Way back when, about 25 years ago, I read a whole book on how to use non-discriminatory language when referring to women. In grade school they taught me to use “he” when referring to a male or female; saying “he or she” being considered wordy and unnecessary. No longer.
Maybe you remember the joke that ran around back then, that went something like this:
A man and his son were in a serious traffic accident. The man was killed and the boy received a serious head injury. They rushed him to the hospital and called on the hospital’s brain surgeon to operate. The surgeon took one look at the boy and said, “I can’t operate on this boy—he’s my son!” How could this be?
Another group has become more vocal about linguistic discrimination. Not being familiar with the field of transgender and sexual preference issues, I found the reference enlightening and useful. Well, I use the term “useful” advisedly. I’m not likely to need much of the vocabulary to write computer documentation (my day job), and I tend to hold the opinion that private matters are private, but still, it’s nice to know, and it might prevent me from making a faux pas.
It’s the GLAAD Media Reference Guide – 8th Edition. It’s a pdf, and it’s free. If you’d rather, here’s a link to the page that has the link. It lets you browse the topics in the guide without needing to download the whole document.
A somewhat related linguistic note: Although I bemoan the loss of a perfectly good word for happiness, the term “gay” has a legitimate etymology. I’m told it’s derived from the French gai, meaning a male actor who plays a female role.
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