Column by Emmett Harris.
Exclusive to STR
Earlier this year, legislators in Washington state engaged in an emotional orgy of fatuity by passing a bill to erase 40,000 words from the overstuffed bindings of their state statutes. Given the sacrosanct pronouncements that, among other things, forbid the use of x-rays in the realm of shoe fitting, one might find it shocking that any of the verbiage could be safely be removed. After all, we're not talking about mere county hijinks, where you'd expect a law making it a felony to annoy Sasquatch or any of the creature's crypto-compatriots; we're talking about state laws. That's where our overlords get down to the real business of serving the public, and the Washington crew didn't disappoint. They're serving by severing -- and what they're severing is a whole host of degenerate, gender-biased language.
This yeoman's effort took six long years to manage. State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles sponsored the new mandate. “Mankind means man and woman,” she said, which is why we must remove “man” from our vocabulary.
Washington wasn't the first state to man-up. Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois legislatures fathered the idea and many other states are at various stages of unmanliness. Apparently, grammatical castration is the trendy talisman statists adore.
Washington's Code Reviser's Office is manned by 40 bureaucrats, who mindlessly set about pruning the offending combinations of letters. The word “freshman” is among the casualties. It's replacement: “first-year.” While sophomore, junior, and senior will likely be acquitted of maniacal overtones, their usage may also be replaced by the wordier replacements “second-year,” “third-year,” and “fourth-year.” Such manipulated language ends up being drab and lifeless, the government buildings of lexicography.
The task is daunting, since the code revisers must examine each specimen of 40,000 sections of code. They're tired but managing. They've already faced down the intimidating signalman. In its place we are left with “signal operator.” Ah, signal operator . . . doesn't it sound more inclusive? It's a long overdue remedy to patriarchy. Let the atonement begin!
Fisherman too is no more. The sanitized term is now “fisher.” Piscicapturist was in the running, but the revisers could never agree on whether it meant one who catches fish or one who collects urine samples. Similarly, fireman has been supplanted by the omnisexual “firefighter.” Speaking of fighters, the military in the state, ironically gets to keep “seaman,” despite the word's overtly male homonym.
Gone are sexist terms such as “penmanship” and “journeyman.” They have been replaced by the less-lordly alternatives “handwriting” and “journey-level.” Use of the former will be limited to male chauvinists trying to romanticize a bygone era of information dominance.
According to Liz Watson of the National Women's Law Center, this isn't just semantics. "This is important in changing hearts and minds." And perhaps changing – or rather controlling – minds is the purpose behind this maneuver.
Like other forms of politically correct societal gerrymandering, the effort to neuter vocabulary imposes a form of self-censorship. Forming thoughts becomes the equivalent of walking through a minefield. Germane words are countermanded by an internal watchman screaming, “Stop! You can't use that.” Thus, the act of thinking will be avoided, since the danger of thinking will be manifest.
I would be willing to bet Senator Kohl-Welles imagines herself a champion of the little guy . . . er, gal, a helmsman leading the ship of state into more female-friendly, androgynous waters. She's not. Her limbic linguistics are simply a form of necromancy that will not advance the cause of women. Instead, her efforts will further the enslavement of both sexes, as we all are forced into the mold of unthinking mannequin.