Posted by: episystechpubs | July 19, 2013

Editor’s Corner: I’m a cave dweller, not a caveman, thank you very much.

I’m probably going to regret this, but today I’d like to share some items from a list I found on the topic of gender-neutral terms. I know there are those out there who are tired of hearing the latest “politically correct” terms—I am sometimes torn about them myself. While I don’t feel like I could work a “man hour,” I always laugh when I am told “You are not a diabetic, you are a person with diabetes.” Honestly, after 36 years of injections and blood tests, I don’t care what you call me—diabetic, pin cushion, junkie—it doesn’t really change the fact that my pancreas doesn’t work.
I’ve selected just a few of these terms from a long list, based on my curiosity and personal amusement. I hope they open your eyes as they did mine. Happy Friday!
Following is a list of gender-specific words and terms with their recommended gender-neutral equivalents.

Instead of this… Use this… Examples and commentary
boss man, boss lady boss, supervisor “Hey boss, you want anchovies wit’ dat?”
brakeman (bobsled) brake operator I get upset when I am trying to stop my bobsled and Shane calls me a “brakeman” instead of a “break operator,” but if he calls me a “conductor’s assistant” one more time I’m jumping off when we reach top speed.
brakeman (train) conductor’s assistant
Dutchman Dutch person <Cue sounds of a stormy sea> The sailors spoke quietly of the phantom ship of legends; the vessel that was doomed to sail the seas forever without ever reaching port. It was with great reverence that they spoke of this ship, The Flying Dutch Person.
fall guy scapegoat Something tells me that the ‘80s show, The Fall Guy, wouldn’t have lasted five years had it been named The Scapegoat.
Johnny-on-the-spot prompt person, right-on-time Exchanging “Johnny-on-the-spot” with “prompt person, right-on-time” just sucks all the life out of that description for me.
king-size huge, very large Mmm…no more “King Size.” It’s the new “Huge, Very Large Size” Kit Kat!
masterpiece great work of art Wow. I’d never taken the word “masterpiece” apart and considered it a piece of art that only a “master” could create. And even these days, the masters in guilds can be male or female, such as master weavers. I don’t think calling something “a great work of art” means quite the same thing as calling it a masterpiece.
mother lode main vein “I’ve hit the main vein!” Local prospectors mistakenly arrested for yelling about shooting smack.
penmanship handwriting Hmmm. Another word (penmanship) that I’d never considered weighted toward one gender over the other.
prodigal son returning child The prodigal son – memorable story from the bible. The returning child – common story of today’s college graduates.
snowman snow person “In the meadow we can build a snow person And pretend that he is Parson Brown.”
I wonder how many snowmen and snowwomen have been offended by this oversight in the past?
taskmaster supervisor, tyrant Taking away “taskmaster” also takes away the umph behind the message. “Geez, that Fran in Sales is a real supervisor!”
toastmaster, toastmistress toast maker Okay, Toastmasters! Time to change your name to “The Toast Makers.”
Uncle Sam U.S., United States Yeah, I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Kara Church
Senior Technical Editor


  1. […] a year ago, I sent out a list of gender-neutral job titles (Editor’s Corner – July 19, 2013). While researching a question from one of you about non-neutral titles, I ended up at the same […]

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