Smart questions
Smart answers
Smart people
Join Eng-Tips Forums
INTELLIGENT WORK FORUMS
FOR ENGINEERING PROFESSIONALS

Member Login




Remember Me
Forgot Password?
Join Us!

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips now!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

Join Eng-Tips
*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.
Jobs from Indeed

Link To This Forum!

Partner Button
Add Stickiness To Your Site By Linking To This Professionally Managed Technical Forum.
Just copy and paste the
code below into your site.

Bung (Electrical) (OP)
2 May 04 23:18
I thought I'd lob this one in and see what sort of reactions I would get.

In this PC age (not computer type PC) it seems to be no longer acceptable to use the "masculine" form for fear of offending half of the population.  So we end up with clumsy sounding phrases like "Somebody called while I was away.  They left a note".

Of course, it only sounds clumsy because it is a new usage.  I used to get worked up about it, but I'm starting to get used to this particular variant of the "degenderification" of the language.  But one that still sticks in my craw is "chairperson", and similar new-age artefacts.

Any thoughts out there on this vexed subject?

Bung
Life is non-linear...

rmw (Mechanical)
2 May 04 23:46
My wife's maiden name is XXXXman, and I insist to her and her siblings that their name must be changed to XXXXperson to be PC in the current times.

rmw
Bung (Electrical) (OP)
2 May 04 23:52
apropos the thread about "try and" should I have said "lob this one in TO see"?!

Bung
Life is non-linear...

jmw (Industrial)
3 May 04 6:45
This pre-dates PC, by a long way and it is one thing I am comfortable with in many of its usages.

When it comes to PC, there is nothing more ridiculous than that clumsy coining of new words to replace the old.

"Chairperson" instead of "Chairman" is a particular irritant. Are we all now "Hupersons" rather than "Humans" (or "youman beans" as Carl Sagan would have it, "youperson beans" as i supose would now be the PC case)?
No, because the word is not now gender specific, even if it were, once. And I mean here that once wopersons   began to get jobs as chairpersons it simply lost any sense of gender in its everyday use.

Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are wopersons. Actually my wife is a woperson and that means that I'd better not say "some of my best friends are wopersons", so forget I said it please. It was stupid thoughtless thing to say.

English threw out most of its gender pretensions many years ago. Those that remained and are now being replaced, irritate me to a surprising degree. Some, indeed, seem ridiculous.

Where will it lead to? Manchester is to be renamed "Wopersonchester"?

"Chairperson" replaces "Chairman". OK, there is at least some logic to that. But to change from "Actress" or "Comedienne", which are specifically feminine forms used when refering to females (fepersons) of those pursuasions, to "Actor" and "Comedian" which were formerly male only versions, seems ludicrous.

It is when we come to refer to inanimate objects that I get most confused. In the English language, we do not have to try and remember what sex a window is or what sex a chair is as one has to in some languages.

It is, incidently rather a puzzle for me know what the liguistic gender is for a bicycle in these gender sensitive languages... can one say "la bicyclette" for a lady bicycle and "le bicycle" for a male bicycle? ...these are, of course, inanimate objects that have, or did have very specific and recognisable gender differences, though today many have a sort of androgenous appearance. OH, I see, is that because of PC?

Something that puzzles me greatly is who decided upon the sexual preferences of so many inanimate objects. More importantly, why someone so predisposed to contemplating the sexual preference of inanimate objects was not imediately taken into custody.

Is it, I wonder, a throwback to earlier "animist" theologies?

Even more importantly, when it comes to the naming of geographical parts, who decided, in translation, on the gender of so many "British" things. Why is the "English Channel" female? ..."La Manche" "Le Thames" Why have some places foreign names in foreign languages? Who decided to call London "Londres"? Why not London? It means that a French printed map of England is no good to enyone but a Frenchman, and not much good at that. If a French tourist is going to go around the UK asking the natives how he can get to "Londres" he should not be surprised when the natives advise him to go back to France. Afterall, he has just asked for what is an unfamiliar and obviously French city and, helpfully, that is an ill-educated, but very polite and helpful response.

