Letter: Finnish and be done with it

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The Independent Online
Sir: Seeing yet another letter on the he-or-she debate (22 February), I cannot resist boasting a little on behalf of my native language, Finnish.

While Finnish has words for man (mies) and woman (nainen), it has just one personal pronoun (han) to mean both 'he' and 'she'. The Finnish for 'mankind' is ihmiskunta, derived from ihminen, which refers to a person of either sex. This neat political correctness is not the result of some kind of feminist purge of our language, but simply the way Finnish has always expressed things.

The fact that the women of Finland were the first in Europe to gain the vote, some 22 years ahead of British women, does appear to prove the benefits of a gender- free language.

As all attempts to pummel the English language into a more politically correct shape seem to result in endless muddle, disagreement and newspaper correspondence, why not adopt Finnish in its place as a world language and be done with it?



Clevedon, Avon

22 February