Also, after reading seer/seeress, seminal, senhor/senhora, senor/senora/senorita, seraglio/serail, servitor, sexism, and sexpot this week in the Scrabble Dictionary, I have a few more things to say about sexist language (see Week 22 for earlier comments). These problems are not necessarily the fault of the compilers of the Scrabble Dictionary (although I am curious that savant is defined as "a man of profound learning"—only men can be savants?); they are part of a long and sordid story. I want to (and probably should) write a book about how to alleviate some inherently sexist and gender-imbalanced issues in the English language. I'd advocate for the following:
I suppose it's evolutionary to some degree to want to know someone's gender (gotta know if you can reproduce with them or not!), but I hope we're moving beyond the need to do that, particularly for contexts where it is totally unnecessary (a user manual for an iPhone, for example). It may be comforting to believe that the world is neatly divided into males and females and each has their assigned roles and responsibilities, but life/nature/existence/society/the universe is just not that simple.
2) English needs a gender-neutral third person pronoun. And I'm not talking about the dehumanizing "it." While a neutral third party—so to speak—would be very difficult to introduce into the language, it would solve a lot of problems. See here for proposed pronouns.
I'm personally in favor of ey/eir/em: "Ey went to eir favorite room in the library and picked out a book for emself." It would also be more fair to those who identify neither as male or female—"he or she" doesn't quite work for everyone. We have started to see this shift already. "They" is often used for the singular now (and has been, for a long time). If that's the best we can do—if we have to break singular/plural distinction in order to create a syntax that is less sexist, then so be it. This grammarian accepts it as the second best option short of adopting a new gender-neutral third person pronoun set. If Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Austen can do it, so can I.
Reading the Scrabble Dictionary has shown me that there are an amazing amount of words where the female version of the word is a marked subset of the original word. There are still a few marked male terms: servitor, for instance.
4) Rethink words ending with -man (chairman, mailman, boatsman—there's a ton of these) or beginning with man- (manward, manmade, manpower, manhole, mankind, manwise). I'm still thinking about how this might most easily be done. It may be different for each instance: mankind-->humankind, chairman-->chair or chairperson, manmade-->synthetic, artificial. I've come across quite a few of these words this year. Whenever I see something like "seedman," I think, "Um, other people can sell seeds too!" The etymology of man and women also has a long and sordid story, but it's clear now that man in most cases is used to refer to males, which presents the problem of exclusion.
So those are some of my thoughts, for now. Here are some others that I really, really like, too. We don't have a language police like the French do, and I don't think most people want that (too much like Orwell's 1984), including myself, so I think individuals need to decide and promote these things whenever it's reasonable. I've found that usually kind, funny reminders can help people become aware of these instances. Oddly, the thing I've had to talk to people the most about is the phrase "throwing like a girl." I remind them that I was an all-star softball player when I was in junior high, and once I got hit in the mouth by a softball—a line drive, hit by a girl—and I assure you, it was not just a little funny bonk in the face. My braces-lined teeth had to be torn and wrenched from the inside skin of my lips, and they bled like crazy.
Those who gripe about the difficulties of being politically correct may not understand that to be inclusive is to be mature enough to understand that there are more people out there than just your particular subset of humanity.
Now, on to this week's words!
⚛ Units of the Week
Scudo: a former Italian coin
Semis: a coin of ancient Rome
Sen: a monetary unit of Japan
Sene: a monetary unit of Samoa
Sengi: a monetary unit of Zaire
Seniti: a monetary unit of Tonga
Sente: a monetary unit of Lesotho
Senti: a former monetary unit of Tanzania
Sentimo: a monetary unit of the Philippines
Ser: a unit of weight of India
Sesterce: a coin of ancient Rome
Sextarii: ancient Roman units of liquid measure
!!! Unexpected Words of the Week
Schlub: a stupid or unattractive person (I should do another post on all the words I've read on words for stupid or ugly people)
Schmo: a stupid person
Schmuck: a foolish or clumsy person
Sclera: the white, fibrous outer coat of the eyeball
Scofflaw: a habitual law violator
Scolex: the knoblike head of a tapeworm
Scrannel: a thin person
Scrod: a young cod
Sculch: clean trash
Scut: a short tail, as of a rabbit
Secpar: a parsec
Seel: to stitch closed the eyes of, as a falcon during training
Seg: one who advocates racial segregation (huh?)
Semihobo: a person having some of the characteristics of a hobo (but not all!)
Serow: an Asian antelope (I swear, this has been the year of the antelope)
Setenant: a postage stamp that differs in design from others in the same sheet
Sett: the burrow of a badger
Shadchan: a Jewish marriage broker
Shadrach: a mass of unfused material in the hearth of a blast furnace
♡ Favorite Words of the Week
Scend: to rise upward, as a ship on a wave
Schlock: inferior merchandise
Schlump: to go about lazily or sloppily dressed
Schmalz: excessive sentimentality
Schmeer: to bribe
Schmooze: to gossip
Schnook: an easily deceived person
Schnoz: the nose
Seiche: an oscillation of the surface of a lake or landlocked sea
Selfhood: the state of being an individual person
Semiotic: a general theory of signs and symbolism