Those of you who have been following this blog for some time may recall an earlier posting (‘On Plurals and Gender and Other Grammatical Aliens’) in which I deplore – among other linguistic sins – the shoddy use in English of Latin phrases by individuals (and institutions) who are atrociously insensitive to even the most elementary appreciation of the morphological marking of gender. Thus, once more I find in a promotional piece by a major university the designating of a woman professor as a “Dean Emeritus”,
I thus felt helplessly compelled to respond, and below is a version of what I wrote (after long deliberation on my part, courtesy has won out and the names of guilty parties have been omitted).
“… and there paraded one of my linguistic bêtes noires: the mis-gendering of a woman. I am assuming that the name X Y is that of a woman (and if it is somehow a man, ignore the rest of this tirade, with my apologies!), and yet she is several times referred to as a ‘Dean Emeritus’ – this is the kind of sloppy use of English that one might expect to encounter in The New York Times or possibly (but doubtfully) even in The New Yorker … but in a promotional publication of a major university?
I suppose it is somewhat gratifying in an exculpatory kind of way that your school is in respectable company, as the identically excrescent lexical teratoma shows up also in alumni material I receive from UC Berkeley and Harvard.
At any rate, I could not help but grind my teeth, and I hope it is not entirely inappropriate that I vent at this inelegant traduction – even if only indirectly – of a major American university.
Perhaps someone can whisper gently in an attentive and responsive ear at your institution that this dreadful catachresis actually does not look good at all!”
Well, what more could I add?