5.0037 Rings; Composite Novels; Gender (3/76)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 13 May 91 22:06:15 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0037. Monday, 13 May 1991.

(1) Date: Thu, 9 May 1991 16:52 EDT (26 lines)
From: LINDYK@Vax2.Concordia.CA
Subject: Re: 4.1314 Wedding Rings

(2) Date: Wed, 8 May 91 22:55-0400 (11 lines)
Subject: 5.0014 Composite Novels

(3) Date: Wed, 8 May 91 10:17:53 -0500 (39 lines)
From: Dennis Baron <baron@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Happy Birthday Gender

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 9 May 1991 16:52 EDT
From: LINDYK@Vax2.Concordia.CA
Subject: Re: 4.1314 Wedding Rings (3/51)


As an addendum to the Wedding Ring discussion, is there
any reason that North Americans wear their wedding bands on
their left hand. I ask because I remember an anecdote told
to me by my mother after she had gone back to visit her
family in Poland after the war. Several people asked her
if she had only recently been widowed and what her husband
had died of. She was quite taken aback by the question since
her husband was still quite alive back in Canada. Only later
was it explained to her that a window transfers her wedding
band to her left hand, the right hand being the customary
dding band. Is this a custom that is particular to Poland or
is it a more general European custom? Is there an North American
equivalent, namely, moving the wedding band from the left to the
right upon the death of a spouse? Why is it customary for
North Americans to wear the band on the left hand?


(2) --------------------------------------------------------------19----
Date: Wed, 8 May 91 22:55-0400
Subject: 5.0014 Responses (4/44)

*** Reply to note of 05/08/91 22:08
Subject: Composite novels

A nineteenth-century composite novel is the one by Benjamin Disraeli and his
sister Sarah called _A Year at Hartlebury, or The Election_, published under
the pseudonyms Cherry and Fair Star.

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------49----
Date: Wed, 8 May 91 10:17:53 -0500
From: Dennis Baron <baron@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Happy Birthday Gender

I was interested to see that in the Happy Birthday message the
HUMANIST list is referred to as _she_. Here is a fine example of
metaphorical gender at work in English (even if it was a conscious
nod to the gender discussion of recent weeks). This brings up an
issue, though: English has no gender-neutral way to refer to an
infant or child except _it_, which in most other instances is marked
(-human). Indeed the use of _it_ was common practice for a long time
and still occurs today, especially in British varieties of English,
though I think it is less common in present-day English in the US.
Thus it sounds passing strange to my ear when I read the following
statement by the Nebraska Attorney General in the case of _Meyer v.
Nebraska_ (1923):
"The hours which a child is able to devote to study in the confinemnet
of school are limited. _It_ must have ample time for exercise or play.
_Its_ daily capacity for learning is comparatively small" (emphasis
Forced to pick a gender for an unnamed or generic child today there
is a tendency to avoid _it_ in favor of _he_, _she_, or _he or she_,
the last option frequently being classed as "wordy" or "ugly." Yet
it seems to me that in the discussion of gender reform in language
there is no mention of this particular problem. Can anyone provide
cites I may have missed? Most discussion seems to be of the
"Everyone . . . his/her/his or her" variety, where _it_ has seldom
been a popular option. Yet in the past many people clearly were
more comfortable applying _it_ to a child. Comments, ideas,
counterexamples are all welcome. Thanks.

debaron@uiuc.edu (\ 217-333-2392
\'\ fax: 217-333-4321
Dennis Baron \'\ __________
Department of English / '| ()_________)
Univ. of Illinois \ '/ \ ~~~~~~~~ \
608 S. Wright St. \ \ ~~~~~~ \
Urbana IL 61801 ==). \__________\
(__) ()__________)