Sould patriots now refer to the "Personland" rather than the "fatherland" or the "motherland"?

This whole business of the gender of inamnimate things is a an amusing, but sometimes irritating nonsense designed, probably, to make trouble for the "British".

It is now difficult to realise that the British really did create an empire based on trade and not simply so they could avoid the whole language confusion by taking over everyone and making everyone speak English.

There is a certain logic to this.
If everyone speaks English then everyone has only to learn one language. If not then the poor Brits, for whom foreign languages are more of a problem than for anyone else, would have to learn some hundreds of foreign languages.

Of course, if they hadn't created such a big empire then there would have been no need to learn all these languages anyway. I notice that Russian and Chinese are a real nightmare for the english schools system. Now that some colonies have decided, sometimes quite abruptly, to become non-colonies, there is an increasing confusion about their languages too. American, for example, can cause the Brit abroad in the States  no end of confusion. Admitedly, mostly in Disneyworld, since this seems to be the cultural limit of adventure for most Brits whose first act on entering a foreign country is not to enslave the populace, but to seek out an "English pub".

I wonder if world domination schemes could be done away with by the simple expedient of reversing this? By insisting that if you want to be the Global Dictator, then you have to be able to speak the languages of the occupied countries and nuture and cherish those languages, and not make all the indiginous persons learn the master tongue.

Actually, the British Government, for one, is confusedabout this itself, in these PC days. On the one hand we have a sudden sprouting of Welsh language road signs, which as one motoring correspondant pointed out recently, is a bit of a pain. By the time you have read the sign warning of somethying long and incomprehensible, you have had one... a wreck that is.

There is also the case of school canteen workers who were "let-go" because it was felt that they needed staff who could speak Urdu. (what is the Urdu for "Allo darlins! wadja want, bangers and mash or fish and chips?"?) I can understand why the California school system prefers its teacher to sbe spanish speakers, this is, afterall, the dominant language in the US, or many parts of it, but Urdu is not even a dominant language in the old now ex-Brtish Empire.

So the British government is happily sponsoring such "cultural correctness" (CC)

At the same time there is a continuance with the old order of world domination thinking:

My Mandarin teacher was a now/then ex-civil servant who was posted to China where he immersed himself in all things Chinese and became quite a Sinophile. I would have thought this a good thing for a civil servant in an embassy but not, apparently, the civil service. Once this trait was known he was promptly posted to Romania where he decided to start all over again. This was obviously not the way to do things in official government circles and he promptly found himself "retired".

OK, Bank Holiday rant over.

JMW
www.viscoanalyser.com
Eng-Tips: Pro bono publico, by engineers, for engineers.

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

DaveAtkins (Structural)
3 May 04 9:28
When I was in grad school (here I go dating myself), Sting released a hit with the line, "If you love someONE, set THEM free."  That line irriatated one of my good friends no end (he was a stickler for proper grammar).

DaveAtkins

zdas04 (Mechanical)
3 May 04 9:56
Some of the PC nonsense is just a knee jerk to an over reaction.

I call the head of a committe the "Chair", the individual who brings the mail a "Postal Carrier", my native country my "Homeland", someone who works is a "Worker", etc.

The "Chairperson" garbage really gets my goat.  In what universe is "son" any less gender-specific than "man"?

In Oil & Gas, a very respected position is "Landman".  I've had my head handed to me by women "Landmen" by trying to make that one PC ("Land critter"?, "Land Ownership Negotiator"?).  One of them told me once she had "worked far too hard to get qualified for that difficult job to ever relinquish the proud title on the altar of PC".  My only response was "Cool dude".

I'm so glad that "Engineer" is gender nuetral.  Interesting how titles like Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, Physicist, Chemist, Pharmicist, Teacher, and even Politician are all gender nuetral.  The PC "problem" tends to come at the next layer ("workman", "postman", etc.).

