Monday, August 10, 2009

Why I No Longer Use Gender Neutral Language

English professor, Louis Markos, has an article on this subject on his website and I've borrowed his title for this post. His article begins as follows:

"It has now been nearly a decade since the news leaked out that the foremost Evangelical translation of the Bible (the New International Version) was planning an updated, American version that would conform itself to the “rules” of gender-neutral language. The resulting grass-roots resistance movement thankfully (if temporarily) nipped that project in the bud, but it has proven powerless to stop the slow but persistent encroachment of the gender-neutral agenda. Most of the Bible translations that have been released over the last 15 years (from the New Revised Standard Version to the Contemporary English Version to the New Living Translation) have carefully and systematically eliminated “sexist” language from the pages of God’s Word. Simultaneous with this revamping of the Holy Scriptures, the mainline Protestant denominations have so retranslated and/or reworked their hymnals, prayer books, and creeds as to remove every trace of “gender-specific” language from the Sunday service. And they have been quite thorough in their gender-neutral overhaul. Where once the believer boldly proclaimed his belief that Jesus Christ “. . . for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man,” he now is expected (well, forced) to proclaim that “for us and for our salvation . . . [Christ] . . . became human.” With astonishing speed and success, most liberal mainline denominations have constructed for their parishioners (whether they wanted it or not) a space that, if not particularly sacred, is at least blissfully free from all that “sexist” and “insensitive” language of the past: by which is meant the language of Homer, Plato, Virgil, Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Luther, Shakespeare, Milton, and the Bible.

Meanwhile, in schools, colleges, and, yes, churches all over the country, students and parishioners have been indoctrinated into using gender-neutral language by professors, school teachers, pastors, and administrators alike. Often the “rules” are not formally taught; they are just taken for granted. Just as the basic tenets of Freudianism have been absorbed by millions of people who have never read Freud and may in fact be strongly opposed to his teachings and his worldview, so the “rules” of gender-neutral language have so assimilated their way into society as to be almost invisible. The champions of gender-neutral language have been remarkably successful at disseminating their agenda throughout almost every strata of society. Scan through almost any academic journal (including faith-based ones) and you will find nary a word or phrase that deviates from “non-sexist” language usage. More disturbing, flip through almost any textbook (K-12) used in the public school system, and you will find exactly the same total surrender to an agenda that was initiated by the radical feminists but which found its way (as homosexual marriage is slowly doing) into the mainstream.

Worse yet, over the last five years, the almost total capitulation to gender-neutral language on the part of liberal mainline pastors and theologians has spread into the evangelical world. Thus, while many of our finest evangelical writers (I will not “name names”) bend, and at times distort, their prose to accommodate gender-neutral usage, a number of our best evangelical magazines move closer, with each issue, toward the total elimination of gender-specific language. Of course, not all segments of society have so capitulated. The great American heartland (including many who sit in mainline pews) has not fully embraced it; neither has most of the media (including and especially Hollywood) nor most of those great writers (like Thomas Cahill) and periodicals (like Touchstone and The New York Review of Books) that truly care about style. Still, the gender-neutral agenda has been quite pervasive in its penetration."

So what does Markos think of this trend? He is against it. He sees it as an example of accommodation to the spirit of the age.

"When the leaders of the mainline denominations decided, early in the 20th century, that they would become more relevant and exert more societal influence if they liberalized their doctrinal beliefs and practices, they really believed that the “people” were hungry for such liberalization and would accept it as more “natural” than the teachings of traditional orthodoxy. They proved, of course, to be dead wrong in their predictions of what the people really yearned for and of what they considered “natural” and “proper.” In seeking to be relevant, they became profoundly irrelevant; in seeking to accommodate the gospel to the culture, they lost the gospel without winning the culture. It is my contention (and my fear) that the widespread use of gender-neutral language in the church represents another form of accommodationism."

In the rest of the essay, he goes on to explain what he sees as the problem with gender-neutral language. He argument, (which I encourage you to read for yourself), can be summarized as follows:

1. When Paul says: ""if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation," everyone knows that he means all people, not just men. To suggest that the problem is one of communication - as if one cannot communicate clearly using the masculine pronoun for all humankind - is spurious.

2. The tremendous pressure exerted on writers of all sorts - including university professors, teachers, government bureaucrates etc. - amounts to censorship. The language can and does evolve naturally in response to felt needs. Yet, despite two decades of censorship, gender-neutral language does not "feel more natural" to most people. I notice this in my students' papers all the time - equally so in men and women, I might add. But this is different; it is a form of social engineering being imposed on society by an activist, minority, radical group.

3. Gender neutral language can be vague and ugly and often is both at once. Markos quotes this paragraph from the Preface to the Contemporary English Version:

"In everyday speech, “gender generic” or “inclusive” language is used, because it sounds most natural to people today. This means that where the biblical languages require [an important concession that!] masculine nouns or pronouns when both men and women are intended, this intention must be reflected in translation, though the English form may be very different from that of the original. The Greek text of “Matthew 16:24 is literally, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The Contemporary English Version shifts to a form which is still accurate and at the same time more effective in English: “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.”"

I find the translation "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself." to be a disaster from a communication standpoint, from a theological standpoint and from an aestethic standpoint. This is Scripture. There are severe warnings against making God's Word obscure. First, I can't read this obvious confusion of singular and plural and simultaneously pay attention to the meaning: "any of you" - "followers" - "yourself." Shouldn't it be "yourselves"? As communication it fails because the ideological imposition on the text gets in the way of the natural meaning. Second, Jesus spoke in the singular. His challenge was addressed to individuals, but this is obscured (denied?) in the new translation. "If anyone" speaks directly to me as an individual. To say "followers" puts the emphasis on the group. Maybe in one text this will make no difference but in the next text make a crucial difference. But Scripture cannot be put in this ideological straightjacket. Third, if you think aesthetics is all subjective, try this test. Which translation is easier to memorize? Which is more memorable? The CEV is downright ugly and forgettable next to the more traditional (and accurate) translation.

4. This re-writing of the great literature of the past results in the destruction of our literary heritage. As Markos writes:

"For heaven’s sake! Would anyone in academia dare to “translate” the poetry of Shakespeare or Milton in such a way as to eliminate all uses of the word man/mankind? Yet that is exactly what has been done to the poetic verses of David’s Psalms and Wesley’s hymns.

Speaking for myself, I wouldn't be too sure that the inclusive language project won't eventually be extended to Milton and Shakespeare. Or maybe these writers will just no longer be read.

5. Another argument he makes is that to impose such revisionism on the biblical writers in something as fundamental as the language they used to communicate will lead to a pattern of patronising them generally. He writes:

"But there is another reason to take pause before we convince ourselves that a modern-day Paul would have cheered the CEV or the NRSV or the new and emasculated hymnal. To make such a claim is not only to impose our own very contemporary values on Paul; it is to set a dangerous if not lethal precedent. It is to suggest that the language and culture of the Biblical writers are not a sufficient vessel for carrying the Word of God. I do not exaggerate when I say that, if we accept the reasoning that says a modern Paul would have used gender-neutral language, it will not be long before we assert (as many already have) that if Jesus could have been transported to the 21st century and met a loving homosexual couple face-to-face, he would have given his blessing to their marriage."

6. Markos disagrees with the underlying ideology that drives the inclusive language movement. distinguishes between a true and a false notion of equality. On the one hand, he is for equality defined as follows:

"If you mean by equality the equal dignity and inherent worth of every human being; if you mean the freedom from oppression and the liberty to worship as you please; if you mean, further, equal pay for equal work and equal educational and employment options without regard to race, creed, or gender: then, yes, America is all about equality. Indeed, it must be admitted, some of the early crusading feminists helped bring about much-needed reforms that extended the blessings of equality to countless women."

On the other hand, he disagrees with what he calls "egalitarianism."

