The Daily Heller: Before the Pronouns

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In 1974, long before pronouns became a critical way to signify self-identity, an alternative culture tabloid titled Bitch: A Newspaper for Women proposed a gender-neutral way to change the English language.

Conceived by Deanne Stillman, a former humorist who wrote for "Square Pegs," which SNL writer Anne Beatts created; and has since gone on to write literary nonfiction, plays and a slew of other recent books; her prescient concept was to replace man, indeed any male gender–specific word wherever it appeared as part of any existing word (or name), with the word one.

You might think that person would be gender-neutral, and you'd be wrong. The word person contains son, which is male-oriented. That would suggest problems when changing woman to woperson, for obvious reasons. Therefore another alternative was devised. Person had to be transformed to persone, which logically meant that a word like woman would become woperone, hence replacing any male gender implications.

In Stillman's (aka Stillwoperone's) "Feminish Dictionary," male gender–based verbiage was filtered through this linguistic strainer. Bitch was published by Milky Way Productions (publisher of Screw magazine) and was feminist in its comic tone, editorial direction and political spirit. I was the art director, although I think the editors were hoping I'd change my name, too. But the options were few.

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