“She,” “He,” Coexistence, and Bastardy

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Before proposing a solution for the sex bias problems inherent in the generic use of the pronoun he, Spencer (see record 1990-58427-001) reviews some efforts to solve the problem. The attempted solutions are evaluated as “not an improvement ... awkward... jarring ... disturbing” (p. 782), In one case, Spencer notes that coauthors of a book “slip up” twice. To avoid the difficulties and the accompanying unpleasant experiences, Spencer suggests the use of co: “The form is derived from an old Indo-European common form for both male and female English pronouns” (p. 783). While arguing for the “goodness of fit” (p. 783) of co. Spencer acknowledges that “there is currently one exception in our language to this meaning of co-coed, in which the form has been bastardized and debased from its source” (p. 783). A clinical psychologist is assuredly not an expert in psycholinguistics, but one could reasonably argue the following: The concept of bastardy with all of its connotative meaning, including debased, derives from patriarchal, patrilineal, male primary societies and history. In short, it is a sexist concept. Ours is a difficult language to use and avoid the expression of bias. Perhaps we ought to be gentler with those who are trying. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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