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STATESMAN

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STATESMAN

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jul 31, 2005 11:15 pm

• statesman •

Pronunciation: steyts-mên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A well-spoken leader in national and international affairs. 2. An intelligent, articulate, leader in any field, as an elder statesman of biology.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a derivation from state "the political organization of a sovereign nation" + the suffix -man [mên]—and not the noun man [mæn]. Although the suffix historically developed from the word, man, it has since become a suffix. Like suffixes, it is never accented and its plural is pronounced identical with the singular [mên]. Postman [’post-mên] is thus gender neutral while mailman [meyl-mæn], oddly enough, is not. Mailman allows mailwoman because it is a compound of mail + (the word) man. Dr. Goodword thus agrees with the Oxford English Dictionary, Random House, and Merriam-Webster that this word applies to both sexes and disagrees with those that claim that it is a compound based on the word "man" that refers only to men.

In Play: "Margaret Thatcher is a British statesman" is therefore proper and politically correct English so long as "man" is pronounced as unaccented [mên]. We like to use the term to distinguish between genuine leaders in public affairs and those skilled mostly in the electoral process. "Lester is a clever politician but not much of statesman" would mean that Lester is better at getting himself elected to office than running the office he is elected to.

Word History: The stem of today's Good Word comes to us from Latin status "posture, attitude, condition, standing (in society)" via Old French estat. We moved the [e] to the end but kept the original, too, adding an [e] to the end of it, resulting in a second word, estate (again, English making the most of its lexical booty). The Latin word is a past participle of stare "to stand", which developed from the same PIE root as English stand, as well as the word for stand in virtually all Indo-European languages: Russian stat', German stehen, Spanish estar, Swedish står, to mention but a few.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Aug 01, 2005 12:32 pm

And Portuguese estar.

What, since it's pronounced mên, it's no longer the noun man? I agree with you, Doc, that this feminist crap is getting out of hand, but I was expecting a better explanation from you, not this one.

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A better explanation

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Aug 08, 2005 12:00 am

How can you get a better explanation than the truth? The evidence supports this explanation which means it is probably true.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:53 am

Probably?

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Postby HectorInspector » Mon Aug 15, 2005 4:54 pm

My Concise Oxford Dictionary shows Postman, Postmen, Postwoman. (The (UK) Royal Mail uses the gender neutral word Postie.)
It also has Statesman, Statesmen, Stateswoman, and shows that as derived from French homme d'etat.
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Postby anders » Tue Aug 16, 2005 11:36 am

I once had a slip of paper with several interesting "men" from India, that I hadn't seen previously outside of Bharat.

Some I remember are wiseman, holyman, lensman (photographer).
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Postby DerekB » Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:02 am

Anders,

What's your position on the "man" as genderless suffix question? I am interested particularly as your tag "Irren ist männlich" is quite specific as to gender. I have occasionally wondered if was a deliberate choice. The version "Irren ist menschlich" is gender-free and is, I think, more commonly found.

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Postby anders » Thu Aug 18, 2005 4:17 am

My tag is of course a play on words, with the added intent to make fun of any male supremacists.

On genderless "man", that's no problem for me in Swedish. IMHO, the issue should be even less of a problem in English, because of for example the very established "man" in "mankind".

Some of our legal texts start by stating something like "In this text, 'he' may refer to either gender".

I like the B.C. cartoon, in which an umpire warns somebody for "unsportspersonlike behaviour". That's such a good illustration of how silly unnecessary oversensitivity can be.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Aug 28, 2005 9:59 am

anders wrote:...

On genderless "man", that's no problem for me in Swedish...

I like the B.C. cartoon, in which an umpire warns somebody for "unsportspersonlike behaviour". That's such a good illustration of how silly unnecessary oversensitivity can be.


Alas, this sort of thing even occurs in Swedish. The other day I heard a reporter on Swedish Radio refer to the (female) spokesman of a certain political party as «talesperson». «Taleskvinna» I can accept, but «talesperson» is a bridge too far !...

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