• he-man •
hee-mæn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A manly, virile man, a strong man with well-developed muscles who avoids anything suggesting femininity (such as quiche).
Notes: Today's Good Word is odd in several ways. First, it is a compound noun containing a pronoun, something frowned upon by English grammar. Only a few such words exist and they are rather peripheral: she-wolf and she-goat appear often enough, though he-wolf and he-goat are rarely encountered. Moreover, there is no she-man or even she-woman (what would that be?) The plural is, as expected, he-men.
In Play: He-men are not guys; they are generally perceived to be tougher than guys: "Jim Nasium was denied membership in the motorcycle gang because he wasn't enough of a he-man." Jim used a church key rather than his teeth to open his beer bottles. There are things we can do with this word, though: "Marilyn Baltimore wanted a moral rather than a physical he-man for a husband."
Word History: He is the descendant of the Old English word for "this". In Old English the third person pronouns were gender variants of the word for "this": he was "this (masculine)", hio "this (feminine), hit "this" (neuter). These forms evolved into today's he, she, and it. The original Proto-Indo-European root underlying he was ko-/ke- "this", which also went on to become Latin cis "this". With the suffix -otor it became kotoryi "which" in Russian and the cetera of et cetera "and the-rest" in Latin. Man turns up in several Indo-European languages, including German Mann and, with a suffix, Mensch "human". This word was borrowed (but not returned) by English via Yiddish as mensch "decent person". In the Slavic languages it picked up a similar suffix, but lost the N, becoming muzh "husband" and muzhik "peasant" in Russian. (Now we should thank he-man Phil Anders for suggesting today's manly Good Word.)
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