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Is "salesman" a politically incorrect word now such that in

all written business communications it...
Is "salesman" a politically incorrect word now such that in all written business communications it should be written as "salesperson?" Does that apply when the individual being written about is a man who was selling cars and had won awards for his "salesmanship"...er uh..."salespersonship" (as it were)...? In a business report that I submit, a proofreader heavily criticized my use of the word "salesman" in referring to a man already identified by name and gender previously in the report and whose job was to sell cars for a car dealership. The proofreader criticized that "salesperson" should have been the correct reference, at least in this proofreader's judgement (even though there were no female "salespersons" at this location.) Was this proofreader assuming the role of Chief of the PC Police by making such an ordeal over the term "salesman" vs. "salesperson"? Do people in this modern age (post the original PC revolution that came to a head years ago) still generally take offense to the word "salesman" when it is possible for someone in sales to be a female, therefore any reference to gender associated to occupation is offensive and wrong? And if so, would not this apply to any occupational term ending with "man", e.g. "journeyperson" vs. "journeyman" or "landperson" vs. "landman", therefore never end a occupational name with "man" because that would offend most people?
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Answered in 1 hour by:
8/6/2013
Michael Hannigan
Michael Hannigan, Consultant
Category: General
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Experience: 25+ Years in the field
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Was this proofreader assuming the role of Chief of the PC Police by making such an ordeal over the term "salesman" vs. "salesperson"?
In my opinion, yes. This is absolutely ridiculous and if the person that gave you a hard time over that could actually step back and look at their reaction, they would be embarrassed.

It's funny how the politically correct tend to determine that most things should just be different from what they were - it shows that they don't posses critical thinking skills. For example, many years ago, we would call a female actor and "actress" and a female waiter a "waitress", a female flight attendant a "stewardess". However, the terms have fallen out of favor. They are not politically correct because they designate gender. I know not everyone does this yet, but eventually they will - I call male and female actors "actors", "stewardesses" are now flight attendants, waitresses are now waiters. After all, it's wrong to distinguish between male and female.

Oh wait... that's not true. It's only wrong to use gender specific words if we didn't use them before - and if the original word happens to include man.

"Salespersonship"? Really? I suppose we could simply neuter every word in the english language. It would be in stark contrast to other Latin languages in which every noun is either feminine or masculine and adjectives are changed to match the gender of the noun/person to which they refer. And in most cases these nouns are truly gender neutral... they even have words with "feminine endings" that are "grammatically masculine" and vice versa! "el problema" and "la foto", for example. Wait - does that mean that men have more problems and most pictures are of women? No. As far as I know it means nothing at all. Imagine people that don't speak English as a native language. Not only must this be difficult for them to practice, but even to comprehend!

You will find plenty of people that will say that I am a hateful person because of this, but there is nothing grammatically incorrect about using the word salesman! This proofreader is imposing their own personal philosophies on your writing. I would consider that a breach of their fiduciary responsibility as a proofreader or proofreaderess, and declare them to be incompetent to hold that position.

Do people in this modern age (post the original PC revolution that came to a head years ago) still generally take offense to the word "salesman" when it is possible for someone in sales to be a female, therefore any reference to gender associated to occupation is offensive and wrong?
Yes. They consider anything wrong that is either distinguishes gender, but also anything that is non-gender-specific. Basically everything. It gives them purpose. It is their identity. Was your writing SO good that the proofreader or proofreaderess had to resort to the use of "salesman" to feel that they had some value? That says a lot about you and something about the self esteem of the proofreader/proofreaderess. Again, if they were to step back and look at this objectively, they would notice that it is NOT you who is making the distinction - it is them. The proofreader/proofreaderess or "proofperson"is projecting their insecurities onto your writing. Did you mean to be a biggot when you wrote the word "salesman"? It certainly doesn't sound like it. So in whos sick mind did it become something bad? In the mind of the proofperson.

And if so, would not this apply to any occupational term ending with "man", e.g. "journeyperson" vs. "journeyman" or "landperson" vs. "landman", therefore never end a occupational name with "man" because that would offend most people?

