Member Rara Avis
I'm not sure I can agree, Ed. Just because a language is already vibrant doesn't mean it shouldn't change. More importantly, I think those who have been victimized by stereotyping and prejudice have a very valid complaint. How we talk and write impacts how we think, which obviously, in turn, impacts how we act towards others.
The other night I heard I a commercial promoting some fancy new drug, at the conclusion of which they gave the mandatory list of possible side-effects. "XYZ may, in some cases, cause such-and-such in African-Americans." In my lifetime, blacks have undergone numerous name-changes, and apparently we still can't quite get it right. Unless, of course, the copywriter was suggesting the side-effects don't apply to European or Canadian blacks? Yet, in spite of the confusion, can anyone really doubt that the more disparaging labels are a festering wound in our language that needs to be healed? Words have power.
I sincerely wish gender discrimination could be eliminated from our language, as perhaps one step in eliminating it from our society. I just don't think it's possible. Unlike race or class, gender is too deeply ingrained into our sex-driven genes, and I don't believe we can ever truly "think" of another human except as a he or she. Larry Niven, a writer renown for his ability to create detailed science fiction worlds, once wrote a whole novel about an intelligent species composed of three genders. It was a great story, but when I closed the book, I still could think only in terms of he and she, with everything else just a mixture of the two.
Oh, and your workmate?
In California, my best friend's wife developed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and like prejudice, it's not an issue that should be trivialized. OCD, if left untreated, destroys lives.