Berkeley drops gendered language from city code

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Letters of the alphabet. Photo credit: Gerd Altmann/CC 2.0, via Pixabay

You've probably heard some people, especially from the LGBTQ community, using the personal pronouns "they" and "them" in place of "he" and she." For example: "Beatrix Zidane is a fighter. They're a very strong fighter."

The city of Berkeley, California has decided to use more gender-neutral words. Berkeley’s City Council recently adopted an ordinance to drop certain gendered terms from the city’s municipal code. The measure passed unanimously, and affects more than two dozen common words. 

Benjamin Dreyer, Random House copy chief and author of “Dreyer’s English," tells Press Play that changes are always occurring in language. 

Benjamin Dreyer. Photo credit: Gabriel Dreyer

Dreyer had to adopt gender-neutral language at work too. Having a colleague whose pronoun is "they," Dreyer says, "I found myself jumping through all kinds of hoops to always make sure I was referring to my colleague by my colleague's name, and all those other sort of little silly games I was playing in my head. And one day the word ‘they’ popped out of my mouth, and I thought thank god that's over." 

He adds, "Ultimately it's really a matter of respect for a colleague, affection for a colleague, and recognizing that another person's dignity probably outweighs your copy editorial points."

Here are some of the words affected by the ordinance. 

“Fireman” becomes “firefighter”


Firefighters. Photo credit: David Mark/CC 2.0, via Pixabay

"Policewoman" becomes "police officer"

A police officer. Photo credit: Ella_87/CC 2.0, via Pixabay

"Patrolmen" becomes "patrols" or "guards"

Buckingham Palace royal guards. Photo credit: Alfonso Cerezo/CC 2.0, via Pixabay

“Brother” and “sister” become “sibling"

Siblings. Photo credit: sathyatripodi/CC 2.0, via Pixabay

“Manpower” becomes “workforce" 

Construction workers. Photo credit: Michal Jarmoluk/CC 2.0, via Pixabay

"Manhole” becomes “maintenance hole"

Maintenance hole. Photo credit: Manfred Antranias Zimmer/CC 2.0, Pixabay

"Sorority" and "fraternity" become "collegiate Greek system residence"

A collegiate Greek system residence. Photo credit: James DeMers/CC 2.0, Pixabay

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski 

Credits

Guest:
Benjamin Dreyer - Random House copy chief, and author of “Dreyer’s English”

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Rosalie Atkinson, Adriana Cargill, Brian Hardzinski