cover image Grammar and Gender

Grammar and Gender

Dennis E. Baron, Author Yale University Press $35 (249p) ISBN 978-0-300-03526-1

Male linguists once struggled mightily to trace the word woman to the phony folk root woe is man. For the origins of lass, they turned to an Icelandic word meaning weak. If this seems to reek of sexism and make the blood boil, so will dozens of examples found in this historical survey of the roots of sexism in the English language. Baron, author of Grammar and Good Taste, can be maddeningly noncommittal. Is Ms. a useful coinage? Do gender-neutral terms like chairperson and salesperson deserve to survive ridicule? What should be done about constructions such as ""Everyone loves his or her mother''? Even though Baron puts forward no solutions of his own, he makes a valuable contribution to the politics of linguistics by setting these and other controversies in a historical context. He also looks at enterprising feminist word coiners. His scholarly book is fun to read. (February)