Firemen became firefighters.
A serious improvement. I'd rather be a firefighter than a fireman.
Stewardess became flight attendant.
Also an improvement.
Policemen became police officer.
A solid choice. I'd rather call a police officer for help than a policeman.
Mailman became mail carrier.
Fine. More descriptive, even.
Penmanship became handwriting.
A more modern alternative.
Waiter and waitress became server.
I don't love it, but I can live with it.
Freshmen became first year students.
A little awkward. Not the greatest. But I can live with it if I must.
I appreciate the attempt to create a more gender-neutral language, particularly when so many of these words traditionally skewed male.
But there's one that I just can't get behind:
Fisherman has become fisher.
In 2013, Washington state completed a six year process of rewriting their laws so that they were written using gender neutral terminology. Certain words like manhole cover remained because a better alternative could not be found, but fisherman became fisher, and I hate it.
And it's not only Washington who has adopted the new word. Many websites and news organizations acknowledge fisher as an appropriate alternative to fisherman.
I'm not saying that fisherman is the right word. I'm saying that despite it's obvious male slant, fisherman is a hell of a lot better than fisher.
But I'm open to better options. I asked my students for alternatives, and their suggestions weren't all that appealing, either.
To be honest, they didn't love these ideas, either. They also agreed that fisher was a terrible alternative.
One of them pointed out that a fisher is actually a small mammal that doesn't eat fish.
Another terrible use of the word.
So I'm looking for an alternative to fisher, and until I find one, I think I'm going stick with the admittedly male leaning and possibly sexist word fisherman.
Sometimes a word - even when wrong - just feels right.
I don't know any professional fishermen - male or female - but I can't help but think that they would agree with me.