If you’ve heard of the word “Latinx,” you’ve probably guessed that this is another attempt at reworking a word to make it more gender-inclusive and politically correct.
If you study Latin, you may be slightly horrified, since “alumni” is about as gender-inclusive as language gets.
The point is, the moment you saw that word, you had information on what it meant and what the speaker communicated by it.
Behind this change is the belief that if you add an ‘x’ to the end of a noun or pronoun, suddenly the word becomes more “gender-inclusive,” although it is unclear as to why. The problem with this is that changing the words surrounding ideas also changes the ideas themselves. In the case of “Latinx” and “alumnx,” our focus is drawn to gender inclusivity and no longer the people themselves.
The word “alumnx” finds its origins at schools such as Loyola University, California Institute of the Arts, Rutgers University, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and others that have expressed the wish to be more gender-inclusive. The goal is to replace “alumni,” which is a word referring to a group of either just men or both men and women who have graduated from a school, with the word “alumnx,” which would refer to a group of both men and women who have graduated.
Hopefully, you caught the redundancy in the above paragraph. Regardless of your sexual orientation, “alumnx” is unnecessary and is only serving as virtue signaling for institutions that adopt it.
While a difference of one letter may seem like a small thing, the adoption of this term is representative of a growing problem with etymology in our culture.
One of the most striking examples of this revolution that’s undermining our language occurred during the nomination of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. Fielding questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett used the term “sexual preference,” which is now apparently an offensive and outdated term.
Until Barrett used the term, it was considered an appropriate thing to say. However, at the moment she uttered it, this perfectly acceptable term reared its ugly head to reveal rows of etymological sharpened fangs.
Within mere hours, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary hurriedly updated its webpage and redefined the phrase to comply with its ever-changing meanings. The dictionary now warns would-be users of “sexual preference” that the term is “widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”
Another example occurred this past July, when the Associated Press updated its stylebook to reflect the racial shifts in our country over the last six months. The stylebook now states that when referring to race or culture, writers are to capitalize the word “Black.” The word “white,” however, remains lowercase in all uses.
It is telling of the power AP thinks capitalization has on the human mind that they would change something so seemingly insignificant. The change is more than just virtue signaling; we react to the punctuation of a word, even if we only notice it in our subconscious.
Here’s the problem with “alumnx,” “sexual preference,” and “Black” vs. “white”: Language is the primary means by which people communicate, and each word you use brings with it a shade of meaning. Even our inner thoughts are expressed as words. Words have ultimate control over what we think and how we think it.
Regardless of public opinion on race, gender, or politics, words must have some consistency of meaning. Words should not fluctuate with the times or be molded by any one person, or else we will be in danger of having a meaningless language. If that happens, our thoughts and our culture, dictated by the phrases we utter and think, will become empty shells sucked of once-vibrant meaning.
Aubrey Gulick is a sophomore studying the liberal arts.