Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Language Purification

Yesterday morning I saw the following footnote in a law journal:

n78. Cardozo, supra note 40, at 141 (edited for gender neutrality …).
Is this sort of linguistic cleansing (“reconstruction”?, “language purification”?) of source material common?

To give the student editors their due: they did not quote Cardozo’s “sexist” language; they paraphrased the portion of the statement by J. Cardozo that they found offensive. I am still troubled. Are you?

What would the editors of this law journal do with statements made by judges, treatise writers., etc., before, say, the 18th 0r 19th century, statements in which long-dead authors or judges use male pronouns to refer to human beings or to male judges? Would such statements also be edited to achieve “gender neutrality”?

Would Shakespeare’s language also be restated to conform to 21st century norms at the law journal in question?

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