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Dic­tionary | Pxfuel

“Alumnx.”

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.