Saturday, February 28, 2015

Of Man

There's a small difference between 1960's Star Trek and 1980's Star Trek. They changed the slogan from "to boldly go where no man has gone before" to "to boldly go where no one has gone before".

I find this interesting, because the Catholic Church introduced a new English translation of the mass in 2011. Everyone expected them to replace "man" in this sentence: "For us men and for our salvation, [Jesus] came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man". But no, they decided to keep the word "man" as it is, instead of switching to a gender-neutral word like "human".

Obviously, they are using the word "man", in the sense of "humanity in general", and not "man, as opposed to woman". In English, those two definitions go with the same word. In Latin and Greek, they are separate words, so there's no confusion between the two. That's a downside of translating into English, I guess! Personally, when I'm doing translations, I try to avoid all man/man confusion by translating "homo" and "ἄνθρωπος" as "people", not "men". That wouldn't really work in this case, because it sounds a tad awkward to say "for us people and for all salvation". It's even worse to say "Jesus became people".

The only non-Catholic I've mentioned this to was a woman, who didn't think it was offense to use the word "man" in the general sense of "humanity in general". She thought it was outdated, but not offensive. What do you readers think? Should the Church imitate Star Trek and update its language? I'm sure people will bring up the topic, the next time the Church decides to re-translate the mass.


Katie said...

I'm a protestant believer. I am a woman. I am not offended by the word man in that context. I think people (men?) are smart enough to figure out what is meant. Doesn't mean they won't get their dander up. Common sense is a very lovely thing.

Justice said...

What Katie said.

Anonymous said...

I'm not offended by it, but I do appreciate it when someone uses a gender neutral term.