Why should we use inclusive language?
1. it’s the right thing to do!
2. chairman means the man in the chair
It has been suggested that ‘man’ in chairman stands for ‘manus’ and, therefore, chairman is a inclusive title. Read on…
oxford english dictionary @ dictionary.oed.com
The OED etymology says ‘chairperson’ is usually intended as an alternative that avoids sexual definition.
The OED etymology for ‘chair, n.1′ has a long discussion of the origins of the word chair but does not mention of manus:
ME. chaere, chaiere, a. OF. chaëre (western and Anglo-Fr.), chaiere (= Pr. cadera, cadeira, Cat. cadira, OSp. cadera, Pg. cadeira):L. catedra, cathedra seat, see CATHEDRA. Cha-iè-re was the regular OF. phonetic descendant of ca-ted-ra; it was in Eng. also orig. of three syllables, afterward reduced to two ‘cha-yer, and finally (? under later F. infuence) to one, chair. In the dialects it is still commonly of two, as Sc. cha-yer. In mod.Fr. the phonetic variant chaise (see CHAISE n.) has taken the popular senses, while chaire is restricted to the ecclesiastical or professorial cathedra.
Asprey, Michèle in ‘A Chair with no leg to stand on’
Australian Style, vol 6.1, December 1997
… I have strong views about gender-neutral language. I believe, along with George Orwell and many others, that language can influence thought. When I first began to practise law, there were virtually no statutes or documents which on their face acknowledged that women take part in the world of law and business. I really did feel that I had somehow wandered into a boys’ club, and I didn’t feel it reflected the ‘real world’. I wanted to see formal recognition of the existence of women in the legal and business landscape.
… Earlier this year I found myself arguing about language issues on ABC radio station 2BL. My opponent was the Minister for Defence Industry Science and Personnel, Bronwyn Bishop. She was in favour of the move away from ‘chair’ and ‘chairperson’. She raised the hoary old argument that the ‘man’ in ‘chairman’ does not mean ‘man’ but derives from manus, the Latin for ‘hand’.
What a load of rot! I have heard this argument time and time again. I raised the matter last year at an Australian Institute of Professional Communicators seminar, when our speaker was Macquarie linguist, Associate Professor Pam Peters. She dismissed that argument out of hand. Manus is indeed the root of many words, like ‘manage’, ‘manacle’ and ‘manicure’. But it has nothing to do with the suffix ‘man’ in in words like ‘chairman’. These words derive their suffix from the Old English word man or mann, which was both the word for ‘male’ and for ‘human being’ or ‘person’. And so we are left with the same problem: it is impossible to separate the two meanings.
But the point I made to Bronwyn Bishop was that derivation was not the point. The Old English meaning of a word is not the important thing in this context. The key issue is the effect of that word on the listener. I repeated my argument that language influences thought, and though dictates behaviour. Today, when someone hears the word ‘chairman’, more often than not the visualise a man in that role. By using gender-neutral language, we avoid that association, and provide a neutral word which allows the listener to visualise whatever they like.
To illustrate the point I told the radio audience a story included in my book (Plain Language for Lawyers) about an incident at a plain language conference held in Vancouver in 1992. A (female) judge told the conference how, for 10 years she had instructed juries that they should appoint a ‘foreman’. Then one day she decided to say instead that they should appoint a ‘foreperson’. For the first time in her 10 years experience of instructing juries, they appointed a woman.
Dave Wilton @ www.wordorigins.org
A chairman is the leader of a committee or parliamentary body. The origin is, as one might guess, a compound of the words chair + man. The chair is a reference to a seat or position of authority and the man is, of course, a reference to the person who occupies it. The word dates to 1654 when it appears in John Trapp’s Commentary of the Book of Job:
I sate chief, and was Chair-man.
In more recent times the word has come under criticism for being sexist as not all such leaders are male. A backlash by those who want to preserve the old patterns of speech has resulted in some propagating a false etymology that states the –man is not a reference to a person at all and is, therefore, not sexist. This ill-informed view states that the –man comes from the Latin manus, meaning hand, that the chairman is the hand of the one sitting in the chair guiding the meeting. This is complete bunk. Whatever one’s view of whether or not such words are sexist, to invent false etymologies to bolster that view is dishonest.
the word detective @ www.word-detective.com
Q: It is often pointed out that the PC chairperson is nonsense as the ‘man’ in ‘chairman’ has nothing to do with gender, but has its origin in Latin (‘manus’) meaning ‘hand’.
A: So, if this was correct, the root meaning of ‘chairman’ would be ‘chairhand,’ sort of like a cowhand who deals with chairs? Herding them from conference room to cubicle, roping and branding ornery chairs but being careful with the overstuffed models and their cute baby ottomans? It’s an interesting vision. I’m gonna go lie down until it passes.
I’m as leery as any red-blooded grump of over-sensitivity in language, and have spent a bit of time in this column explaining that, for example, we don’t need words such as ‘herstory’ because ‘history’ has absolutely nothing to do with the male possessive pronoun. But ‘chairman’ has nothing to do with ‘manus’. The ‘man’ in ‘chairman’ is indeed the male human, and the ‘chair’ simply a chair, specifically the seat, whether humble or a throne, occupied by a person of power and authority in a meeting or assembly. Thus, ‘chairman’ simply means the person who sits in the chair designated for the person in charge.
‘Chairman’ dates back to the 17th century as does, interestingly, the shorter form ‘chair’ meaning the person in charge of a meeting. ‘Chair’ in this sense actually had an odd sort of double birth. In the 1600s and subsequently, the noun ‘chair’ was used as symbolic shorthand (a process known as ‘metonymy’) for the person who sat in the chair of power, much as ‘the Crown’ was used to refer to the King or Queen or ‘the White House’ is used to mean the current presidential administration. While this use of ‘chair’
became common in the internal workings of organisations (‘Will the Chair authorise a doughnut break?’), in the 1970s ‘chair’ became newly popular in general usage as a way to avoid using the gender-specific ‘chairman’ without resorting to the stilted ‘chairperson’.
gor[b] @ Is ‘chairman’ sexist?
Chair manager? I’d never heard that, so I did some digging into the etymology of chairman.
As will become a pattern, there’s nothing to specify that it must be a man, but that doesn’t prove the opposite either. The key observation is that the plural is ‘Chairmen’ — the plural of man; there’s no obvious connection between ‘men’ and ‘managers’.
Warning: It’s inconsistent to use “chairman” for men and “chair” for women in the same news story.
So pick one form and stick with it from beginning to end.
CBC is no authority on etymology, but again substantiates that there is a common perception of gender-specificity, and that people may have a problem with that.
This gets supported in my last source, the Wiki entry:
Chair and chairperson are gender-neutral terms describing the same position, with chairman or chairwoman denoting the gender of an incumbent.
While chairperson dates from the 1970s, the use of chair (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) to refer to someone in charge of a meeting dates from as early as 1658.
Also Wiki’s non-sexist language entry:
A business might advertise that it is looking for a new chair or chairperson, rather than chairman, which gender-neutral language advocates feel would imply that only a man would be acceptable for the position.
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