In any case it is politically correct not to use man as generic
in politically correct company.
What we need is some genius to invent terms for the generic and the third
person singlar that politically correct people will accept, as they did with
Ms, which, I notice, seldom gets used anymore.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:26 PM
Subject: Re: 'Tyger' and 'Vrka' (Was: 'Mind forged menacles' (sic) and
> As your own quotation shows, what Keats said is about the ability to let
> characters speak from very different perspectives without forcing unity.
> To be precise, what he said in his letter of December 1817 was the
> following: "what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially
> in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously--I mean
> Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in
> uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after
> fact & reason. . . . "
> That is not about everyone spelling individually--or ignoring linguistic
> conventions that both allow meaning and make possible the meanings in
> deviation. Keats. like Eliot, followed spelling conventions.
> That is not what Eliot said either. He said "But, of course, only those
> who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape
> from these things." Escape is quite different from transcend.
> And, I'm sorry, but in fact "man" is not at all generic in modern
> English. It was in Anglo-Saxon, but its modern meaning is the adult
> male exclusive of the female (with the "generic" as a secondary
> meaning--exactly the opposite.) So the assumption is that it means two
> totally opposing things: males AND females---and males BUT NOT females.
> That is why "all men are created equal" never was construed to mean
> women could vote or hold property or have rights to their own children
> or the money they earned or credit. It meant what was convenient.
> That is also why it is no longer accepted by most grammars. (See
> McGraw-Hill Guide to Equal Treatment of the Sexes.) Moreover, the
> notion that it is "generic" in some grammatical sense was thought up by
> 17th and 18th Century grammarians (all men who, oddly, did not see
> irony) who claimed that the male was the "more inclusive."
> Keats and Eliot would have been taught that "man" was a grammatical
> choice, but we now know it was a political and gender choice having
> nothing at all to do with grammar. So I do not consider it excusable
> because it is just bloody rude (I don't at all mean you intended to be
> rude, but the claim just is--I am not in it, and I find that insulting.)
> Even though it meant all humans in the Anglo-Saxon period, they also
> had words for men and women: werman and wifman or male man and female
> man. So there was then a "generic" as a third choice. Now there is only
> a choice of a male or a female term, and the male is not inclusive. See
> the OED. (One might--on the absurdist theory of "inclusive"--insist
> that we use only the generic "woman" because we do now know that all
> embryos are female initially. But I have never known of any woman silly
> enough to reverse 17thC gender bias.)
> OED Man II:
> An adult male person
> a. with special reference to sex.
> Lear: "Let not women's weapons, water drops staine my mans cheekes."
> -----now why cannot those terms be transposed?
> b. generically (without article: cf II) the male human being
> You praise him elaborately for his continuing claims to that effect--you
> don't name them; you respond to the posts in which he says them with
> endless thanks.
> >>> [log in to unmask] 04/08/06 3:06 PM >>>
> Negative Capability -- a dramatic virtue discerned by Keats in
> Shakespeare --
> he (Shakespeare) had the capability to impersonate (identify with) an
> Iago as well an Imogen, a Shylock as well as a Portia, an Edgar as well
> as an Edmund. This capability did not obliterate his own individual
> self/identity or his capability to be himself. But, as TSE observed,
> only a man who has a personality knows how to transcend it and be
> Except for the point, the
> still point,
> There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
> Likewise, only a man (I may be excused for using the generic term) who
> knows his language (has control over his linguistic skills) is competent
> enough to take liberties with his language. My admiration of Peter's
> elucidation was limited to this aspect only. Maybe both of you converge
> on this point.
> Now where have I praised 'his commitment to not "knowing" any
> particular "language" that is consistent' ?
> ~ CR
> Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote: As it happens, that is not what
> "negative capability is about." Nor is
> Eliot's theory of impersonality, though I fail to see how it is combined
> with "control." But as you seem to be completely in agreement with
> Tabitha and me and contradicting Peter since you focus on the "liberty"
> with language of "a man" who "knows" it, why are you praising his
> commitment to not "knowing" any particular "language" that is
> consistent? "Taking liberties" with something already there is, of
> course, the point, minus the assumption of language being a male
> >>> [log in to unmask] 04/08/06 9:18 AM >>>
> I'm also reminded of Keats' "Negative Capability"
> in the context of Shakespeare. It's not a case of
> one's being a turncoat, a scarecrow that turns with
> every wind. Only a man who knows his language
> can take liberties with the language.
> Thanks again.
> ~ CR
> cr mittal wrote:
> Thanks, Peter, for your superb elucidation of
> "mind-forged manacles" vis-a-vis spellings.
> Your closing observation
> Is there a fear of loss of power through loss of control here?
> Dare we let ordinary people take back the language for themselves?
> Guess what? It doesn't matter. They're doing it anyway.
> reminds me of TSE's concept of Impersonality/Control.
> ~ CR
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