Dreary, neutered language is becoming the standard
Students at John Carroll University taking David Buhrow’s “World of Grace” class reportedly received a rude awakening in that course when the professor marked them down for using the generic masculine in their assignments, e.g. referring to “mankind.” Students were also marked down if they referred to God as “Him,” because—after all—God is “genderless.” Students should instead refer only to “God,” or, in the intensive form, as “Godself.”
There is something so dispiriting about this hyper-neurotic style of gendered language policing, not just because it is so ruthlessly politically correct but also because it makes such grim, grey slop out of ordinarily pleasant language. Referring to “God” as “He” or “Him” is fine on its face, of course—but it is also pleasing and comforting, the male pronouns denoting a certain type of presence and authority that have worked well for centuries. “Godself,” on the other hand, is corny, clunky and just plain silly, the sort of thing that’s is self-conscious and uncomfortable, just prissy enough to be almost unbearable.
The desire to scrub the standard “man” from ordinary everyday language results in some similar groaners. On one campus this author once witnessed a sign on an elevator that read: “Out of Order – Repairperson Called.” It is hard to imagine a more graceless, ungainly word than “repairperson.” It’s fine to say “repairman,” of course; there’s no need to get stressed out about it. (If one must, one can say something like “technician” rather than attempt to shoehorn an awkward and inelegant gender-neutral solution on a particular word.)
Euphony—the quality of language’s being pleasant to hear and/or pronounce—is a more critical factor in language than most people are willing to admit. Quite apart from the needlessness of politically correct hysteria, the gender neutral language craze very often results in dreary, neutered language that sounds worse than any male-centric pronoun set ever could. Stick with the basics; there’s nothing wrong with “he” and “him” and “mankind.”
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