chairman

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chairman

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Dec 17, 2004 6:21 pm

Now a fact the word was never gender conscious as the vast majority of our English comes from Greek or Roman derivation, for the word comes from 'manus' the hand or handle. Hence we have the handler of the chair, or the hand controlling the chair. No gender. Sorry fellow readers though this may help the kiwi. A P.S. lets not change manager manipulate manoeuvre or any such words.
Submitted by william holloway (west woombye - Australia)
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chairman

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Jan 01, 2005 9:26 pm

William, Interesting supposition, but bogus. The prefix ‘man-’ does derive from Latin ‘manus,’ hand, which does relate to hand in such words as ‘manual,’ ‘manufacture’ ‘manuscript,’ ‘manage,’ and ‘manner.’ Of course ‘man’ can also mean ‘human being’ in such words as ‘mankind’ and ‘woman’ [‘wif,’ wife + ‘man’ (human being)]. However, the suffix ‘-man’ as in ‘chairman’ is another story and means ‘adult male person’ and has since about the 10th century (when it replaced the Old English ‘wer’ for male person; ‘wif’ was female person; ‘man’ was human being). Such words as ‘chairman,’ ‘foreman,’ ‘seaman,’ ‘fisherman,’ ‘boatman,’ ‘clergyman,’ ‘layman,’ ‘nobleman,’ and more recently ‘postman,’ ‘policeman,’ ‘crewman,’ ‘anchorman,’ serviceman,’ etc., specifically meant ‘adult male person’ when they first appeared. However, starting in the 1970s the PC movement made large numbers of such designations unacceptable and in many instances the word ‘man’ was replaced by person. In some instances things got carried to what some people considered extremes, such as when in 1990 the mayor of Los Angles banned sexist terms from city reports and ‘manhole’ became ‘maintenance hole,’ ‘mankind’ became ‘people or humanity, ‘manned’ became ‘staffed,’ and ‘chairman’ became ‘chairperson.’
<1654 “I sate chief, and was CHAIR-MAN.”—‘Comments of Job’ by Trapp, xxix. page 25>

<1660-1 “To come . . . to this place . . . where Sir G. Downing (my late master) was CHAIRE~MAN.”—‘Dairy’ by Pepys, 22 January>

<1697 “This day the parliament mett here, the earl of Oxford CHAIRMAN.”—‘A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs' (1857) by Luttrell, IV. page 254>
(New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Garner’s Modern American Usage, Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins, Random House and Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionaries, Oxford English Dictionary)
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Ken G – December 19, 2004
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