David
MadMango (Mechanical)
3 May 04 10:05
Living in Hollywood, we have to deal with Actor and Actress.  They all act out a performance, and should be called actors regardless of gender.

I wonder how non-english users deal with PC activists?  I know French and a few other languages have masculine and feminine terms for everything.

Ray Reynolds
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
Have you read FAQ731-376 to make the best use of Eng-Tips Forums?

Gauss2k (Electrical)
3 May 04 14:26
You're right about french, and this indeed solves the problem we're talking about here. An engineer or a technician for example will not be the same for a male or a female (ingénieur (M) ingénieure (F) ; technicien (M) technicienne (F))

I don't think there is much words that explicitely involve a masculine term in it like in english (___man).

And I must admit that, like jmw pointed out (and even though it helps here), choosing a gender for everything may cause problems for non-native people! When you grow up with it, it is obvious that a chair or a table is feminine and a boat is masculine for example: it just doesn't sound correct otherwise! Soemtimes it seems there is a logic behind the choice, but most of the time, you must simply accept it: (sorry if it might offence but it's only for educational purposes!: uterus and vagina are both masculine in french. Try to find logic in that! :\

It must be a real nightmare to remember all of them! I guess english is much more easier to learn! ;)
(even if mine (english..)is far from being perfect! Don't be too hard about my mistakes! :))
IRstuff (Aerospace)
3 May 04 15:09
Gauss2k,
You might want to peruse the Emoticons/Smileys link at the bottom of the replay dialog box.  There's a wealth of smileys and other GIFs that can be used.

TGML allows you to reference images on the web, so there are lots of references in this site to, I think, Smileycentral for other smileys.

TTFN

ietech (Industrial)
3 May 04 15:26
Gauss2k,
If I remember maritime history correctly ships/boats have always been referred to as SHE. Maybe I have been mistaken all these years.

All;
Why not call a person what they are? i.e. chairwoman, chairman, actor or actress whichever fits, feminine is not, in my view, a negtative or diminutive thing to be. As zdas04 pointed out, if the gender is not known during a discussion "Chair" is perfectly acceptable.

Regards,

ietech
Gauss2k (Electrical)
3 May 04 15:48
ietech,

Well, in french, ship/boat is undoubtedly "un navire" or "un bateau" (M).
ietech (Industrial)
3 May 04 15:59
Thanks for the French take on it.

So when discussing a ship in French it is referred to as Masculine. Here, U.S., When I say I visited the U.S. Constitution today and a fine ship she is. Would the French say what a fine ship he is?

I'm not sure if this is correct usage in English it's just the way I have always heard it and said it.

ietech  
Gauss2k (Electrical)
3 May 04 16:45
ietech,

Since you're talking about a ship, it would be masculine: "J'ai visité le USS Constitution aujourd'hui et c'est un magnifique navire."

For that kind of sentence, the subject "c'" does not refer to male or female but to a thing. If you would continue talking about it though, the next sentence would probably begin with a "il"/he like: "Il est gigantesque!"/He is huge! (translated word-for-word)

However!  It's not that "simple"! After making a little search on google, I saw that particular ship is a frigate. If you're talking about a frigate, it would be feminine (une frégate):
"J'ai visité le USS Constitution aujourd'hui et c'est une magnifique frégate! Elle (=She) est gigantesque!"
metman (Materials)
3 May 04 16:54
In the first place, PC is an oxymoron in every sense of the word so if you are trying to be PC, you are fighting a lost cause.

Some years ago I took a college course in computer programming.  The language was Pascal and the author of the text, although I assume it was a masculine author, chose to use the feminine form for every word that we as humasns are used to being done in the masculine.  Until reading that book, I had never thought about those words being masculine.  They were nueter in my subconscious.  Needless to say that text was very difficult reading because every time one of those feminine twisted words came up, My mind would go on an unneccesary tangent.