"Unfortunately, when the proponents of gender-neutral language (and their multiculturalist allies in the public schools) talk about equality, they mean not equal dignity or pay or opportunity, but egalitarianism: the belief that everyone is the same and should be treated the same. The tenets of egalitarianism hold that the differences we see between the sexes and between people in general are not innate, essential, or God-given, but social constructs. The goal of egalitarianism is not unity in diversity or the celebration of inherent worth but a bland, universal sameness: the creation of a lowest-common-denominator world devoid of all difference and uniqueness."

I think Markos is right on the money here. True equality requires treating men and women differently, precisely because men and women are not the same in all respects. To the extent that women have uniquely feminine needs, they must not be treated as men if we are to have equality. And this is just what second wave feminism (since the 1960's) seeks to do. The problem is that the inclusive language movement is based in an egalitarian ideology that is false in certain crucial respects.

Language is powerful and important because it shapes the way we think. Secular Feminists and Christians agree on that point. And this is precisely why Christians cannot allow a secular form of egalitarianism to determine the way Christians think and read Scripture.


Nathan said...

"The problem is that the inclusive language movement is based in an egalitarian ideology that is false in certain crucial respects."

That statement is not true in every case. For many translators, the "gender-neutral agenda" is to produce accurate, contemporary English translations. Various forces (the feminist movement is probably one of them) are affecting our language. One of those changes is that masculine pronouns are no longer understood as gender inclusive in every instance. Therefore, in order to convey the biblical (or liturgical) meaning correctly, the English text must be updated to accommodate this change. It's not necessarily a "liberal agenda" at work here. Languages change, and translations must change with them or become incomprehensible.

Craig Carter said...

Do you really expect me to believe that the majority of native English speakers would naturally take the following sentence to mean that Jesus is excluding women from discipleship and only wants male followers?

"If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

If you do, you are just plain wrong. My church has 400 people in a Sunday morning service, over half of them women, and I'll bet you a symbolic dollar that not one single person would interpret that verse as you suggest. Not even one. This is common knowledge.

The truth is not that such a sentence does not communicate, but that secular feminists and their fellow travellers do not want it to mean what most people take it to mean (i.e. "all people"). But wanting a thing to be so does not make it so.

Nathan said...

I've always enjoyed your rhetorical style: "you need to think a little harder"; "you are just plain wrong"; etc. :-)

Sure, you can pick one verse and show how modern audiences could understand it. That being said, let's take a look at how the TNIV handles it:

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

I hear this idiom (plural substituted for inclusive male singual) in speech all the time. It conveys the sense in modern (albeit "improper") English idiom and avoids any confusion of gender exclusivity. Now let's get into something more theological:

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time."

Here the TNIV's "all people" is more accurate, both in terms of the sense of Paul's writing and in terms of avoiding confusion in modern English. Sometimes gender-inclusive language is necessary for good translation. Or, as Bob Dylan said, "the times, they are a changin'."

Craig Carter said...

Thank you for conceding my point. People clearly do understand the masculine pronoun as including both sexes. (Otherwise most of English literature would be utterly incomprehensible to most people.) So the issue is not what communicates, but how we want the meaning of language to change.

I also hear the barbarism sometimes: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves..." This is extremely ugly is it not? It makes the speaker sound confused. The English language has evolved organically over centuries. But this formulation is an attempt at revolution, rather than evolution.

As to your last point, the TNIV translation is ONLY more accurate IF one has already conceded the point that the NIV's "men" excludes women, which it clearly never did before certain Feminists spuriously claimed that it did sometime around 1965 as a way of advancing their ideological agenda.

You are arguing in a circle: "It must be more accurate because the old way excluded women and the old way must have excluded women because the new way does not."

Nathan said...

There is nothing circular about it: Formerly in English the masculine gender was understood as generic (singular) or inclusive (plural). English is changing such that listeners are no longer understanding the masculine gender to be generic or inclusive. Therefore the NIV was good for its time, and the TNIV is good for its time. On a purely linguistic level it is not different than the removal of the thees and thous.

