Just a Few More Words About Gender and Language

Our own Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 25 09.40 I certainly did not mean to suggest with my recent etymological reflections on 'seminal' that I am at all interested in restarting the political-correctness wars of the early 1990s. That is an old and boring topic, and by now it is only the most dithering and out-of-the-loop callers on AM talk-radio, along with the very most impotent and alienated of bloggers, who continue to find menacing the basic proposals for language reform that came out of these wars. I am a strong advocate of a prescriptive approach to language that actively molds it to better fit the ideas we wish to express, and if we are committed to the idea of gender equality then we should certainly try to speak in a way that does not, e.g., presuppose that all doctors are male. But what I do not like is when we, on the side of gender equality, help the talk-radio callers to make their inarticulate point for them by being stupid ourselves, and I take the mistaken belief that 'seminal' refers only to male semen to be one such instance of stupidity.

There are numerous other ones, and most of them seem to arise from the belief that we can identify, isolate, and eliminate a definite set of lexical items, rather than recognizing that different words and expressions might be appropriate at different registers. Yes, we should signal our commitment to gender equality in the way we use direct, declarative speech, but we should not presume that the new rules of direct declarative speech excuse us from mastering all the different ways of speaking and writing of fellow language users who do not or did not share our sensibilities.

More here.