What will they think of next to cause confusion instead of help each other.  Can't we all get along -- Hee Hee.

Jesus is THE life,
Leonard

zdas04 (Mechanical)
3 May 04 18:29
Gauss2K,
And they say that English is a hard language to learn!  If the USS Constution as a warship is a "he", but as a frigate it is a "she", what would it be as a "sailing ship"?

In old war movies, I seem to recall that the Germans and maybe the British used the masculine to refer to their warships.  When I was on a ship, I heard a reference that it "was so tempermental that it must be female", but I doubt that the switch was based on that sort of comment.

David
Bung (Electrical) (OP)
3 May 04 20:17
Perhaps the problem stems partly from the use of the terms "masculine" and "feminine" to describe the two forms of nouns in Latin based languages?  There is no suggestion that the object described is really male or female, it is just this form that, and requires the use of "le" or "la" in French (for example).  What do yo do about languages with 3 forms (as Latin actually does) eg bellum (war) is "neutral", a table (mensa) is "feminine" and the form ending in "-us" is "masculine" (just can't think of a word right now!)  Doesn't German also have three "genders" for nouns?

So we have the situation where names with specific gender connotations to the average Joe (Joseph or Josephine, your choice) are being used merely to described another dichotomous concept.  The result is that Joe winds up thinking that we really mean a ship or whatever to have a particular gender, when in fact we are merely labelling the noun describing it as falling into a particular class.  

Of course, this doesn't fully deal with "chairman" versus chairperson" ("chair" doesn't qualify - it's just a cop-out to avoid using one of the other words).  But I don't see why a similar principle can't apply.  Condemning a whole class of words because of its allegedly misogynist past seems a bit vindictive and not very useful.

Bung
Life is non-linear...

ietech (Industrial)
4 May 04 12:11
Gauss2k,

Very interesting. Thanks for the explaination about the ship and how gender changes under certain conditions in French This is probably true regarding several other languages also.

regards,

ietech  
IRstuff (Aerospace)
4 May 04 12:18
That's one thing I will never miss about the foreign languages I tried to learn in high school.  

Why should anyone care whether a chair is male or female anyway?

Didn't I already have enough problems just trying to pronounce the darn words?

TTFN

Helpful Member!  harrisj (Automotive)
4 May 04 12:53

jmw:

Another interesting thread - and I agree! (mostly)

However, when you refer to the French use of 'Le Thames' you should know it's 'La Tamise'.

Wheher La Tamise is 'un fleuve' or 'une rivière' – je n’ai pas la moindre idée!

John
metman (Materials)
4 May 04 16:04
Aside from the fact that it makes it difficult for those whose homeland tongue does not use genderized nouns, what purpose do they serve?

Jesus is THE life,
Leonard

EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
4 May 04 19:17
DaveAtkins: After checking with Fowler, as usual, I see that Sting is in good company, since Fielding, Goldsmith, Thackeray, and George Bernard Shaw all seemed to think it was acceptable to use "they them or their" in contexts similar to the Sting example. According to Fowler, it conveniently allows us to avoid politically correct prolixities such as "he or she" and is apparently considered a perfectly acceptable colloquialism. After all, where would pop be if it were not colloquial?
harrisj (Automotive)
5 May 04 4:26
IRstuff and metman:

You're right of course - giving artificial 'genders' to inanimate objects rarely serves any useful purpose. It's a custom just like the crazy spelling and pronunciation in odd bits of English.

But it's part of the colourful diversity of languages - what a shame if we all spoke Esperanto, which is boring and soulless.

A Frenchman or German has little difficulty in picking up the 'correct' gender as they learn their language; they're not offended if you get it wrong, and the meaning is usually clear anyway. They usually appreciate the attempt of English-speakers to have a go at their language.

