An article published in Yahoo news last week (and the comments made by Yahoo’s readers) may shed more light on one of the biggest controversies in bible translation than most academic papers on this topic have so far been able to do. There has been a raging debate regarding the use of inclusive language (i.e. language that doesn’t identify gender) in bible translation for almost two decades. Some bible translations, like the TNIV, have adopted many of the same kinds of language choices that Washington state has now adopted, choices like replacing “mankind” with “humankind.” Similar choices have been made in translations like the NLT, NIV 2011, NIVI, CEB, etc… Translators of these versions suggest that “gendered language” is no longer understood by the general public and “inclusive language” must be used if we expect the general public to understand the bibles they read. At the time I read this article, there were nearly eight thousand comments on this yahoo news article made by those who represent a good cross section of the general public and hardly a comment could be found in support of the language changes being foisted on the people of Washington state. Rather than having bible translators tell us how the general public understands “gendered language,” maybe it is time for these bible translators to stop and listen to the opinions of the general public themselves.
Here is the article from Yahoo news:
In Washington state, the word “freshman” is out. And “first-year student” is in. In total, 40,000 words have been changed as part of an effort to rid state statutes of gender-biased language.The bill, signed into law earlier in the year by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, went into effect this week.
And it was no small task. “This was a much larger effort than I had envisioned. Mankind means man and woman,” Democratic state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Seattle told Reuters.
“Fisherman” is now a “fisher.” “Penmanship” is called “handwriting.” And “manhole cover” is, well, still “manhole cover.” Some words don’t have an easy replacement.
Others do: “His” is now “his and hers.” “Clergyman” is now “clergy.” “Journeyman plumber” is now “journey-level plumber,” according to the Daily Mail.
According to Reuters, Washington is the fourth state to officially remove gender-biased language from the law. Others are Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. Nine other states are considering similar gender-neutral laws.
“Words matter,” Liz Watson, a National Women’s Law Center senior adviser, told Reuters. “This is important in changing hearts and minds.”
France recently officially banned the term “mademoiselle” from official documents. The Gallic term means “miss,” and French officials contended it forced women to acknowledge their marital status.
The French also bid adieu to “maiden name,” which they dismissed as “archaic.” They should know: Paris only recently got rid of a law that banned women from wearing pants.
And here is a representative sample of the comments to this article.
“This is a blatant and ridiculous violation of free speech, no matter how you spin it, guess we as Americans are losing both our freedom gradually, and our minds as well.”
“Oh man this is stupid!”
“This state just gets dumber by the day but my husband doesn’t want to move. I regret ever changing my residency to Washington State. Next they’ll come back and say that I cannot be called a wo-man just as most people here say humankind rather than mankind. It is beyond annoying and I am ready to go. This political correctness #$%$ is getting annoying”
“Are they on drugs? The price of gas is going up, unemployment at an all time high , 2 wars going on and a third on the way and this is how they spent their time. A scene from Nero and the fall of Rome”
“What a sad country we have become..Europe is laughing even harder”
“”freshman is out, first year student is in.” whew! it’s been a long hard struggle for justice. finally i’ll be able to sleep tonight”
“Didn’t Orwell predict in “1984” that language would eventually be used as a method of control by a repressive government? “Hate speech” “first year students” etc. etc. etc. When will the state publish the first “NewSpeak” dictionary? Big Brother is watching…and listening too.”
“How freaking stupid can you get? Damned PC BS is gonna sink the language to an abysmal depth!”
“What idiocy! So mankind is now just kind, I suppose?”
“The bill, signed into law earlier in the year by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, went into effect this week. Are they also going to rewrite the dictionary?”
“hmm… I never knew that penmanship was a gender specific word”
“What do we call manikins now? Stiff wooden person? That describes the people who come up with this political correct garbage.”
Next time you hear someone argue for the necessity of “inclusive language” in bible translation, it would be good to remember how the largely un-churched public reacts to attempts to force them to use “inclusive language” in everyday life.