The feminist assault on the English language

In 1965 I stopped working for Department of Defense think tanks and became a professor at Temple University. One of my contractual obligations — right in the middle of anti—ROTC demonstrations and of protests against the Vietnam war — was to teach graduate and undergraduate courses on the politics of national defense.

Political correctness wasn't in full vogue forty years ago. But when I bemoaned "man's inhumanity to man" during my first seminar on civil—military relations, a female student, who admitted she had never heard that corny quotation before, chastised me for not having uttered that immortal phrase 'persons' inhumanity to persons' instead.

Later, I went to a reception at the Philadelphia Public Library for local authors who had published trade books in the previous year. At the bar I greeted two fellow writers with 'I'm so pleased to meet you ladies.' Their response was 'We're women, not ladies!' And my response to their response was 'You're right. You're NOT ladies!"

Then there is the matter of Ms. In my day and in my profession, Ms. was the abbreviation for manuscript, not the proper title for addressing a woman. I have never understood why feminists and politically correct males, when they decided to push Mrs. out of common usage, did not adopt Miss for both married and unmarried women. After all, they still use Mr. to refer to both married and unmarried men.

But none of the above linguistic nonsense has infuriated me as much as 'The Chair' or 'The Chairperson.' The continuing degenderization of American English has dismayed me. For example, one meeting of Temple's faculty senate had to be adjourned before it really began because a physics professor kept referring to the presiding officer, a sociologist, as 'Madame Chairwoman,' and she insisted on being addressed as 'The Chair' or 'The Chairperson.'

One reason why English is the most sought—after second language in the world is that, compared to other tongues, it is highly neutered, But the radical feminists and purveyors of political correctness have all but succeeded in making it gender—free. Not only have they banished the words 'chairman' and 'chairwoman' from academia, but they've moved their mangled grammar and word usage from our campuses to our radio stations, television channels, and manufacturing plants.

Thus, hip Americans in all walks of life avoid using 'he,' 'she,' 'him,' and 'her.' Rather than say 'anyone who wants to, should take his or her complaint to the manager,' they mix singular and plural possessive adjectives and now say 'anyone with a complaint should take THEM to the manager.' Similarly, the manual for my new TV's headset reads 'The transmitter will allow the [singular] wearer to turn their [plural] head.'

With a wife, a daughter, and a daughter—in—law in the professions, and with four granddaughters who dream of careers in medicine and science, I cannot fail to be a believer in guaranteed equal opportunity (but not guaranteed equal results) for everyone, one who wishes success, status, and high salaries for all the women in my life. But nothing that they can ever say, and nothing that they can ever do, will make me accept the bastardization of English or prevent me from calling a woman a 'lady' or 'ma'am,' a Southern usage that I learned in graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

And since I still write, publish, and lecture about war and peace, neither will they or anyone else will ever stop me from deploring 'man's inhumanity to man' whenever I feel the urge to do so.

Edward Bernard Glick is a professor emeritus of political science at Temple University in Philadelphia.