30 September 2005


One gaping hole in the English language is that there's no universal word for females between the age of "girl" and "woman."

But that's only the most common example of how our uneasy relation with gender is wreaking havoc with an otherwise wonderfully expressive language. Consider the absurdity of saying "anchorman or anchorwoman," or my favorite, trying to pronounce a word I've seen often in print: "Latino/as."

The solution is actually quite simple, and manages to completely avoid the horrors of "womyn."

The answer isn't to stop using "man" to stand for all humans. It's to make "man" universal again! We can assume that when people used "man" more than 50 years ago, this is probably what they meant anyway, so translation shouldn't be a big deal.

Then we need to invent a single new word to describe male members of the species "man."

I propose "he-man," or simply "heman." It's more nearly symmetrical with "woman" and yet still manly (or should I say "he-manly"). Yes, there's an upfront cost of not being able to keep a straight face for the next few years. But future generations of hemen and women will thank us for protecting our language from the likes of chairwoman, firewoman and womanhunt.

(p.s. I drafted this over a year ago! But felt like too much of a dork to post it until I recently realized that I have more drafts right now than actual posts.)


ahren said...

a) i also have more drafts than posts

b) "he-man" is awesome. i'm using it from this point forward.

c) the gap between "girl" and "woman" is supremely obnoxious. can we just keep "boy" and "girl" to identify a person of a particular gender, then use "man" to identify the whole race?

d) have you ever met any of those chicks that get pissed off if you refer to them as "girl"? we're gonna have to kill all of them when we implement the change.

saurabh said...

You should just refer to them as 'chicks', then. That'll make them much happier.