Yes and no. Yes, it will offend many people. But no, we shouldn't stop using the words with "man" in them. What about a "manhole" cover? Should we call it a "personhole cover"? A manhole is named a manhole because men go in it to work. Sure, some women do, too... but I'll bet those woman are fine calling it a manhole - maybe there are a few that hate the name but still use it. Why? Because we all compromise to fit into society in some way. And forcing us to become less able to do that certainly doesn't help us in the big picture - as a species. We've evolved over many years to have these qualities that allow us to blend socially. It is only because of the freakish minority who consciously choose to stand in judgement of people for something as malleable as words, that we are forced to suppress it. I don't believe in doing that and I don't. I may lose some things because of it - in fact, people at work these days are often shocked by any type of candor. It's ironic, since they are the same people that want to post their innermost thoughts on Facebook. But in person - it's not important what is in your head or your heart - only what is on your lips. A person could hate women... treat women like garbage... but call them a "salesperson" and they guy is somehow OK? Backwards. Shallow. Naive.

 

I hope you didn't change the word. The proofperson is wrong.

 

Mike

Michael Hannigan
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thank you very much for your well-composed answer. I believe we agree on all the points you made. I asked this question because I wanted to make sure I was on solid ground before retorting this proofreader's excessive application of supposedly established PC rules when I believe they may not be as established as the proofreader may think . I believe the proofreader's criticism of the term "salesman" was based on their personal preference to neuter all gender references in reports they proofread vs. a standard that their employer or the ultimate client imposed on reports submitted. And if the proofreader's excessive enforcement of gender neutralization turns out to be over-reaching and never called for in their job guidelines, then it will be the proof-reader who gets dinged in their performance review I will call for vs. writers who use common sense when referring to a man who sells things for a living -- a "salesman."


 


A Writing Innovation you may find helpful:


 


A similar gender dilemma occurs when writing about 3rd person actions, as in what "one" should do vs. what "he" should do or "she" should do. Sometimes using "one" to refer to every 3rd person action sounds too stiff and formal, yet using the commonly accepted "he" pronoun could invite ire from female readers for supposedly being left out of the reference. And constantly inserting "he or she" in every reference to the person doing the action gets clumsy and lengthy. One solution is to write the term "s/he" vs. "he or she" which may not currently be an actual word but will accomplish the goal without going so formal as to use the pronoun "one" or so lengthy using "he or she" everywhere in the writing. FYI

Customer reply replied 4 years ago

You have illuminated that certain words ending in "ess" (e.g. actress, stewardess, waitress) are now politically incorrect in some circles because there is a designation to gender in those references. But what about calling a group of people who may be partially or even totally comprised of females, "guys" or "you guys"...? Wouldn't that be politically incorrect too yet referring to women as "guys" or "you guys" is done quite acceptably on television (by even the PC) and across many parts of the USA, more commonly in the Northeast and Midwest? If "guys" is so acceptable a term in referring to women plurally, why is "waitress" or "actress" now so unacceptable? Are the PC being inconsistent and in many cases hypocritical if they claim it's OK to call an "actress" an "actor" and a group of women "guys" or "you guys" but not OK to call a "saleswoman" a "salesman"? Or is it just the term "man" in any word just so offensive to the PC that they must eradicate it everywhere possible, even when referring to a man who sells things, as a "salesman" vs. the PC term "salesperson."...?

I was actually a little suprised to find that the current definition of guys includes both sexes specifically. It is good to know that level headed people have some power over the official use of our vocabulary. noun1. a man or boy; fellow: He's a nice guy.2. persons of either sex; people: Could one of you guys help me with this?3. a grotesquely dressed person.

It is the word "man" that PC people find offensive. The "correct" terms for each noun include man, woman, or person where two or more (I want to be careful not to exclude anyone) genders are involved. I'm sure it hasn't even occurred to the PC that woman and women also include "man". It may be a matter of time before females are referred to as "wopersons".

I don't know why other words like actress and waitress have gone in the opposite direction of combining both into the masculine form. As I said, it seems as though it is most politically correct to express things in a way that is "different" from the way we would have expressed it previously. Many confuse "change" with "progress" and base their identity in facilitating "change" even when it doesn't make sense. The entire industry of PCness is based solely on change, not progress or common sense.

I suppose "guys" is a perfect.example of this. A term so exceedingly masculine that even sensible people question if its appropriate to use it in cases of mixed gender. And sure enough the definition has changed to make it more inclusive. Very strange people are.

Mike
Michael Hannigan
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