Learning to Speak Christianese April 7, 2010

Learning to Speak Christianese

Having trouble understanding what Christians are really saying?

Now, there’s a helpful video guide, courtesy of The Thinking Atheist:

There are a few more parts where that came from.

(via The Radula)

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  • I love it, well done. True, witty & funny. Thanks.

  • liz


  • cathy

    I like these in general, but his assumption that everyone that does anything is man. It’s always man, guy, him, etc. Women can grow food, be doctors, and lots of other things.

    And no one better feed me that crap that ‘man’ means women too, that’s not how the English language works. A group of women is also never called men, not even when speaking about huge groups of women, American women, 5,000 women. A mixed gender group in english is not called men. A group of 20 women and 20 men are called men forty men and women (or forty people), not forty men. So, in English, man never means anything other than men.

  • Oh yes, I’ll bet this will go a long way at bringing those of varying beliefs/non-belief together.

  • Angie

    You said it, Cathy!

  • Cafeeine

    Actually Cathy, ‘man’ historically started out as a gender neutral word, and this survived in words like ‘mankind’, ‘manhole’. It was the facts that societies were, until quite recently, vastly androcentric that the word gradually changed its meaning (“40 men worked in that town” would initially have meant that 40 people worked, but in essence the workers counted were men). “Man” as a gender neutral word is still used in some instances, even though this has been gradually changing. Saying “in English, man never means anything other than men” is wrong.

  • Dave B.


    While “men” might never be used to refer to mixed gender groups, it’s similarly true that “man” isn’t used to refer to groups of men either. A group of 20 men is not called man. In English, the word man either refers to a single man or humanity as a whole. It’s pretty clear which one is meant in the video. The term may have sexist origins, but that the modern usage is not typically intended to exclude women.

  • Robyn

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. It’s one of the few “Christianese” phrases that make sense to me because, clearly, it can be done by anybody. Because I would think it’s fine if an atheist were to say “I hate Christianity” but would be terribly jarred if they said “I hate Christians.” Someone can be lovely and happen to be a Christian, Buddhist, Satanist, whatever. At least, that’s my opinion on that one.

    Now, I’m not defending the actual use of that phrase by people that hate, say, gays. That’s something that’s a part of them more so than being a Christian is (the latter is something taught to you, unlike being gay). In that case, the phrase IS nonsensical. It’s just not nonsense all the time.

  • cathy

    It never refers to women but it refers to humanity as a whole Dave? Way to not count women as humans.

    “The term may have sexist origins, but that the modern usage is not typically intended to exclude women.” Yes it does, and every piece of credible research done in this area finds that when people hear man, he, mankind, and chairman, they assume the person or people being spoken about are male and are more likley to have negative reactions if the preson, contrary to expectation, is a female person.

    @Caffeine, at the time man was gender neutral, it did not apply to male people, the term for male people was waepman and you wouldn’t say that sentence, because it would not hold up in the old english you are referrencing, because, even though modern english has its root is old english they are DIFFERENT LANGUAGES. In modern english, the language that people actually speak, man always means man, never women and, as someone who had read late medieval, renaissance, and enligtenment works, it is very clear that the usage of the word man means male people, particularly because more than one of these authors did not count women as moral persons. These writers make it clear that women are not counted when they speak of marriage and family, though they still use ‘man’ in the exact same way. This is not a gender neutral usage, but a one of men as people and women as subhmuman.

    “(“40 men worked in that town” would initially have meant that 40 people worked, but in essence the workers counted were men” Yep, because women never work or do labour of any kind or ever do anything that needs to be spoken about so why bother to include us in language?

  • Thank you cathy. I was thinking the same thing. I don’t really care about origins of the word, sexist or not sexist. I only only care that today, “men” refers to people with penises. How about humankind? Or people? Gender neutral is so much easier.

    I also think it’s interesting that people who would call themselves men (have penises) are so quick to stand behind its usage as a term for all humanity. I guess your voice and mine don’t matter all that much, sometimes. 🙁 I know a lot of people say sexism is dead, but when you are the party benefiting from some sort of privilege (male, white, heterosexual, etc…) then you tend to stand behind the things that you benefit from, even if you do not necessarily recognize your advantage.

