was replaced by man, though its universal sense was also retained as it was as well in homo. In Old English, Man was also employed as an indefinite pronoun.

Obviously, wife is retained still as a gender-marked term indicating the woman in a marriage arrangement. I’m sure I had a point here, but I may have lost it, so before I quit, the last term I’d like to mention—just because—is queen, which had originally meant a woman, become a wife, and then to a king’s wife, and finally (though this last sense remains), a female sovereign ruler irrespective of marital status. There are the queens of queer culture, but I think I’ll end on this note.

Cover Image Credit: https://kairospicture.com/once-upon-a-time-the-second-sex-ongoing-project

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