I guess with hindsight this is a bit off-topic, so I changed the last paragraph!
sqdjlg (Materials)
5 May 04 13:23
My German is quite rusty - comes from living in the US and not getting regular practice of my second language.  But I think I remember that the 'gender' (and yes, there are 3) was also used in the endings of adjectives that modified the noun and the verb had to match both plural/singular and gender (? not sure about that).

Back to English and the implied gender of all the job titles - I have seen text where the gender of the related pronoun was frequently changed where no specific individual was indicated.  The discussion might use the accountant he and the engineer she.  Older texts always used he in this context.  This has a bit more elegance over using they or putting everything in the passive (which we do anyway to avoid the 1st person I).

But woperson???  never heard of it, jmw.  Though I did wonder about the substitution of person for man in so many attempts at gender neutrality.  I couldn't come up with anything better.

Actually changing Actress to Actor (as much as it did startle me when I first heard it) has some logic in that one can now discuss someone who acts without having to either restrict to one or the other or use the awkward Actor/Actress construct.
jimbo (Staff)
5 May 04 15:53
He, she and it are what I learned, in either english or latin.
I am affronted by the use of "guys" when there are women in the group, especially if the group is all women (or girls).

I  complain to the TV stations or networks when I am affronted, or just offended.

Buy a dictionary, keep it nearby and USE it. Webster's New World Dictionary of American English is recommended, and Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

jhardy1 (Structural)
5 May 04 19:22
"Woperson" instead of "woman"? I don't think so!

Surely it would have to be "woperchild" or "woperoffspring" to be truly PC?

jhardy1 (Structural)
5 May 04 19:50
If you want to see the ultimate expression of PC, you really should check out "A Person Paper on Purity in Language" by William Satire (alias Douglas R. Hofstadter, the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning "Gödel, Escher, Bach - An Eternal Golden Braid"), which you can find at:

http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html

or here:

http://www.angelfire.com/rebellion/personpaper/

In this very clever satirical piece, the author challenges our views on gender-neutral language, by twisting all the usual arguments that relate to words with implicit gender, by converting them to issues of race.

It is interesting that when it comes to gender-loaded phrases or words, we tend to find the whole issue "troublesome" or "inelegant" (e.g. chairman / chairwoman / chairperson / chair), and we can have long, deep and meaningful discussions about whether we need to be careful about using gender-neutral language. However, when the same phrase is twisted to uses words with an implication that deeply offends us (like racism, as in the "Person Paper"), the absurdity of the whole argument falls flat on its face. Why do so many of us consider gender-loaded words to be "awkward", whereas racially-loaded language is offensive?

For example take this brief excerpt from Satire / Hofstadter's "Person Paper":

'There is great beauty to a phrase such as "All whites are created equal." Our forebosses who framed the Declaration of Independence well understood the poetry of our language. Think how ugly it would be to say "All persons are created equal," or "All whites and blacks are created equal.'

If this excerpt piques your interest, take a look at the whole "Person paper".
jmw (Industrial)
5 May 04 19:51
Actually, i have corrected the spelling so far as it refers to my significant other, especially after declaring that some of my best friends were some!
Woperson is thus a generic term
Woeperson is the specific version, the wife.
I like it.
0

JMW
www.viscoanalyser.com
Eng-Tips: Pro bono publico, by engineers, for engineers.

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

metman (Materials)
6 May 04 16:56
JulienHardy,
i do not think persons is any less poetic than men, rather it has more to do with convention and therefore what we are used to hearing/reading.  Before you attack my 'impeccable' logic consider that "poets" are famous for using non-conventional words/phrases many of which disobey many grammatical forms.

This brings up another thought.  I think that we should not be oversensitive to the use of gender/race unless it is used in a derogatory/demeaning manner.  For example; if I were to use the 'N' word which I don't, it has less to do with racism than to demean the person that I am referring to even though it originally stems from a racially prejudiced viewpoint.  Certain phrases nueterized or internationalized detract from the intended meaning by focusing attention on the heretofore unusal form of the phrase.  Of course in the case of the poet this is exactly HER intent.