If you are offended on a cultural level, you can read the older translations because you understand them without problem. Younger English speakers may not understand the generic/inclusive use of the masculine as you do, and in order to communicate accurately with them, changes will have to be made. Can you at least concede the point that not all translators are using gender-inclusive language in capitulation to a radical feminist agenda?

Craig Carter said...

Why would I concede a point that is not true? You offer no evidence for the proposition that traditional language is not comprehensible, so what is the motivation? You merely assert:

"Younger English speakers may not understand the generic/inclusive use of the masculine as you do, and in order to communicate accurately with them, changes will have to be made."

"May not?" You have offered not a shred of evidence for the assertion that anyone of any age misunderstands the traditional language.

As "I" do? As if I were some sort of exception? Come on - nobody is confused about what language means here. If you sincerely think that new translations are using gender neutral language just because people today don't UNDERSTAND the traditional usage of the masculine pronoun for both genders and it has nothing to do with feminist ideology, well I'm pretty astounded by that level of naivity.

Feminists are trying to dictate to the rest of us what the masculine pronoun is allowed to mean. For me it means the same thing it meant to Milton, Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Flannery O'Connor and C. S. Lewis. Feminists want us to pretend they all meant to exclude women from practically everything but that is ridiculous. And they demand that we pretend that the traditional use of "man" for humankind MEANS males only. But it doesn't and pretty much everybody knows it.

So you can demand that the meaning of words be changed. That does not mean the meanings will change. I suggest that you will find only pro-feminists (and people who haven't thought much about it but are trying to be nice and agreeable) agreeing with you, which proves my point. It is not about communication, but ideology.

Nathan said...

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the feminists win in deprecating the generic/inclusive masculine. For example, an average English speaker would understand "all men" to mean "all males" and not "all humans." Would translators still be capitulating to a feminist agenda by using the new gender-inclusive idioms? I obviously lack sufficient evidence to convince you that this may happen (and I suspect you lack evidence to convince me that it is not happening).

By the way, I don't think the change in the gender idioms of English "has nothing to do with feminist ideology." What I think is that the cause of the change is irrelevant. The nature of language requires translators to update their work from time to time to accommodate changes in the target language. Like it or not, that may include gender-inclusive language. It is not about ideology, but communication.

To allow ideology to hinder the task of translation would be doubleplusungood.

Craig Carter said...

Ah, now we are making progress. You have conceded that ideology is in fact the real motive behind the change in translations and that the inability of the inclusive masculine pronoun to communicate the concept of all humanity is not a present-day communication problem, but a hypothetical future scenario fervently hoped for by feminist thinkers and their fellow travellers.

You ask me to contemplate a hypothetical future in which the feminists win and everyone thinks that "man" means only males. Now perhaps my imagination is severely lacking, but I have a considerable degree of difficulty in imagining such a world.

1. I wonder, firstly, in this future world would all the English professors in all the universities be of the settled opinion that when Alexander Pope wrote in his Essay on Man that "The proper study of mankind is man" that he was denying the importance of studying persons of the female sex? If so, would they not be cut off from practically their entire literary heritage? Or would Pope's poem appear in the 22nd century edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature as "Essay on Humanity?" (Would the line be translated "The proper study of human persons is human persons?") Either way, it is difficult to imagine what continuity such a culture would have Western civilization. It would be a barbaric culture, I think.

2. Or perhaps the English professors know full well what Pope meant but they artfully conceal such knowledge from their students, lest their students be corrupted with non politically correct ideas. This would place the average professor is a position comparable to professors in the universities of mid to late Twentieth century Soviet universities who were charged with the responsibility of teaching "scientific socialism," which they knew to be unfortunately neither scientific nor socialist. Could a culture built on such a "noble lie" be sustainable? I think not likely.

