Posted by Dennis » 4 Comments »
Reviewing Donald Lateiner’s update of Macauley’s Herodotus in the BMCR, David C. Noe has this to say:
“[T]here dwell in the skirts of lofty mountains men who are said to be all bald-headed from their birth, male and female equally…” (205).
The problem with this of course is that, as English usage has changed, “men” no longer regularly stands for “mankind,” which is itself considered by many outmoded, archaic, and even offensive. That realization renders the appositive “male and female” even more ridiculous. It would have been better to replace “men” with people or mankind.
To which I say, ‘nonsense.’ Literally. “[T]here dwell in the skirts of lofty mountains mankind who are said to be all bald-headed from their birth, male and female equally…?”
If you have Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence, check out 81 ff. under ‘A digression on a word.’ You’ll find a man (who happens to be male) making good sense about language. It reads in part:
it is unwise to give up a long-established practice, familiar to all, without reviewing the purpose it has served. In Genesis we read: “and God created man, male and female.” Plainly, in 1611 and long before, man meant human being.
Barzun rightly defends man not only for its history (with ample examples) but for its usefulness and facility in a number of situations. Those who choose to be offended, or are offended out of sheer ignorance, shouldn’t dictate every text in our possession. Stop the inanity.
If you’re interested, the original Greek follows:
Διεξελθόντι δὲ καὶ τῆς τρηχέης χῶρον πολλὸν οἰκέουσι ὑπωρείην ὀρέων ὑψηλῶν ἄνθρωποι λεγόμενοι εἶναι πάντες φαλακροὶ ἐκ γενετῆς γινόμενοι, καὶ ἔρσενες καὶ θήλεαι ὁμοίως, καὶ σιμοὶ καὶ γένεια ἔχοντες μεγάλα, φωνὴν δὲ ἰδίην ἱέντες, ἐσθῆτι δὲ χρεώμενοι Σκυθικῇ, ζώοντες δὲ ἀπὸ δενδρέων.
Men, both and male (men) and female (men) alike. The Greek ἄνθρωπος means precisely what English man means: human being. Man is the native English word, while human is really an adjective (humanus) derived from Latin homo (which is equivalent to man and ἄνθρωπος as a non-gendered term for the human animal). To reject man as sexist is as silly as to reject history or promote herstory.