Jesus is THE life,
Leonard

jhardy1 (Structural)
6 May 04 19:57
metman,

Personally, I can live with the wording of the US Declaration of Independence in its current form - it is generally recognised as one of the great documents of all time. As an Australian citizen, I don't actually have much right to complain about its content or wording - I think that is best left to the American people!

However, it is interesting to contemplate that a few hundred years ago (and less!), use of the masculine gender to refer to all people was so common as to be almost universal, and I certainly don't believe that the authors of the Declaration intended to suggest that only males were to fall under the scope of their Declaration, to the exclusion of women. However, even then it was widely recognised that people of all races were to be considered as equals. (But of course this was by no means a universally held view - I believe you later had a Civil War on this issue!)

A similar document being framed today would almost certainly use gender-neutral language - and I don't think this is only because of "Political Correctness". I think there is a widely-held view today that using the masculine to denote all people does in fact alienate many women, and upsets many men as well, for the same reason. We shouldn't get too precious about defending our right to use the masculine, when with a little thought and sensitivity, gender-neutral words can be used which are not clumsy or unpoetic.

While I haven't personally attempted to do a search to verify my beliefs, I suspect that the constitutions of pretty well all the recently-formed democracies (e.g. the Balkan States, East Timor, the states that have emerged from the former Yugoslavia, etc) would refer to gender-neutral "people" or "citizens" or similar, rather than "men". (Of course, I have no idea whether the Serbian language has similar issues of gender-neutrality, and I very much doubt that their constitution is written in English!)
harrisj (Automotive)
7 May 04 4:35
One of the best TV programmmes in my memory was BBC's "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski. Nobody at the time (1971?) interpreted the ascent of man as the masculine domination of the female of the species.

'Man' as a synonym for Homo Sapiens is entirely correct, inoffensive and appropriate.

'The Ascent of Person? ...... nah

John
EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
7 May 04 9:34
To show how far we have come in both political correctness and the refinement of meaningless oxymoronic sentences spoken by engineering graduates, I suggest the first individual to set foot on Mars should announce that it's "One small step for a person, a giant leap for humanity". Actually, since they are apparently planning to send a mixed gender crew, then (knowing NASA) they might intentionally have a woman be the first to set foot on Mars, in which case she could say "that's one small step for a woman ..", or even "one small step for women ...", but I still think "person" might be preferable. Maybe not though ...
jmw (Industrial)
7 May 04 11:05
"a giant leap for [1]hupersonality[/i]"

JMW
www.viscoanalyser.com
Eng-Tips: Pro bono publico, by engineers, for engineers.

Please see FAQ731-376 for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

IRstuff (Aerospace)
7 May 04 11:08
maybe huperspringity?

TTFN

electricpete (Electrical)
8 May 04 1:32
em - prolixities is not a word. I don't care what Fouler (sp!) said.

=====================================
Eng-tips forums: The best place on the web for engineering discussions.

EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
8 May 04 5:02
If I may be allowed to paraphrase Henry II :Will no one rid me of this turbulent Pete? (just kidding !)
CajunCenturion (Computer)
9 May 04 9:24
I beg to differ.  Prolixity is a word, and prolixities is its plural.  Its meaning to be unduly wordy, or using more words that is necessary.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
9 May 04 12:51
Sorry, I've gone through each and every entry for prolixity and have found no plural:

http://onelook.com/?w=prolixity&ls=a

which only makes sense...  After all, why would you need a plural form for a word that means

Quote:

boring verboseness

TTFN

EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
9 May 04 13:10
"Prolixities" is a very old word and can be found in many common dictionaries. For example, in "Websters New Twentieth Century Unabridged", which I quote because I just happen to have it, you will find the entry :
prolixity, n; pl. prolixities 1. length; extent. (rare) 2. the state or quality of being prolix; wordiness; great length; tediousness; tiresome length of speaking; as, prolixity  in writings.
I'm not sure why everyone is ganging up on me in this!
harrisj (Automotive)
10 May 04 5:20
Muffin:

Don't worry - they're just exercising their prolixicity.

