>From: SU-Bboards@score >via Doug Alan >mit-eddie!nessus >Nessus@MIT-MC >Subject: Hofstadter on Sexism in the English language > > The most interesting work of writing I have seen on > sexism in the English language is by Douglas Hofstadter > (writing under the name William Satire) and is called > "A Person Paper on Purity in Language." It can be found > in his wonderful book Metamagical Themas: Questing > for the Essence of Mind and Pattern. Hofstadter is > strongly in favor of removing sexism from our language > and writes about it in this paper using biting sarcasm. > Included at the end of this message is an excerpt from > the paper (included without permission--I don't think > Hofstadter would object). > > Hey girl > As I've always said I prefer your lips red > Not what the good Lord made > But what he intended. > > P.S. Here is the excerpt from >
It's high time someone blew the whistle on all the silly prattle about revamping our language to suit the purposes of certain political fanatics. You know what I am talking about--those who accuse speakers of English of what they call racism. This awkward neologism, constructed by analogy with the well-established term sexism, does not sit well in the ears, if I may mix my metaphors. But let us grant that in our society there may be injustices here and there in the treatment of either race from time to time, and let us even grant these people their terms racism and racist. How valid, however, are the claims of the self-proclaimed "black libbers," or "negrists"--those who would radically change our language in order to "liberate" us poor dupes from its supposed racist bias?
Most of the clamor, as you certainly know by now, revolves around the age-old usage of the noun white and words built from it, such as chairwhite, mailwhite, repairwhite, clergywhite, middlewhite, Frenchwhite, forwhite, whitepower, whiteslaughter, oneupswhiteship, straw white, whitehandle, and so on. The negrists claim that using the word white, either on its own or as a component, to talk about all the members of the human species is somehow degrading to blacks and reinforces racism. Therefore the libbers propose that we substitute person everywhere where white now occurs. Sensitive speakers of our secretary tongue of course find this preposterous. There is great beauty to a phrase such as "All whites are created equal." Our forebosses who framed the Declaration of Independence well understood the poetry of our language. Think how ugly it would be to say "All persons are created equal," or "All whites and blacks are created equal." Besides, as any schoolwhitey can tell you, such phrases are redundant. In most contexts, it is self-evident when white is being used in an inclusive sense, in which case it subsumes members of the darker race just as much as fairskins.
There is nothing denigrating to black people in being subsumed under the rubric white--no more than under the rubric person. After all, white is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow, including black. Used inclusively, the word white has no connotations whatsoever of race. Yet many people are hung up on this point. A prime example is Abraham Moses, one of the more vocal spokeswhites for making such a shift. For years, Niss Moses, autheroon of the well-known negrist tracts "A Handbook of Nonracist Writing" and "Words and Blacks," has had nothing better to do than go around the country making speeches advocating the downfall of "racist language" that ble objects to. But when you analyze bler objections, you find they all fall apart at the seams. Niss Moses says that words like chairwhite suggest to people--most especially impressionable young whiteys and blackeys--that all chairwhites belong to the white race. How absurd! It is quite obvious, for instance, that the chairwhite of the League of Black Voters is going to be a black, not a white. Nobody need think twice about it. As a matter of fact, the suffix white is usually not pronounced with a long `i' as in the noun white, but like `wit,' as in the terms saleswhite, freshwhite, penwhiteship, first basewhite, and so on. It's just a simple and useful component in building race-neutral words.
But Niss Moses would have you sit up and start hollering "Racism!" In fact, Niss Moses sees evidence of racism under every stone. Ble has written a famous article, in which ble vehemently objects to the immortal and poetic words of the first white on the moon, Captain Nellie Strongarm. If you will recall, whis words were: "One small step for a white, a giant step for whitekind." This noble sentiment is anything but racist; it is simply a celebration of a glorious moment in the history of White.
Another of Niss Moses's shrill objections is to the age-old differentiation of whites from blacks by the third-person pronouns whe and ble. Ble promotes an absurd notion: that what we really need in English is a single pronoun covering both races. Numerous suggestions have been made, such as pe, tey, and others. These are all repugnant to the nature of the English language, as the average white in the street will testify, even if whe has no linguistic training whatsoever. Then there are the advocates of usages such as "whe or ble," "whis or bler," and so forth. This makes for monstrosities such has the sentence "When the next president takes office, whe or ble will have to choose whis or bler cabinet with great care, for whe or ble would not want to offend any minorities." Constrast this with the spare elegance of the normal way of putting it, and there is no question which way we ought to speak. There are, of course, some yapping black libbers who advocate writing bl/whe everywhere, which, aside from looking terrible, has no reasonable pronunciation. Shall be say blooey all the time when we simply mean whe? Who wants to sound like a white with a chronic sneeze?
. . . I would merely point out to the overzealous that there are some extravagant notions about language that should be recognized for what they are: cheap attempts to let dogmatic, narrow minds enforce their views on the speakers lucky enough to have inherited the richest, most beautiful and flexible language on earth, a language whose traditions run back through the centuries to such deathless poets as Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, Walt Whitwhite, and so many others. Our language owes an incalculable debt to these whites for their clarity of vision and expression, and if the shallow minds of bandwagon-jumping negrists succeed in destroying this precious heritage for all whites of good will, that will be, without any doubt, a truly female day in the history of Northern White.