poetesses & plurals (was Korean Shamanism)

Sat, 4 Nov 1995 09:46:18 +1200

A small reality check, please. Am I out of step with the trends of change?
Or what the meanings of the change mean, so to speak?

Ruby says we *no longer* use poetess, etc. (And here in NZ that also
applies to actor/actoress, which often tricks me; has that change become
general in the US yet?) Then Jim applauds that comment and says let's keep
their a plural and somebody in the middle says to hang in there with
mankind. (all copied below)

I would think that the first two things move in opposite directions. We
*dropped* poetess to stop making an issue of the gender of the individual
writing the poem. Whether that information is relevant to, say,
recognizing the experience behind the words, and would aid understanding, I
suppose varies with the poem and the individual. But to drop use of their
as a singular as well as a plural certainly means noting gender in many
cases where it is irrelevant and specifying one, the other or the dread
s/he (for us lip readers that's a pain) where gender is actually unknown.
Apart from irrelevant gender info, no information is lost, since the verb
tells us the number.

As to "mankind" how is this related, except that the syllable "man"
happens to be in shaman? Either the middle speaker is speaking in an
opposite direction from Ruby--specify gender vs drop exlusionary gender
specificty in nouns--or we are back to the issue of whether the -man in
shaman refers to a male, which (as I understood Dr Foss to point out) seems
remote, as it's from a rather different language. But that was an earlier
strand of this thread.

As I have frayed the ends of the thread already, could I just take this
opportunity to say how totally annoying I find the use of herstory? istoria
is a Greek word that picked up the h in transliteration due to the rough
breathing mark (sorry--can't do it on-line) and doesn't break into a
masculine his + story.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Or should I say breast? Or
maybe chreast?


>>On Nov 2, Ruby Rohrlich wrote:
>>>Why "shamaness"? A shaman is a shaman is a shaman. If you want to
>>>distinguish a shaman by sex, use the word denoting sex, like "male" or
>>>"female". We no longer use poetess, authoress, etc., and never have used
>>>"doctoress." Ruby Rohrlich
>>Hurrah Ruby, I agree! Above applies to words like "mankind" as well.
>Now, if we could only agree that 'their' is a plural pronoun and takes a
>plural verb...
>What's more, if we could only agree that 's (apostrophe+s) indicates
>possession, not the plural...
>Finally, if we could all agree that 'And' should not be used to begin a
>Then what? Would the meaning of what I write be any clearer? Would the
>grammar police stop giving so many citations? Would my thinking pass
>Just a thought.
>Jim Martin
>901 Pump Rd, 193
>Richmond, VA 23233
>(804) 740-0170 home
>(804) 786-5188 work