John
25362 (Chemical)
10 May 04 6:10
To harrisj's posting of May 7, what about "The Ascent of Humans" as an acceptable alternative ?
To JulianHardy, humans, BTW, seems to be a more general and all-embracing expression than citizens or people. Do you concur ?
CajunCenturion (Computer)
10 May 04 9:20
Not ganging up on you EnglishMuffin, but supporting you.
EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
10 May 04 10:57
Cajun : I was of course exaggerating a little in mock indignation - I had a previous discussion about this word with electricpete on another thread - he doesn't like it much, and it is a bit antiquated. It's sad that old but valid words like this tend to be disparaged and fall out of fashion, whereas new but illogical words like "irregardless" are gradually gaining ground and will undoubtedly become standard eventually, but that's the nature of English.
IRstuff (Aerospace)
10 May 04 11:12
I think people get too hung up about the "preciseness" and "correctness" of a language that cannot possibly have any rational rules.

Language is about ideas, not spelling or grammar, per se.  Most people recognize and understand "chow mein," but the phrase is technically gibberish in English, as it represents only the sounds of the words in Chinese for "stir-fried noodles."  So, people get the idea, eventually, despite the fact that the pronounciation of "mein" is more like "main" than the spelling would convey.

We can either embrace the changes and learn to adapt or turn into a bunch of raving Luddites.

TTFN

EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
10 May 04 11:38
I hope you are not including me in the "hung up" category - I don't take anything  that seriously. But I noticed the other day that Rush Limbaugh was getting very incensed on his talk show about the fact that people were using the words "infer" and "imply" interchangeably, and that dictionaries were saying that it was OK now because people no longer know the difference, and that this was very annoying for wordsmiths like him, and that this was an example of the decline of our liberal controlled "anything goes" education system, etc etc ..  
IRstuff (Aerospace)
10 May 04 12:01
Good thing I don't pay much attention to what dope fiends say...

Likewise a good thing he wasn't around when they decided to change "ess" sound written as "f" to "s."  Probably would have railed about the decline of Puritan values and end of English civilization...

TTFN

sqdjlg (Materials)
10 May 04 13:17

Quote (25362):

To JulianHardy, humans, BTW, seems to be a more general and all-embracing expression than citizens or people. Do you concur ?

Hmm. I don't concur.  It's species specific.  When (or if?) we meet another intellegient species, the term "people" may be more appropriate.  "Citizens" does have limitations due to the nationalistic tendicies of this century.

Or maybe we'll just have to go find something entirely different.  And have this conversation all over again.
electricpete (Electrical)
10 May 04 13:26
ok, I apologize for my tediousnesses

=====================================
Eng-tips forums: The best place on the web for engineering discussions.

electricpete (Electrical)
10 May 04 13:38
Enough levities, back to work!

=====================================
Eng-tips forums: The best place on the web for engineering discussions.

electricpete (Electrical)
10 May 04 14:02
Or maybe "prolixities" follows the same pattern as "pleasantries", "formalities".  I have no problem hearing plural of these words.  The word prolixity just never rolled off my tongue before, irregardless of the singular or plural form.  

=====================================
Eng-tips forums: The best place on the web for engineering discussions.

jhardy1 (Structural)
10 May 04 20:17
25362 / sqdjlg,

RE: Interchangeability of people / citizens / humans

In my view, they are not totally freely interchangeable - it depends on the context.

human - of or pertaining to or characteristic of mankind (Sorry - I don't know a gender-neutral term for "mankind" in this context, without getting into an endless loop of self-reference!)

citizen - a member (native or naturalised) of a state or nation

person - a human being (man, woman or child)

Yes, we are all persons / people, and yes, we are all humans, but there is a subtle difference to me. When I use the word "human", it is typically to make a distinction from the "non-human", whereas when I use the words "person" or "people", I typically am not making such a distinction.

