My Father Is a Firefighter;
He Is a Fireman—Both Valid and Correct
(On Linguistic Choice's being a Personal Preference that Should Still Be Rooted in Logic)
by aLfie vera mella
The etymology of some words could be really absurd and sometimes illogical, but using such words doesn't make us incorrect. In the same manner that if a user wants to look for some word alternatives, then that should be also okay.
To me, my basic guideline in my use of words in any of my writings is...I just check first via reliable dictionaries if the word I'm going to use is already official. In case of political correctness, I sometimes use a better alternative and that should be also fine.
For example, if someone uses the word 'mailman,' that should remain valid. But, personally, I don't use 'mailman'; I rather prefer 'mail courier' or 'mail messenger' just to promote gender neutrality. But I will still use 'mailman' if I am really specifically referring to a male mail courier. For example, "My uncle is a mailman." Or, "My mother is a mailwoman." Or, it is also correct to say "My uncle is a mail courier" or "My mother is a mail courier." But of course, it would be wrong to say "My mother is a mailman" or "My auntie is a fireman." One should be more sensitive than that--just use "mail courier" or "firefighter" instead.
Or, if I'm speaking in general: "The mail courier delivers mails in our area only on Tuesdays and Fridays." (Because here where I live, sometimes the mail courier is a man, sometimes a woman.)
The idea is, we have a freedom of choice concerning which form or style of words we want to use, as long as the use remains logically correct.
Like I would say "My uncle is a fireman" or "My uncle is a firefighter"; but I will never say "My uncle is a firewoman" nor "My mother is a fireman."
In cases of gays and lesbians, I am yet to encounter someone's using 'firegay' or 'firelesbian.' If someone starts using those alternative words, that's their choice; and by virtue of word formation, they are still correct and valid. But they should not start imposing others that they use 'firegay' or 'firelesbian.'
The Last LeafIt boils down also to personal preference but such preference should remain logically correct and valid. To me, I am a strong supporter of gender neutrality; but when it comes to controversial words like that, I think I just have to settle with using the gender-neutral terms 'firefighter' or 'mail courier' instead of using something that is still controversial as 'firegay,' 'firelesbian,' or 'firehomosexual.' Not for anything else, but as I said, I should have a linguistic choice.
Therefore, no teacher should impose on their students that they start using gender-neutral words then telling them that failing to do so would render their word use incorrect. In the end, it should still be a case-to-case basis. If a student writes "My father is a mailman"; another writes "My father is a mail courier"; then another writes "My father is a mail messenger"; and yet another writes "My mother is a mailwoman"; and another writes "My mother is a mail carrier"; then all students should be correct by virtue of linguistic freedom that is still rooted on logic. However, if a student writes "My mother is a mailman" or "My father is a mailwoman", then that's the time that they should be corrected by virtue of gender incongruence or wrong gender agreement.