Season XVII – Alphaday 13

Hi Alphas,

Welcome to Alphaday 13, Season XVII. We’re now coming to the end of this enjoyable and productive season. I think we’re a brilliant group of writers with a motley variety of talents that bounce off each other and produce sparks that kindle new creative ventures to everyone’s benefit.

Our next Alphaday is scheduled for the 3rd of June which is only a fortnight from now. That’s because we aim to have a three-month annual break and return in September with our batteries fully charged and ready to surge ahead.

Your only task for Alphaday 14 is to complete our annual survey. It is an important task that I hope you’ll complete conscientiously as it’ll lay the foundations for our next season: Season XIIX … or do you prefer Season XVIII? I think the latter, even if it’s longer.

My task for Alphaday 14 is to deliver the final Leaderboard and announce the (until then a carefully guarded secret) identity of this season’s Alpha Laureate. The Cup will be handed over, corks will be popped, and we’ll have our virtual end of season party.

Our Alpha group aims to offer useful, writerly activities. We want to stretch our limits and learn from the experience of others in a reciprocal give-and-take fashion while having fun in the process. Your ideas are welcome and necessary; we evolve as we go along.

Today’s agenda is brief, but exciting nevertheless.

Alphaday 13, Season XVII agenda:

  • This bulletin from me
  • The results and feedback for our Open Page, Edition 3 – from Christine
  • The Alpha Season XVII survey to be completed by all Alphas – from Christine

Well, it looks like I’m hogging the show today. Sorry about that! As for the second item on the agenda, it is, as usual, a very full compilation of thoughtful feedback from everyone with helpful comments and suggestions to improve.


General news

Linguistic habits aren’t easily changed. Are you – for example – guilty of dialling a number on a keyboard? That’s a simple case of how old words don’t just go away, and you may argue that the verb ‘to dial’ has adapted to modern technology … just as the CC in your email harks back to the days when you used real carbon paper (remember?) to make a Carbon Copy of your typewritten manuscript.

Changing our habits to make sure we use gender inclusive language can be even harder. A British Rail announcement, bellowed out from a loudspeaker recently, started with the familiar friendly greeting, “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen … “. The resulting twitter storm, whipped up by a number of non-binary passengers, caused BR to apologise profusely and promise to be more inclusive in future with a greeting along the lines of, “Good afternoon, everyone.” Well, that should do it! I think children might have protested as well, but as far as I know, they didn’t.

The English language has no grammatical gender. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s gender neutral. In the 1970s we started a major clean-up of gender-biased vocabulary. The main problem was / is the fact that the word ‘man’ signifies ‘a member of the human species’. Used as a suffix to designate an employee, however, there was no getting away from the automatic association of -man with a male employee. Policemen end postmen were male.

We had to reform the androcentric language, and we tried. Police officers and postal workers are gender inclusive terms. We had a bit of fun in the process. Dinner ladies were renamed as “education centre nourishment consultants”; lollipop ladies (and lollipop lords!) as “crossing patrol officers” etc. Landladies and landlords still exist, but more complicated issues such as the charwoman or charlady failed to morph into “charman” and “charlord”. What’s wrong with the gender inclusive ‘cleaner’ anyway?

Do we have a poetess or two in our group? Or perhaps some authoresses? To me those words are patriarchal and condescending terms that we can well do without.

We’re still stuck with the word ‘man’ as referring to human beings generally. In other words you might need to specify that ‘male men’ were hunters and ‘female men’ were gatherers. The fact that it sounds ridiculous proves the problem is there. We need to rephrase and say ‘female members of the human species’ and ‘male’ dittos. John Milton would undoubtedly argue strongly that the word ‘man’ is indeed gender inclusive. The very first line of his epic poem, Paradise Lost, goes like this: “Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit / of that forbidden tree …” That man surely did include a woman in the disobedient deed.

There’s still a long way to go before women, children and other non-binary chattel have quite escaped from the category of ‘movable possessions’. We’re working on it … or at least some of us are.


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