By Richard Colman, California Political News and Views
There is a new phenomenon in California and the rest of the nation: the language police.
English words that have been used for centuries in America and elsewhere are now being banned or transformed in some places.
Berkeley, California, a place with many liberal ideas, voted in mid-July 2019 to ban the word “manhole.” The new term is “maintenance hole.”
Perhaps readers remember when there were waiters and waitresses. Now, some pople want to call such people “servers” or “wait persons.”
Years ago, airplanes had stewards and stewardesses. Now, we have “flight attendants.”
There were “actors” and “actresses.” Now, some new attitudes call for just “actors.”
What can we say about nouns an pronouns?
Anyone who has studied Latin, German, or French knows that nouns have a gender.
The Latin word for “farmer” is “agricola,” a feminine noun.
In German, the word for bread is neuter (“das Brot”). The word for butter is feminine (die Butter). German capitalizes nouns.
In German, professions can be either masculine or feminine. When a man is a chemist, he is called “Chemiker.” But a women chemist is called “Chemikerin.”
French nouns are either masculine or feminine.
In English, nouns rarely have a gender. But a ship or a nation can be feminine. A sample sentence might say: “When the battleship USS Arizona was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941, “she” (the Arizona) was sunk. Or this: When Russia was militarily attacked in 1941, “she” (Russia) initially did not do well against the German military.
Certain pronouns in English have generally taken the masculine case. Here is an example: “Anyone who leaves the theater early, will lose “his” seat. Some new versions of English change “his” to “their.” However, “his” is singular; “their” is plural.
Anyone who is a writer, can find revised English a handicap. Here is an example: “The professor told his students that he wanted them to complete their term papers in three weeks.” If the sentence were rewritten in modern, faddish English, here is what someone might say: “The professor told “their” students that “they” wanted “them” to complete “their” term papers in three weeks.” With all these “theys,” “theirs,” and “thems,” the sentence becomes confusing.
Language can seem to be brutal.
Let’s take the word “left.” In Latin, the word for “left” is sinister,” which, in English means evil. In France, the word for “left” is “gauche,” which in English means “clumsy” or “awkward.”
What can be said about the word “right?” In Latin, the word for “right” is “dexter.” In English, the word “dexterous” (derived from “dexter”) means “handy” or “skilled.
In French, the word for “right” is “droit.” In English, we have the word “adroit,” which means “skilled.”
American society has enough rules and regulations. Does America now need a “language police?”
Let’s leave the English language alone. Gender must not be confused with some sort of sexual discrimination.
Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company. He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. He lives in Orinda, California.