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Old 08-14-2007, 05:25 AM   #1
dthomsen8
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Default Actor Audrey Hepburn

Was Audrey Hepburn an actor? Maybe saying she was a fine actress back when she was active was politically acceptable back then, and now we must change to modern usage and call her an actor.

We seem to have given up on personholes and the like, but avoiding sexism is still with us. What do you think?

By the way, only by reading a biography did I learn that her mother was a Dutch baroness, but yes, her father was English. Obviously, no connection with the other famous Hepburn of the time.
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Old 08-14-2007, 07:08 AM   #2
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We seem to have given up on personholes and the like, but avoiding sexism is still with us. What do you think?
What if I am referring to ancestors that are all female? Then can I call them "ancestresses?" Might be better to state, "our female ancestors." At times English doesn't seem real elegant, but it always was for Shakespeare. My philosophy is, when in doubt, use a metaphor. But does gender neutral idiom work in non-English languages? If not, then what? Hmm--I've got enough stuff to work out today already.

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Old 08-14-2007, 07:33 AM   #3
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Dave:

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avoiding sexism is still with us
It's news to me that calling someone an 'actress' could ever be interpreted as 'sexist'; Audrey Hepburn was undoubtedly a woman, not a man. I'm not sure that she was one of 'Mr Rank's young ladies', but if she was, calling her one of 'Mr Rank's young men' would have attracted law suits from both Mr Rank and Ms Hepburn.

   
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Old 08-14-2007, 03:32 PM   #4
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Default Female actors

There are plenty of references in the public press to actors who are undoubtedly women. Is this a correct usage, actor Jane Doe, or are some writers trying to be politically correct instead?
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Old 08-14-2007, 04:08 PM   #5
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Dave:

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There are plenty of references in the public press to actors who are undoubtedly women
Unless you're convinced that actresses are necessarily inferior to actors, I can't see that there's any 'correctness' in describing them by the same word: it's just part of our language to describe women that act as 'actresses' and men that act as 'actor'. In some languages they've got different words for members of the two sexes practising the same profession in every profession, but English has them only in some professions.

   
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Old 08-15-2007, 06:55 AM   #6
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It is curious that languages with feminine and masculine case endings for nouns seem less bothered with gender politics in grammar than in English, where there is none.

There seems to be a vogue in the UK for using 'them' instead of 'he or she'; and 'their' for 'his or her'. Obviously, this leeds to a jarring number disagreement. I mischievously offer the pronoun 'it' as an alternative, where people insist.

In Italian, a mixed group is masculine, as is a person of unspecified gender. No Italian feminist (if there is such a thing!) has ever felt the need to contest this.

People who change words to avoid causing offence usually miss the point: words are labels for ideas. If you change the word, the old idea gets latched to the new word. If people use one word perjoratively, then giving them a new word simply means they will use that one perjoratively too.

By the same token, several social groups have re-appropriated words originally used as insults to them.

Frankly, it would seem to be a very strange state of affairs for a woman to feel that being referred to as a woman is offensive! <hides below parapet>
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Old 08-15-2007, 08:09 AM   #7
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Ben:

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It is curious that languages with feminine and masculine case endings for nouns seem less bothered with gender politics in grammar than in English, where there is none.
There has been a change in attitudes even in some of those coutries too; for instance, in Germany and France it is no longer customary to address grown women of any age as 'Fraülein' and 'Mademoiselle': instead, it's now always 'Frau' and 'Madame', unless the female in question has obviously not yet reached the age of puberty. But they never break grammatical rules. I read somewhere about a Frenchwoman, 'un Ministre' in the government, who demanded to be known as 'Madame, la Ministre' (ministre is masculine), but apparently that didn't go down at all well with her civil servants.

I write many rules and regulations without going out of my way to avoid calling a member he or him, instead of 'he or she' or 'him or her' (without incurring the wrath of my mostly female colleagues), but I do use 'members' and 'they' or 'them' wherever possible.

   
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Old 08-15-2007, 11:18 AM   #8
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There are plenty of references in the public press to actors who are undoubtedly women. Is this a correct usage, actor Jane Doe, or are some writers trying to be politically correct instead?
In reality, this is part of a complex subject. It has to do with promoting social agendas and also marketing. I mean I could even tie it in with the legal community giving up the concept of English natural law in favor of judicial activism. Is that when it all started.....hmm, nah, I think it all began with universities.

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Old 08-16-2007, 05:34 AM   #9
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Today everyone is a social engineer -- politicians, judges, journalists, professors, intellectuals, etc. The theory is, that like Hegel's view of history, society is in a state of evolution. But we can't just let it evolve according to chance. We will get intelligent results by controlling it intelligently. So society has to be engineered -- like for raising children, it takes more than a family, but a village (as Hillary Clinton says).

So whether gender neutral language is correct does not depend on the logic of linguistics but that of the social agenda it is being used for. But even that agenda can be stated in completely different ways with various objectives.

I knew a college student from Indonesia once. She had strong feelings about gender neutral language in English. To some extent, I think its acceptance depends on culture. She may have had reasons for her feelings I didn't know about.

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Old 08-19-2007, 04:33 PM   #10
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Bev:

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I am, however, holding strong against the use of "courriel", the Academie Française artificial concoction for "e-mail"
E-mail is a badly constructed term in English (it should have been e-message: e-mails are not delivered by the Royal Mail, US Mail, TNT, etc.), and courriel is just as bad in French. Faraday, who was self-educated, had the sense to consult an expert in Latin and Greek, who proposed terms like ion, cation, anion, cathode, and anode for Faraday's novel concepts, and they're used happily by every European today.

   
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