Yes, we are all citizens, but not necessarily of the same state. Had the Declaration of Independence used the word "citizen", there would be an implication that its intent applied only to citizens of the United States of America, whereas I believe the authors meant it to apply as a general statement applicable to all persons, regardless of nationality.
jhardy1 (Structural)
10 May 04 20:34
electricpete,

I am not sure why you have trouble with "prolixities" as a valid word.

"Prolix" is the adjective, and "prolixity" is the noun form.

"Prolixity" can be an abstract noun which is descriptive of the condition of being "prolix", as in:

"JulianHardy tends to respond to brief forum entries with considerable prolixity".

In another valid usage, a "prolixity" is a verbose, tedious speech, document or similar. So it follows naturally that two or more tedious, wordy speeches or documents would be "prolixities", as in:

"JulianHardy's entries to this forum are, without exception, unadulterated prolixities."

Some would argue that the collected works of Dickens constitutes a library of prolixities. (Others would harangue you for entertaining the thought.)
sqdjlg (Materials)
12 May 04 12:47

Quote (JulianHardy):

Some would argue that the collected works of Dickens constitutes a library of prolixities. (Others would harangue you for entertaining the thought.)
Singing, juggling or acting?

Just want to know the best way to entertain the thought.

/ducking
IRstuff (Aerospace)
12 May 04 12:51
How I choose to entertain or otherwise amuse my thoughts is a private matter

TTFN

DwattedWabbit (Civil/Environmental)
14 May 04 9:37
About 25 years ago, when the gender-neutral fight was at its height, a newspaper ran a story about a woman whose last name was Cooperman, who legally had her last name changed to "Cooperperson" for evidently silly PC reasons.  I could see at the time that she did this only to get attention, since altering her name for gender-neutral reasons could have been done with considerably less hoopla if she had shortened it to the equally gender-neutral "Cooper."

I have also heard discussions about changing "person" to "perit" ("per" and "it"), since "it" is gender-neutral and "son" is not.  Equally wasteful of otherwise valuable brain cells was a discussion I heard about the move to change the word "history" to "herstory" or "itstory" for the same reasons.

In my (perhaps not very) humble opinion, those who obsess on the politically correct to the exclusion of the sensible or practical are 1) trying to draw attention to themselves rather than to the intent of the cause, and 2) need something to do, since they obviously have too much time on their hands.

I am a woman, I like men (I grew up with four brothers), I don't think men are the problem (nor are they the solution) (if there even is a problem), and I have better things to do with my life than to obsess over what someone earlier in thes thread correctly identified as an oxymoron: "political correctness."

I like to see grammar used correctly, and spelling and dictionaries have been developed over the past 100 or 200 years for a reason.  Words do have meanings, and when we deny this, chaos will result as communication fails.

Thanks for listening to my particular brand of blather.
metman (Materials)
17 May 04 20:37
schetwynd,
Bravo.  I only say that because I be the "someone earlier in this thread correctly identified as an oxymoron: 'political correctness.'"  Just kidding of course because you really are spot-on.

And should it not be Herstorectomy and Hisneotomy?

EM and IR...Even though Rush is right about some things, he comes across to me as a boor so much so that I have coined a nickname for him, i.e. "R cubed" (Ranting and Raving Rush).

Julien,  "Some would argue that the collected works of Dickens constitutes a library of prolixities. (Others would harangue you for entertaining the thought.)"
How could the haranguers even entertain the thought that they have anything to be harangueing?   If that is not a valid constitution, then prolixities must needs be redefined.

Jesus is THE life,
Leonard

EnglishMuffin (Mechanical)
17 May 04 20:45
metman: Rush is often a boor, but never a bore - at least from my perspective.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members!

Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close