Towards Truly Non-Sexist Language


This article grew out of my being tired of listening to “he … uh … and … uh … she” or “men … uh … and … uh … women” and all the variations emphasising the neutrality of gender.  As a Radio 4 junkie, not a day goes by without hearing a few utterances from a range of voices, especially politicians, who, when first referring to only one gender (usually male) then immediately add a non-sexist follow-on to avoid being judged by some voters as being anti-social.

Some sentences, where gender is referred to in protracted ways, can take up to 12 to 15 per-cent in extra words. Aren’t we all a little tired of too much political correctness?  Surely gender neutrality could be approached in a more light-hearted manner but still with ‘food for thought’? 

The following non-sexist examples illustrate how gender labelling can be neutralised:

The use of He or She be replaced by an ee or EE, which makes use of the e in both He and She without having to incorporate the H from He or the S from She, which then makes the EE perfectly neutral gender wise. Whether a lower or upper case of EE is used is optional, although the double EE should be pronounced as ee, as in ‘E by Gum’ as said up North.

The so-called neutral pronoun We would have to be changed to EC or ec since the W in We implies Woman, which obviously has to be dispensed with.  It was first thought of using E+ but this was ruled out since the S or s in the word plus could refer to She.

Similarly, They would have to be got rid of since its middle two letters are clearly a sexist He

Still, the T and y could still be used as TY or ty, thus referring to a group or more than one. This would also apply to Them or them, especially since its last letter m is part of the word men which is obviously not on, so it is therefore proposed that them be shorted to Te which gets round the problem with a clearly pronounceable word, with the added benefit of both rhyming and reminding us of the non-sexist EE as already described.

There remains having to reduce the awkward sounding him and her phrase, which is then easily done by using only the an from the middle word and omitting of course the d which could be said to imply Dame which has to be avoided at all costs, whether one is referring to the aristocracy or to that now non-mentionable ultra-sexist song from South Pacific advocating that – ‘There’s nothing like a . . .

Even so, we are left with the traditional usage of Mankind and its modern variant of Womankind, with the latter – horror of horrors – containing the dreaded syllable, man. Fortunately, we can simply utilise the three but one last letter in each, which leaves us with kin (like in kith and kin) which simply refers to a man or a woman’s relatives, either collectively and non-sexually and certainly non-identifiably, either biologically or socially, so what could be better in our noble attempts to eliminate the dreaded scourge of sexual classification? 

No doubt you too could think of ways to get rid of words such as male or female and lots of other sexist synonyms when referring to a person or persons, but without having to rely on gender labelling. Luckily, both male and female end in the same three letters, namely the word ale, like what you guzzle in pubs, and a drink I was in desperate need of after trying to construct what you’ve all been so terribly kind to read thus far.                               

Still, even more worrying, I’ve heard there’s a move on to replace the traditional Mr or Mrs and Miss and the current Ms, with the two letter Mx, but I’m not having any of that since the M in Mx reminds me of Men or Male, each of which are non-starters to begin with. And, I’m very definitely not having that X in Mx either, since it rhymes so blatantly with sex which is what I’m trying to avoid in the first place, at least where gender neutrality or where the day by day fast-changing business of gender fluidity is concerned.

So to any of you future users of Ee or Te’s or Ty’s or Ec’s or An’s or Kins out there it’s about time English misuse of gender differentiation was laid to rest. 

Having got all this off my chest has made me feel much better. I am obviously not a candidate for undergoing treatment for any persisting twentieth century psycho-sexual linguistic hang-ups. What more could a fully-liberated, verbally-neutral and twenty-first century Homo sapiens ask for?

Arthur Kaufman is a former NHS Clinical Psychologist and Medico-legal Expert Witness.