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206Reviews Rosalie Maggio. The Nonsexist Word Finder: A Dictionary of Gender-Free Usage, xiv + 210 pp. Phoenix: Oryx, 1987. $19.95. Reprinted New York: Harper & Row, 1989. $9.95. Samuel Johnson declared early in the Preface to his great Dictionary: "Every language has . . . its improprieties and absurdities, which it is the duty of the lexicographer to correct or proscribe" [I]. But later, with further reaching influence, he protested himself to be among those "who do not form, but register the language; who do not teach men how they should think, but relate how they have hitherto expressed their thoughts" [9]. In The Nonsexist Word Finder Rosalie Maggio separates herself from Johnsonian lexicographers as she aims not to register the language but to assist men and women to "scrap outdated, stereotypical, and unrealistic sexist terminology" (xiii). Conscious of language as both an active social force and a historical and cultural artifact and concerned with its effects on those who use it and those who are described by it, she is not concerned to record what has been but to shape what ought to be. Perhaps because Maggio is an editor rather than a lexicographer , or, more simply, because her purpose is to turn writers and speakers toward use of a gender-free language, her work is not only prescriptive rather than descriptive but also active rather than passive. In every entry she evaluates forms and usages, suggests alternative words, and rules on the advisability of replacing one term with another. Through her guidance the attentive reader is enabled to become similarly active in making socially-correct linguistic decisions. The entries in this work are arranged alphabetically but are usually not defined. They function primarily as a list of terms to be rejected because of their role in partitioning the world into maleness and femaleness. Generally, therefore, the inclusion of a word, term, or phrase identifies it as one that users should either delete from their speech and writing or adapt to gender-free reference. The standard entry follows the Reviews207 head word with one or several non-sexist alternatives: gag man gag writer, comedian. temptress tempter. Many words that are not gender-linked appear, however, because Maggio fears their being conidered sexist. Over seven pages contain entries beginning with man, from man about town to man the barricades! Many of these appear precisely in order to be identified as nonsexist, e.g., manacle, management, mandarin, and mandate. Maggio is careful to explain all words that mislead through their forms, clarifying their meaning and use: Isle of Man "Man" is thought to come from a Celtic word meaning "mountain"; it has nothing to do with human beings. Manhattan nonsexist; it comes from an Indian word meaning "island." person not a sexist term; "son" is part of the Latin "persona" meaning "human being." patriot/patriotic man or woman. Although these words come from the Latin meaning "land of my father," they are functionally nonsexist today. In its treatment of gender-linked terms the work is balanced and restrained. Recognizing for example that some language may be inescapably gender-linked because the behavior it describes is gender-specific or because the term is legally fixed, Maggio warns: "Be sensitive about rewriting history. Fathers of the Church were men. . . . Many compounds with -man ... are historically accurate" (172). Frequently she discusses her entries before or in addition to ruling on them, producing a compilation of mini-essays on the origin and meaning of words. 208Reviews father figure role model, fatherfigure and motherfigure. "Father figure" has a very specific meaning and should be retained even though the potentially parallel term "mother figure" is not used very often .... There does not seem to be any galloping sexism behind the fact that we use "father figure" but don't use "mother figure." jointress this is a very specific British legal term; leave as is until it is changed or replaced. The work is generally as free of female sexism as of male, although the author's voice appears at its most decisive in rejection of sexist terminology for women. So Maggio exercises a sharper tone on terms she judges to diminish women than those specific to men: ladykin this is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 206-220
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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