Dear Crabby, Do we have to Stop using the Word ‘Man’?

Dear Crabby, I heard Purdue University put out New Writing Guidelines, do we have to stop using the word ‘Man’ now?

Sincerely, Guy Buchman

 

Dear Guy,

Man Alive! Have you really asked such a question? This is a funny topic to me – as a writer – because our language does evolve. And, Oh Boy! can this get someone’s undies in a bunch.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

Dear Crabby Gives Advice

One common use of the word ‘man’ means mankind or humanity – really, it refers to all people. It comes from ‘wermann’ meaning man (wer) at the same time in history that ‘wifmann’ referred to women (wif). Thus, ‘mann’ meant all people and became ‘man.’ Along the way, both evolved into ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ And, you can also see where the word ‘wife’ comes from as well.

So, language changes and evolves and instead of mailman, fireman, and chairman – we have mail carrier, firefighter, and chair. When those roles were mostly held by men, we didn’t think twice about it. Really, because those roles were held by men for much of history, it might be why we considered ‘man’ to mean males only instead of all people. All of this makes sense.

However, Purdue goes overboard with some things. Oh brother do they! While I certainly understand using better words to describe things, again, words such as police officer (not policeman) and staff hours (not man hours), they want to eliminate the word ‘man’ anywhere when it refers to all people. Purdue suggests ‘humanity’ or ‘human beings’ instead of ‘mankind.’ They also suggest ‘synthetic,’ ‘manufactured,’ or ‘machine-made’ instead of ‘man-made.’

Son of a gun, are they that stupid. Most of the alternative words still have the root word ‘man’ in them – explain how ‘humanity’ is less offensive than ‘mankind’ is? And ‘man-made’ means made by hand and ‘machine-made’ means, you guessed it, made by machine.

Here’s a thought. Why not add ‘wer’ back to ‘man’ when it means a male person – it would be easier than ditching all the other words – calling all us men ‘wermen’ which sounds a lot like ‘vermin’ and I’m used be called that.

And the craziness continues, ‘freshmen’ are now ‘first year students’ but ‘sophomores’ are not ‘second year students.’ Be consistent for heaven’s sake.

This may be just a big plot to re-write the writing guides and dictionaries more than doing the right thing with the language – big business conspiracy or left-wing manipulation (oops, there’s ‘man’ again) – I’ll let you man up and decide.

Goodbye for now,

Dear Crabby

PS … don’t tell them ‘goodbye’ comes from ‘God be with ye’ – a 16th century way of saying farewell.

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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at [email protected].

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