    Not to nitpick, but can you cite that research? I would love to read it!

  • Cafeeine

    I actually agree with you on the sexist nature of the difference today, and I am with you in any effort to remove this from language from now on. I’m not trying to justify its continued use, so there’s no point arguing against that.

    Still, that doesn’t change the usage of language in the past. “Man” has been used as the unmarked form, as in Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man’ for an easy example.

    How did you come to the conclusion that only males would disagree with you on this subject?

    If you want to get technical, ‘man’ nowadays refers to people with penises and transmen, as well as an unmarked form, this latter usage becoming rarer, which is good especially for the sexist connotations. The facts remain that the term has been used as an unmarked form, and to ignore this will mean you will misunderstand wherever it has been used as such. Furthermore, it is a different thing to say ‘man’ shouldn’t be used as a collective word because it lends itself to sexists and that it has never been used this way.

  • @ Cafeeine, I did not say that all men or that only men would be quick to endorse the status quo. My comment was clearly a general statement what with the mention of tendencies, and was not meant to imply that only one sex can be sexist.

    I am well aware that transmen and others who may or may not have a penis identify as men, but those people often do not have a voice, often are not viewed as “real” men, and more often do not support sexist language or language that is noninclusive of all genders.

    I do not quite understand the phrasing of your last sentence to me, but I will say again that I don’t necessarily care about the history of the usage of men/mankind/etc. as a universal term. I think that today, “men” most of the time, refers to those cisgendered privileged males. Today, “men” is not an inclusive term, and I do not think it should be used as such. That’s all. I don’t want to argue about irrelevant things like “unmarked forms.” I was simply stating that “men” when referring to humankind is not inclusive of any other gender, and that we can do better.

  • Dave B.

    It never refers to women but it refers to humanity as a whole Dave? Way to not count women as humans.

    I was trying to draw the distinction that “men” never refers to women, but “man” does. Those are different words. As Beth pointed out, “man” is used to refer to all of mankind. Whether another term might be be more appropriate is arguable. I would certainly agree that “humanity” is a better term to use.

    If you’re not convinced that “man” is used to refer to humanity as a whole, refer to a dictionary. On dictionary.com, the second entry under “man” is:

    a member of the species Homo sapiens or all the members of this species collectively, without regard to sex: prehistoric man.

  • For those who wish to be hijacked by Cathy’s sexual insecurities, here is a good story which sums up why women aren’t the boss of the world http://newmatilda.com/2010/04/06/if-you-go-down-church-today but I’d rather focus on the difference of religion & non religious event’s, in order to remove the paedophilic cult behind it & restore some ‘normal’ thinking.

  • Shannon

    Yay Cathy 😉 It’s bummed me out how the atheist and skeptical community seems to be just as male oriented as society in general. I don’t know why I expected better (especially with so many women involved). There was a long discussion on skepchick after the last TAM wherein the skepchicks (and others) kept pointing out how there were so few women asked to speak and other people kept giving defensive explanations as to why this was ok (usually something along the lines of ‘well, there just aren’t that many female scientists and/or atheists’ – whuh?).

    I agree that the terms man and mankind are a problem but whenever it’s brought up, it’s rarely taken seriously. I get the historical context and it’s interesting, but I don’t see that as a reason to continue it today.

  • Shannon

    Oh. Finally watched the video. It’s not even talking about “mankind”. It specifically says (in talking about food)

    “. . . now that men have already done all the growing, harvesting, and actual providing. A side note, men also printed the ingredients and nutritional information on the store packaging . . . “.

    Yeah, you can’t even say this is meaning “mankind” or something. All he had to say is “people have already done all the growing”. I like his videos too but I think he screwed up here.

  • alex


    I only only care that today, “men” refers to people with penises.

    Way to reduce men to penises, Beth. We love you, too.

    Gender neutral is so much easier.

    I call shenanigans on that one. Ask any English major about “he or she” and hear them growl.