3. Or perhaps it would be recognized that the inclusive male pronoun for humanity was used by everyone writing in English up to the 196o's but that after that point everyone agreed that it should mean that no longer. Literature would be left alone and students would be taught that Shakespeae, Pope et. al. used the masc. pronoun inclusively, but we do not do so any longer. But, in such a case, the Bible should no more be revised with inclusive language than Pope's poetry, which means that modern inclusive translations are unnecessary for communication purposes.

mike said...

I think we all need to pause here.

1) I think Markos doesn't know what he's talking about.

2) "They" has been use for generics so much longer than "he." The use of "he" is a relatively new phenomena. History is not on the side of those who fight against "they" as a generic. (Cf. HERE.

Milton and Shakespeare may have used "he," but Alfred the Great and Chaucer used "they."

3) Craig, you assume that your church is representative. It is not. In rural areas and the South (US), "he" is much much typical. But in Urban areas, it is rare and in many places non-existent. This is especially the case in the UK. More significant is the fact that most children, particularly female children do not understand at all the he's.

4) It's kind of funny that the only thing you consider "progress" is someone agreeing with you.

5) Thankfully, English professors don't determine what is correct language. They often think they do, but they never have...and they've been moaning about the destruction of English for at least four centuries. An English professor talking about grammar is about is impressive as a pharmacist talking about biochemistry.

Nathan said...

"You have conceded that ideology is in fact the real motive behind the change in translations and that the inability of the inclusive masculine pronoun to communicate the concept of all humanity is not a present-day communication problem, but a hypothetical future scenario fervently hoped for by feminist thinkers and their fellow travellers."

I have conceded that feminist ideology is probably one of the causes for the change in the English language (I also think this is irreverent to the task of translation). The motives for translators using gender-inclusive language are probably varied, but I would hazard to guess that they predominantly are based in the desire to produce good translations, not in a desire to capitulate to feminists. As for the hypothetical, it was for the sake of argument and therefore was not meant to "concede" anything.

Regarding point #3: under what circumstances would a revision be necessary? Should we still be using the thees and thous of the ASV? What about the "eth" verb endings of the KJV? Or the antiquated spellings of Tyndale? That is, why should gender-inclusive idiom not be a criterion for revision?

We don't revise Pope or Shakespeare any more than we would revise the Greek and Hebrew text. Translation is a different matter. Perhaps Shakespeare should be translated into modern English. I know that it would have made my study of his works much more understandable.

David said...

Another interesting post. It reminded me of a visit recently to York Minster crypt, where I saw as part of the exhibition that the dating of historical events (such as the proclamation of Constantine as emperor in 306[?]) as being CE (Common Era) and not AD. This was surprising for at least two reasons, the first being that it is a significant christian building, and the other is that the archbishop of York is actually a very strong traditional christian. I mention this because I see this change in the way dates are written as being part of the changes happening with gender inclusivity. Unlike Nathan I would definitely argue precisely that communication is ideology - which is exactly why people want to change the translation.
I must admit though that the pressure to write essays using inclusive language is not something I have personally felt in my undergraduate or postgraduate studies: at least, not from my tutors. I have felt it very much internally though which goes to show powerful the inclusivist lobby has become. I always feel very conscious when I write 'he', 'him' or 'his' instead of using inclusivist language, which frankly strikes me as very inelegant.
In terms of biblical distortion though, I would argue that the Bible has already had bits unnecessarily edited, such as Phil. 4:8 where the word often translated as 'rubbish' would more accurately be translated as 'shit'. A minor point, though.
My argument with the gender inclusivist lobby is that this bodiless, sexless humanity under which we are all referred is the philosophical excreta of the rationalist, Cartesian ego that has dominated the West for hundreds of years. In fact I would say that just as the stupid CE still ultimately refers back to Christ’s birth, so gender inclusivity always defaults to the male position (i.e. the rational, Cartesian ego).

Craig Carter said...

I agree, particularly with the point in your last paragragh about the nature of the self envisioned in the Feminist anthropology. I'm just about to read Elizabeth Fox Genovese's "The Illusions of Feminism" in which she analyzes feminism as a subset of modern individualism.

