I ran into the deep dilemma when I translated a couple of my poems recently. I tried to use some other word than man when I was speaking Homo sapiens in general, but I couldn’t. Other equivalents, like the human being or one, sounded silly or naïve. The use of the word woman gave the picture that I was pointing them out, that the paradox or disagreement of my verse, were typical only for females. As it is, I finally, even though unwillingly, accepted the word man to stand for Homo sapiens.
In Finnish we have a word Ihminen which means the human being, but it doesn’t carry any funny or insulting aspects on its shoulders. It is a neutral word that is used when we like to indicate Homo sapiens in general. When we use the word mies (man), we really do speak about male and when the woman is in question the word is nainen (woman). In English this is impossible because the suitable word is missing. It should be invented soon, which is not easy task.
I played with the idea in my mind. I typed that the man would be the neutral term for a man and a woman in general whereas man would be heman and woman sheman. Ridiculous, they are already associated with known concepts and that’s why they cannot be used. The alternative Homo (sapiens) won’t work either as it brings to our mind the picture of gay persons. This went on and on, but didn’t produce anything, but it is really a deep dilemma, because the lack of neutral option supports old concepts and attitudes in one way or another. It goes without saying that men are deriving benefits from it.
Well, this is something for sociologist and philologist to work out. Perhaps they will find out the solution one day, but till then I must use the word man and you must put up with it. Here are the lines themselves. I uploaded them also to Poems page.
can be possible,
but a man is
man is his