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CHAT: TRIVIAL CHAT: Political spelling (was: Re: Odd orthography)

From:JOEL MATTHEW PEARSON <mpearson@...>
Date:Thursday, September 24, 1998, 20:18
On Wed, 23 Sep 1998, Tom Wier wrote:

> one political-correctism that I detest is "herstory", based on the false > belief that the writing of history, having naturally been dominated by > men for the last several hundred years because of the culture in which > it was written, was a compound of <his> and <story>, the story of what > happened to men. Whatever the case, this false folk-etymology is used > with what are IMO class-warfare overtones often, and so I am always > wary of the intentions of the people who use it.
I'm sure that "herstory" began life as a play on words, rather than as a serious attempt to 'correct' a piece of sexist etymology. Punning and other forms of wordplay seem to be quite common in postmodernist literary/cultural criticism, from what little of it I've read. In fact, my sense is that a lot of what we call politically correct terminology began as a more or less tongue-in-cheek effort to 'deconstruct' traditional society by means of this kind of wordplay. The stifling super-seriousness came later. Or at least, that's my impression. I'm actually more offended by "wymyn", myself. Well, not offended by the word per se. Rather, I'm bothered by (a) the assumption that the origin of "woman" as "wife-of-man" has anything to do with its current usage, and (b) the conceit that you can somehow erase a word's etymology by changing its spelling. If certain feminists object to the word "woman" (and there's no reason why they shouldn't, I guess), they should propagate a new word. Trying to revamp an old one is silly. Matt.