Today I learned that in Old English the words “wer” and “wīf” were used to refer to “a man” and “a woman” respectively while “man” meant a “human being” or “person”.
This reminded me that in Sanskrit we use the word “manus” or “manav” to refer to “human”.
And then I checked that in Latin, “manus” means “hand”.
In recent times, the generic meaning of “man” has declined (but is still continued in compounds “mankind”, etc.). The same thing has happened to the Latin word homo: in most of the Romance languages, homme, uomo, hombre, homem have come to refer mainly to males, with a residual generic meaning. The exception is Romanian, where om refers to a ‘human’, vs. bărbat (male).
We can make our language more gender neutral by accelerating the distortion of the root “man” and replacing mankind with humankind, man with person etc. We could also make our language more gender neutral by reclaiming the original meaning of the word “man”.
“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” – Martha Graham
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.” – Jean Piaget
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
“Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” – Confucius
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson