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CHAT: gynecolalia (was Re: TRIVIAL CHAT: Political spelling (was: Re:

From:And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Date:Wednesday, September 30, 1998, 15:01
> > 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.
You are right. As I think I have observed here before, the feminist movement is about the only quasi-successful conlanging enterprise out of those that seek to modify English and have those modifications reflected in usage. Peter Clark recently requoted an apothegm of Claudi Gnoli's about the conlanger being an archpoet who can make do with nothing short of a new language to reflect their inner vision. I therefore think it is fair to consider these feminist remoulders of English to be conlangers of a particulary ideologically-engaged strain.
> 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.
The problem, I think, is not the etymology, though I personally feel that a word's etymology lives on in its contemporary soul, but that phonologically but especially orthographically, the word looks like wo+man, and hence part of an understandably objectionable pattern whereby feminine words are made by (apparent) affixation to the masculine, e.g. manager/manageress, male/female (where _female_ has presumably evolved its shape under the influence of _male_). A spelling like <wymyn> rectifies this problem. As it happens, rather than _wymyn_ I would prefer a shape that echoes _womb_ and _moon_, e.g. _womon_, but, as us conlangers say, de bustiguts non disputandem. I see nothing less than commendable about revamping old words (for example, I hope (for linguistic reasons that I will adumbrate on request) that in my lifetime _negro_ will replace _black_, _coloured_ and other such terms (such as _African American_ as a racial rather than ethnic designator) and _honky_ will replace _white_), but anyone who disagrees could surely elect to consider _wymyn_ a new word, albeit etymologically derived from an old one. --And.