personhood

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  • BoTrojan

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    More context would be helpful. Also, I'd add that I don't believe "personhood" is a word that high school English teachers would like very much. However, I suppose personhood would refer to the state of being human ... in an awkward, ungrammatical sort of way.
     

    Gwan

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    PC way of saying manhood I would guess.
    (PC = politically correct = a way of speaking where you attempt not to offend anyone. E.g. feminists would be offended by the implicit exclusion of woman in the term 'manhood' so have changed it to the gender-neutral 'personhood', which seems devoid of all meaning to me, but there you go. Not that I'm anti-feminist or anything.) Manhood refers to the qualities of being an adult male, in contrast to being boyish and juvenile. You might say "you have achieved manhood now that you've watched a porno/shot a defenceless animal/wrestled a bear with your bare hands". Tongue firmly in cheek of course.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Perhaps an activist would, Ewie :D

    In that particular sentence, I find its use horrendous, but I'm OK with the one from Dictionary.com (deprives prisoners of their personhood) -- possibly because I can understand what that means in there (as opposed to that... erm, example).
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    If you have a specific her, why not use womanhood [if you must utter this sentence at all in the first place]? Yes, Trisia, 'horrendous' is the word.
    Sorry, but I only find the second example better in that it could refer to either male or female prisoners. (I'd still probably say humanity, though, because if I was talking only about male prisoners I wouldn't say deprives them of their manhood ~ which sounds pretty drastic!)
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    More context would be helpful. Also, I'd add that I don't believe "personhood" is a word that high school English teachers would like very much. However, I suppose personhood would refer to the state of being human ... in an awkward, ungrammatical sort of way.
    It's certainly not ungrammatical. On the contrary, its formation from person and the suffix -hood is completely unexceptional.

    Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, defines personhood as follows:

    "the fact or state of being a person <we recognize them as rights. They are the privileges of personhood -- Williard Gaylin & Marc Lappé>"

    and goes on to say

    "especially : one's distinctive personal identity," followed by a cite by Dotson Rader.

    It turns out that the online Webster's Third is indeed different from the printed version. My printed copy (the main body of which dates to 1966) has no entry or subentry for personhood, and the work cited above by Gaylin and Lappé, a little Googling shows, is likely "Fetal Politics: the debate on experimenting with the unborn," from the May 1975 Atlantic Monthly.

    I'm generally suspicious of accusations of political correctness, and that includes the accusations in this thread against the users of the word personhood. But the use cited above certainly does not seem to me to have any connection to political correctness.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    "the fact or state of being a person <we recognize them as rights. They are the privileges of personhood -- Williard Gaylin & Marc Lappé>"
    I like this definition -- it's what I had thought it would probably refer to.
    It is perhaps related to the "all persons are human and all humans are persons" (or not) idea.

    I would still have used "the activist found her identity/purpose" or something to that effect. In that context, I find it silly (as I said, possibly because I can't really understand what it means).

    Thank you for your post, mplsray.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    My own personal objection to the WRD example wasn't so much on the grounds of Political Correctness as on those of Psychobabble. To me it just smacks very heavily of the (extremely) old joke:
    ~How many Californians does it take to change a light-bulb?
    ~43. One to change the light-bulb and 42 to share the experience.
    (I told you it was old).
    Erm, that's it.
     

    BoTrojan

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It's certainly not ungrammatical. On the contrary, its formation from person and the suffix -hood is completely unexceptional.quote]

    Fair enough ... it's not technically ungrammatical. Neither would be "doghood" or "cockroachhood" by your standard of what is exceptional or unexceptional. So I'll simply maintain that it's an awkward, silly and unnecessary word. If you can read this, your personhood is a given. As for the word's likely origins, I'm not aware of them. But I'd have to agree that it likely comes from a culmination of general reactions to the much more meaningful and useful concepts of "manhood," or "womanhood."
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Personhood" is patently absurd.

    Try "Mismanagment" as a politically correct word:

    Personpersonagepersont. Perfect.

    Policeman became police officer. OK

    Mailman became letter carrier. OK.

    Manhood/womanhood became personhood. Ridiculous.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    It might be absurd, but I really doubt it's a PC way of saying "manhood" or "womanhood."

    Personhood seems to be related to human rights (for example, is a human unborn baby a person or not?) and perhaps to individuality (this use I find kind of stupid), but I don't see it as a replacement for manhood/womanhood... *slightly confused*

    Unlike that activist, I may find my womanhood somewhere at the bottom of a pile of dirty pots that need washing, but my personhood is that thingy that doesn't allow you to force me to wash them -- cause as a human being I have free will and all that jazz.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    But "manhood" invokes the sense that a male has reached some physical and emotional maturity as a male.

    "Womanhood" invokes that same sense as a woman.

    "Personhood" invokes what? I find it meaningless.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It's not a word I use, Packard.

    But it's not "meaningless", at least not in the OED's eyes:

    The quality or condition of being a person; esp. personal identity, selfhood.

    1944 Amer. Jrnl. Sociol. 50 162 The purpose of education is the development of personhood. 1959 Times Lit. Suppl. 3 Apr. 197/3 From there he proceeds to the machine-like properties of animals and so on up to responsible human personhood. 1993 Independent on Sunday 22 Aug. 21/7 Don't they understand that I'm not just ‘gay’, I'm a person too, that my personhood is more important than my gayness?

    (Compare mplsray's post 8.)
     
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