The Move to Change the English Language
and How We Write and Speak
Barbara Brabec’s rebellious thoughts
in protest to this movement, adapted from
her July 2021 Brabec Bulletin and now expanded.
In an article for Hillsdale College in July 2021, author and host of the Mark Steyn Show called America “Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization.” In that writing, he addressed several topics of great concern to me, but the one that hit me with a wallop was how our country’s very language is now at risk. “If we don’t take back the language, we will lose the truth,” he said.
I was stunned to read in that month’s Newsmax magazine that grammar authorities want to change the spelling of 18 percent of the words we use, to make it “easier for students.” A new “Traditional Spelling Revised” program is being designed to “speed learning in schools.” (If adopted, the word wash would become “wosh,” and love would be “luv.”)
Of course I’m not about to change the words I’ve always used in my writing. I studied English grammar books for years to learn how to be a better writer, and I’ll never stop trying to be better at my craft. Granted, my vocabulary is not that of a scholar, but I’ve been a successful communicator since I first wrote for publication in the seventies simply by using words everyone could understand and relate to. The sales of my many periodicals, magazine columns, and a dozen books prove that point.
I rebelled on one of my website pages in 2015 when I read “The Singular They is Now Officially Correct.” This was the headline of an article by Dave Brinker on January 16, 2015 that reported, “The singular they/them has been adopted as officially correct English by over 200 linguists at the American Dialect Society. The Washington Post has already integrated the new rule into its style guide.”
By then, I’d already found many ways to avoid the clumsy him/her references in my writing, proclaiming on my website then that I wasn’t about to let a bunch of linguists change my view on this topic. It’s one thing to speak this way (and here I’m as guilty as the next person), and quite another to write this way. All writers worth their salt know how to pluralize a sentence to avoid having to say “his” or “her.” I urge professional writers who care about the quality of their writing not to take the lazy way out by using the singular “they/them.”
Understand that in 2015 when this rule entered our culture, it had nothing to do with the gender issues writers and speakers are confronting today. But those of a different gender in 2015 must have loved the “singular they” grammar rule since today they all love being referred to as “they” rather than such offensive gender pronouns as he or she or man or woman.
It should come as no surprise to learn that I’m now rebelling against the cancel culture and the “PC Word/Thought Police” (blame it on my age). My ire flared when I read an online newsletter and saw a piece headlined “Say Goodbye to ‘Mum’ and Dad.” It discussed an article in Australia’s Daily Mail announcing, “Melbourne schools are urged to stop saying ‘mum or dad’ in a push to be more ‘gender inclusive.’”
To be told to stop using such common words as mother, father, sister, brother, husband, and wife is abhorrent to me. I can’t make myself dip my toes into these muddy gender-issue waters to please people I am unlikely to ever meet or know and who are certainly unlikely to come anywhere near a Christian-oriented website like mine, let alone read my memoirs, which are clearly about my late husband and mother and often bring God into the picture.
I find myself wondering now if “they” would find my fictional dog’s writing offensive as well (my current book-in-progress). The dog is a “she,” by the way, who calls her mother “Mom.”
Shortly after reading the above-mentioned article, I stumbled onto a web page informing me that there are now 64 terms that describe gender identity and expression (see below), and we need to be mindful about using the right words when addressing them if we want to be inclusive and not offend anyone. Frankly, I’m offended by all these new “gender language rules,” but who cares about my sensitive feelings?
Sexist Terminology and the PC Movement
The English language has undergone many changes in the past few decades to make people everywhere more sensitive to gender-specific pronouns and sexist terminology and language. I first got involved in this movement while writing for the arts and crafts industry in the quarterly magazine my husband and I published in the seventies. At that time, many craftsmen and craftswomen in our Artisan Crafts readership were caught up in controversial discussions about whether they had to start thinking of themselves not as a man or woman but as a “craftsperson” that was part of a national body of “craftspeople.” (Artists, designers, writers, and speakers had no problem here, but do you remember that this was when all the great actresses of that era began to be called “actors”?)
I fell into step along with all the other writers and speakers in the arts/crafts and home-business industries and began to use the new nonsexist terms in all my home-business articles and books after that. But I protested once again in mid-1995 when I got caught up in the political correctness movement.
My editorial for the May-June issue of my newsletter, The Self-Employment Survival Letter (previously known as the National Home-Business Report) opened with my satirical comments about a baker in England who decided to change the name of his product from “Gingerbread Men” to ‘Gingerbread Persons” so his cookies would be “politically correct.” I wrote then:
“I’ve about had it with the PC movement! I believe we should be tolerant of the rights of others—and I try to avoid the use of sexist language in my writing and speaking—but must we continue to mutilate our beautiful English language to satisfy the vocal PC minority? Gingerbread Men are part of our historic holiday tradition, and I, for one, refuse to bake, buy, or eat Gingerbread Persons.”
Someday I may republish that historic editorial because no one really understood then where the PC movement and the later “tolerance movement” would take us, or how much power both would gain in the new century. By the mid-nineties, it was already politically incorrect to talk about God in our government, in school, at work, and in our media—in spite of the fact that most people in America then had a strong belief in God. (By 2017, according to a Gallop poll, the percentage had dropped to 64 percent of the population. I couldn’t find any later statistics on the number of “God believers” today, but check this site for more information and trends.)
I believe we all have the right (supposedly) to live and communicate as we choose—including those misguided souls who believe God gave them the wrong sex and have tried to fix His mistake by changing their gender. As a Christian and devoted student of the Holy Bible, I am commanded by the Lord to “love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12), but I can only accept that God created all of us either male or female at birth. So I won’t be changing the way I refer to males and females in my writing or speaking.
At least we all still have the right to choose what we will read, thus anyone who doesn’t like the way I use the English language doesn’t have to read what I write or listen to a word I have to say. I am simply moving forward in this world with the attitude that while I must live IN this world, I am not OF this world.
I like what Pastor Allen Jackson said about this topic in a 2021 sermon titled “Learning to Stand: Defeating Fear” (no longer archived on his website). “Words matter,” he said. “We’re told that language evolves—and there’s some truth in that—but words have meaning, and when you hear someone manipulating the meaning of words, you need to pay attention, because they’re trying to manipulate you.”
To that I would add, don’t be afraid to stand and defend your First Amendment rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Related Article by Barbara:
Editing Checklist of Common Writing Errors. There are many things you can do to “clean up” your book manuscript prior to hiring someone to edit it. Use Barbara’s helpful checklist when you begin the copy editing and proofreading stage.
Am I Crazy? An Unapologetic Patriot Takes on the Insanity of Today’s Woke World, by Chad Prather, Host of BlazeTV’s “The Chad Prather Show.”
Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds. Michael Knowles of The Daily Wire exposes and diagnoses the losing strategy we have fallen for and shows how we can change course—and start winning.
Related Articles on the web:
64 Terms That Describe Gender Identity and Expression. This article attempts to break down what many of these terms mean and how to use them.
United Nations Guidelines for Gender Inclusive English. If you want to know how to use gender-inclusive writing, this one’s for you.
A Tutorial for using language that is clear, objective, and stereotype-free.
The history of political correctness and why it’s gone way too far, by Roberta Schaefer.
EXCERPT: “PC carried to its extreme has the capacity to destroy Western culture entirely. If the PC purity test continues to rule, then it’s time to close the libraries, the museums, the concert halls . . . and especially the universities. The only way out of the PC dilemma is to push back against the tide.”
Writing & Publishing T/C
Comments from Brabec Bulletin Subscribers on Gender Word Changes. Some of Barbara’s readers voiced their strong feelings on this topic in 2019, along with their concerns for where this movement is going.