Craig Carter said...

Thanks for your opinion. Ajax, Ontario is not the rural South, but part of the fifth largest metropolitan area in North America and an extremely multi-cultural congregation. I'm pretty sure that people in downtown Toronto know about the inclusive masculine too.

We have barely begun to scratch the surface of the theological problems with inclusive language. Lately, I've encountered pressure from other theologians to refrain from ever referring to God as "He" or "Him." We are supposed to say "God Godself said such and such." Yet Jesus taught us to address God as "Father" and to claim that the masculine pronoun is innappropriate as a shorthand for Father seems to contradict dominical teaching.

There are many other problems, but I would regard the above as an example of "inclusive language creep."

mike said...


We have barely begun to scratch the surface of the theological problems with inclusive language.

Perhaps. You've failed to prove that inclusive language is bad. All you've done is play with words and provided all of us some very gifted rhetoric. But all of that's irrelevant, isn't it. As for your very next sentence:

Lately, I've encountered pressure from other theologians to refrain from ever referring to God as "He" or "Him."

That *isn't* inclusive language. Its actually quite exclusive language. Inclusive language in translation (and that's what we're talking about) uses "brothers ans sisters" when ἀδελφὸς means "brothers and sisters." What it doesn't do is turn God into a woman. So why don't throw away your red herring.

Craig Carter said...

Um, it would only be a red herring if the feminist ideology behind inclusive language were not also behind theological moves to call God mother and eliminate exclusively masculine references to God from the liturgy (eg. Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer instead of Father-Son-Holy Spirit). You are missing the point that the ideology itself is what I'm primarily concerned about. The same ideology manifests itself in various ways.

I myself for 20 years believed that we should use inclusive language when talking about humans but leave the biblical pattern of language about God unchanged. But it now appears that as soon as you give ground in one area a new front opens up and so I now think my former belief is an unstable compromise. I know that many Evangelicals take this position in good conscience, but I doubt they will satisfy the liberals for long.

When women were ordained in mainline Protestantism in the 70's the idea that practicing homosexuals would be next was pooh-poohed. But it turns out that pooh or no pooh, the pessimistic predictions came true (extremely quickly in church historical terms) and many of the same arguments (particularly with regard to "nature") are being used in the latter debate as were used in the former one. This has driven me to re-examine the arguments re. ordination, women and Scripture afresh and I have now come to more conservative conclusions.

Summary: We tried compromising with second wave feminism and it didn't work.

Anonymous said...

The singular "they" was used by Chaucer, Byron, Austen, Thackeray, Eliot, Dickens, Trollope and more. "He" wasn't introduced as a universal pronoun until 1745.

As to the points:
1. There is nothing spurious about being clear with your language. Why be intentionally unclear with "he" as universal, when "they" functions better?

2. I have never seen this radical social engineering that you speak of, but I don't deny it's existence.

3.“If anyone wants to follow me, they must deny themself and take up their cross and follow me.” Problem solved. Clear. Easy. Same poetic flow as before.

4. As I said before, most of the writers of great literature (all of them before the 1700s) used gender neutral language. And there is nothing sinister about updating literature as language changes. That includes the Bible.

At some point Shakespeare, et al. will have to be rewritten in newer English, just by the mere fact that language changes.

5. This slippery slope argument is unconvincing.

6. Where the text obviously intends to refer to one sex or the other, I absolutely agree that the original intent must remain unchanged. If Paul meant men, let the text say men. However, if Paul meant all humanity, use the language of the day to refer to all humanity.

Craig Carter said...

I'm not sure what you are referring to by 1745? What happened in 1745? Alexander Pope died in 1744 and his "Essay on Man" is obviously earlier and is not an example of gender neutral language.

Could you provide an example of the use of the singular "they" from one of the writers you mention? How about an example or two of gender neutral language from the 17th or 18th centuries?

