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Gender in the language

For your reading and thinking pleasure (actually, this is all kind of boring):


In case there are others who find this "he/she", "him/her", "his/hers" business as clunky and concentration-busting as I do; and also find "they", "them", and "their" used where a singular is indicated worse than fingernails on a chalkboard (as I do), I have a suggestion for consideration:

A writer may choose whichever gender he wants, and nobody gets upset.


He can choose it based on context, or bias it towards his own gender. If a male writer says, "the president, he...", that's ok (except for the grammar.) If a woman writer says, "the student, she...", or, "the janitor, she...", or, "the scientist, she...", that's ok, too. We've got it. Check.

Isn't that simple, neat, and nice?

Admittedly, in very rare cases, the choice of just one or the other gender can confuse the intent. For example, how do you say, "Will a person become a better driver after you marry ____?" without picking on one sex or the other, or getting into bigamy?

I guess I'll survive if a writer uses a "her/him" in such a case.


My proposal regarding titles - Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc. - is to scrap them completely. What purpose do they serve?

I feel that the feminists fumbled a great opportunity on that one. Sure, Mrs and Miss are unnecessary. So why not get rid of them, along with Mr, instead of adding another piece of worthless junk to the language? If a form or an application needs to be certain about your sex, you can check Male or Female.

I propose that we call each other by first names. Where is the disrespect in that? That's what names are for. Why shouldn't children call their parents by first names? As a side benefit, it would eliminate the embarrassment of outgrowing "Mommy" and "Daddy", and having nothing to switch over to.

If there really is some sort of Big Rule Book somewhere that has an entry, "Using a person's first name is not respectful," all we need to do is X out the "not". It's our rule book, after all.


Don't get the idea this is a big thing with me, but I might as well float my proposal regarding surname conventions for women and men.

The problem with the traditional naming convention is that the female side of the family tree gets ignored. Daughters take the last name of the father, and then the name of their husband.

Some women object to this - I know I would - but the solution of hyphenated last names is not only clumsy, but just throws gasoline on the fire since the woman is now shackled with two names that came from men. [Revisiting this page in 2007, I find I'm not sure how common this practice is nowadays.]

Here's my simple proposal, first published in the Washington Times in August, 1993. Since all current surnames - even your mother's maiden name - hark back to a man in the family tree, every woman should search her family tree as far back as possible for her mother's mother's... maiden name, and take that as her surname. A reasonable alternative would be to construct a new surname based on that great-great-...-grandmother's given name.

Don't worry about where the search breaks down. There are already all kinds of glitches in our chains of male-based surnames. Moreover, the use of surnames doesn't really go back all that far.

From this point on, women will retain their surnames when they marry. Sons will take their father's surname. Daughters will take their mother's surname.

Now you know a man named Cooper came from a long line of men named Cooper. After this plan is implemented, when you meet a woman named Smith, you will know she came from a long line of women who were, or should have been, named Smith.


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