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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

...the meaning of man...

Putting the women of the world, essentially half of the human population, linguistically aside for a moment—here is a conundrum for the stout of heart.

Ordinarily, when referring to nationalities in the English language there appears to be a valuation that may no longer be intended, but which haunts the word “man” with prejudices from the past. Consider that when referring to the nationality of the English, the French, the Dutch, and the German, one says Englishman, Dutchman, or Frenchman; and then German has the “man” built directly into it. One does not refer to an American or a South American as Americanman or South Americanman, but as an American or a South American, leaving off the “man”; which is blatantly disrespectful to all of the men of two out of the seven continents on this world. The implication is that they are not men in the fullest sense of the word, if they were, “man” would have been said.

One does not refer to the Chinese as a Chineseman, despite the fact that the Chinese comprise about twenty percent of the world population in the twenty-first century; and with “Chinaman” now universally acknowledged as an odd slur from the past which casts doubt on both the speaker for mistaking the country “China” for the nationality “Chinese”, and the Chinese who put up with it. The same holds for Spaniard, South African, Moroccan, Indian, Russian, Türkler, Norwegian, Swede, South Islander, Australian, et cetera; the English standard is to leave off “man” from the national adjective for all nationalities not located in central Europe, and the world puts up with it. The men of no other continent on earth, save Europe, are accorded the full respect which the word “man” grants to those favored Europeans on the European continent. (Incidentally, just how did Europe acquire continental status, as small as it is, and how attached it is, joined in a 180 degree arc, to a contiguous land mass?) All of this implies a pronounced (pun intended) validation of central Europeans as “men”, while others are left to claim full personhood as men as best they can.

I contend that these omissions of “man” when addressing the nationalities of the world’s majority have meaning and intent, and the intent is to deny full personhood to the persons referenced; the better to demean, exploit, and otherwise gain advantage over them. As a woman, I say let a linguistic change begin today. As a woman, I claim full personhood to myself, and I extol others to do as well. When you refer to my nationality, please courteously address me as an Americanwoman.

Caption: It Matters, Light It Up, by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018.

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