  • I find it hilarious that Atheist’s have been put under a category of sexism here, when it is religion that deny equality. They refuse to accept Atheist’s Gay’s & even women as their equal in order to maintain their abusive paedophile cult is dominant. Those that echo the lies of the religious paedophile cult, are what I call paedophile peddlers. This is what makes the Christanese video so much more true & funny.

  • Greg

    A couple of things:

    Firstly, man is the abbreviated form of ‘human’. It is clear that it is being used in this way in the video, because the narrator is comparing two ‘types’ of beings. Man, and ‘god’. Abbreviations are so common because they are easier and quicker to say than the full word. Heck, my name’s actually Gregory, and I like the name, but I go by Greg because it is short and snappy.

    If I am in a large group of female friends, and they talk about the group as ‘girls’ do I take offense? Of course not. I might joke around a bit, and make long suffering noises, but I don’t care because it is just words, and words mean little compared to the meanings and beliefs behind them.

    Secondly, virtually all of my female friends will at various times use the word ‘guys’ when talking about groups of people, whether all male, all female, or a mix of the two genders. By your reasoning, they are being sexist against their own gender.

    Problem is, they aren’t sexist at all. Well – okay, one or two might be, in that they are possibly slightly sexist against men, but your argument would claim them to be the opposite.

    Sexism requires some kind of belief, whether conscious, or no, and the worst you can say about the narrator with any justifiability is that he misspoke.

    Tell me, if you found out that this guy was a prominant supporter of women’s rights, would you feel at all bad for being so judgmental without any real evidence?

    You want my honest opinion? Calling this guy sexist is not only absurd, but does a wonderful job of turning people away from your point of view.

    Incidentally, I don’t “stand behind its usage as a term for all humanity”, I stand both behind the right to use abbreviations of words for ease of communication and for words to have more than one meaning.If anyone wants to join some science fiction and/or fantasy works in using the word ‘hume’, then I am fine with that, too.

    Sorry for the rant, but there are enough people getting hurt mentally and physically in this world for all sorts of reasons, including sexism, without wasting time complaining about someone without any reason to believe they are one of them.

    And I’ve had a rough night.

  • Good onya Greg, I was looking for those words earlier but I have to give you the credit. I dare say it is rant, when the truth is so blatant.

    When your young they call it ignorance but when your older they call it Alzheimer’s.LOL

  • I found the video amusing, but count me among those who found the statements about “men having grown the food” to be jarring. Agreed that inclusive language can often be clumsy, but a simple substitution of “people” for “men” would have easily solved the problem.

    On the other hand, it just occurred to me to wonder if the authors might have actually been consciously using “men” to be consistent with the Christianese language, since many (if not most) conservative Christians count it a matter of pride to refrain from all appearance of inclusive language.

  • @ Alex, Thanks for taking everything I said out of context. Way to show your support!

    Gender neutral, it’s easy. Ze= he or she. Hir=him or her. One word to replace two. How hard is that? (I’m an English minor, and I don’t even mind!)

  • alex

    @ Beth:

    @ Alex, Thanks for taking everything I said out of context.

    I’m sorry if it is out of context, but I got that attitude throughout all your posts. Maybe it’s just my perception, though. Please forgive me if I’m wrong.

    Gender neutral, it’s easy. Ze= he or she. Hir=him or her.

    Ze… ze Germans? Sorry, but you can’t just take a naturally formed language and apply crutches like these (also, “womyn” comes to mind for some reason) to make it politically correct. Actually, yeah, you can do whatever you want to the language, but don’t expect everyone think it’s a good idea. I’m all for respect towards people, but count me the hell out of the PC movement. There is a reason the whole world is making fun of the U. S. and A.’s media.

    Really, isn’t this what it really all is about? You want respect, and I will give it to you, but please don’t try to find disrespect where there is none, because if you try hard enough, you will see it — just as you shall also see manifestations of living God, aliens, and World Zionist Conspiracy. Isn’t sexism supposed to be a conscious position rather than (arguably) incorrect use of pronouns?

  • I spent quite a while in the evangelical church. And even during the quite a while that I was there, I still would have agreed with, and been amused by, this video. Thank you for making it.

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