As for your translation,“If anyone wants to follow me, they must deny themself and take up their cross and follow me” with all due respect I find it hideous and gramatically incorrect. But we will see if it catches on.

As for re-writing Shakespeare, good luck with that.

I agree that there is nothing sinister about the evolution of language. However, there is a difference between natural evolution and revolution and that is the distinction I'm trying to make.

David said...

I think that the problem with gender-inclusive language is more that it is ideologically driven rather than a result of natural linguistic evolution. If English had changed to the point where "man" or "mankind" could only ever refer to human males then it would make sense to alter the Biblical translation accordingly - but this is simply not the case. Also, Genesis 1:27 sets the precedent for using "man" to denote both male and femal humans.
I do understand though that had men actually behaved in a more loving and (consequently) godly way that such a thing as feminism need never have arose.
The bizarre thing for me though is that the logic behind inclusivist langauge is a bit psychotic: on the one hand they want to insist that the word "man" can only ever refer to males, and thus drive a deeper wedge between the sexes; and on the other hand they want to obliterate any linguistic reference to sexual difference, which because such a being does not occur in nature, is the product of a diseased rationalising.
My other point is that the slippery slope argument doesn't work...and yet is strangely true. When abortion was legalised in Britain it was meant to be purely for severe medical reasons, and now it is just another form of contraception. The argument for women priests shouldn't make it easier for gay priests, yet strangely it has done.

Anonymous said...

It was referenced earlier.

Short snippet:"
If any single person is responsible for this male-centric usage, it’s Anne Fisher, an 18th-century British schoolmistress and the first woman to write an English grammar book, according to the sociohistorical linguist Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. Fisher’s popular guide, “A New Grammar” (1745), ran to more than 30 editions, making it one of the most successful grammars of its time. More important, it’s believed to be the first to say that the pronoun he should apply to both sexes.

The idea that he, him and his should go both ways caught on and was widely adopted. But how, you might ask, did people refer to an anybody before then? This will surprise a few purists, but for centuries the universal pronoun was they. Writers as far back as Chaucer used it for singular and plural, masculine and feminine. Nobody seemed to mind that they, them and their were officially plural. As Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage explains, writers were comfortable using they with an indefinite pronoun like everybody because it suggested a sexless plural."

Anonymous said...

The 14th edition of the Chicago manual of style also notes, "the 'revival' of the singular use of they and their, citing...its venerable use by such writers as Addison, Austen, Chesterfield, Fielding, Ruskin, Scott, and Shakespeare."

mike said...

Um, it would only be a red herring if the feminist ideology behind inclusive language were not also behind theological moves to call God mother and eliminate exclusively masculine references to God from the liturgy (eg. Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer instead of Father-Son-Holy Spirit). You are missing the point that the ideology itself is what I'm primarily concerned about. The same ideology manifests itself in various ways.

1) Feminist ideology exists.

2) Translations use inclusive language.

3) Thus, translations have an ideological bias.

Is this your belief or not? Instead of rhetoric, a simple "yes" or "no" will do. If "no", then I have actually have no qualms with you. If "yes", well, then your words are both unfair and divisive in questioning the integrity of good Christian men and women who worked on translations like the NLT.

As a side issue, here's an example of a singular "they" from 1611:

Deut. 17:5 5: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.

Perhaps its not the 17th or 18th centuries, but I think it'll do.

mike said...

Wait, 1611 *is* the 17th century. So there's your example. And its Biblical no less.

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Jenn Jilks said...

It is interesting that a male can discount feminists and feminism. Time to move into the CE. I do feel the he excludes me, as firewoman would exclude many of these writers.

Margaret said...

Yada, yada, the boys deeply affront us if they have any views on abortion, gender-neutral language, priestesses, or anything that we deem them barred from thinking about, because they're not ladies like us.

Margaret said...

Yada, yada, the boys deeply affront us if they have any views on abortion, gender-neutral language, priestesses, or anything that we deem them barred from thinking about because they're not ladies like us.

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