I had a look for a topic about this and the closest I found was this thread which specifically talks about ‘guys’ and gender neutral terms and so on, and I wanted to talk about changing the way we speak in a more general sense.
I hear a lot of handwringing (can you hear handwringing? well, anyway) whenever the subject of people maybe changing their vocabulary a little, and a lot of it seems to come from them feeling irritated for having to change something they’re doing which comes naturally to them they don’t feel is overtly malicious.
As someone who has begun to think about this more over the last couple of years, I have to say, making these kinds of changes has been far easier and ended up coming far more naturally than I expected. The kinds of things I’m talking about are:
I used to say ‘guys’ in a mixed room, now I normally say ‘folks’ or ‘everyone’ or ‘you all.’ (original topic has lots more on this)
I used to sometimes use ‘he’ as a kind of ‘default’ when talking abstractly about unspecified people, now I try to go for ‘they.’
I try to avoid talking about stuff as ‘crazy’ and ‘insane.’ I like ‘wild’ as an equivalent descriptor. I actually think it’s a more fun word to use most of the time, aside from anything else.
And what I can say is that none of this has felt stifling in any way. I KNOW there are well-meaning arguments for why some of these terms might not be harmful. I studied language philosophy, so I think about meaning and use a whole bunch. I’ve had lots of interesting conversations, for example about the use of ‘crazy’, and how in different contexts it has negative and positive connotations. All good discussion.
I’m not talking about this to try to say there are these language rules you should adhere to in order to be a good person, and here they are. But I am now forever mistrustful of the idea that asking people to think about their own speech is some kind of onerous expectation of them.
The amount of effort I had to expend in order to tweak my vocabulary just a little is very small, and I don’t feel like I can’t say anything that I wanted to say before. I doubt most people who know me have even noticed these things.
Maybe it has all been for nothing. Totally a possibility. But maybe a few times, someone I talked to felt a little more comfortable and less excluded as a result. That seems like decent value-for-effort, to me. It took the tiniest bit of thoughtfulness on my part and is now (usually) automatic.
The reason I turned this into a thread wasn’t really to congratulate myself for being cool and awesome but I wanted to ask (from a community that I’m pretty sure won’t just dismiss this out of hand) whether anyone else has had any similar experiences of going through this, some of your own go-to phrases and terms you’ve picked up as a result and whether you think people around you have picked up on it.
As long as the discussion is carried on in a way that respects everyone, I’d also be interested in hearing from anyone who deliberately hasn’t done this and has reasons for it they think are valuable.