Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

The Chair Recognizes the Gentlelady?

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 1 November 2019

Since English is not my native tongue, it is sometimes amusing to play with words. The present culture of political correctness makes this exercise ever more fun and even a little funny.

While listening to a live broadcast of the recent proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives, I noticed a word that I had not heard before–gentlelady–as in, “the chair recognizes the gentlelady from Massachusetts”, and then the said gentlelady speaks for a few minutes.

Presumably, this word is somewhat of an equivalent to gentleman. Yet, here is the fun part: compared to the word gentlewoman–which, naturally, refers to a woman of noble birth, has been a part of the English language for quite some time, and was also used during the House debate–gentlelady may be doubly-noble. To be a lady, one must already be of noble birth or be married to a lord. So, to be a gentlelady, apparently, is to be of an even higher social status.

Of course, one may wonder whether the signs “gentlemen” and “ladies” on the doors of Congressional toilet rooms or water closets should be updated to read “gentlemen” and “gentleladies.” Although, one might suspect that the House would sooner vote to replace those words with some sort or pictures, since “gentlemen” and “ladies” (especially, “gentleladies”!) excludes people of more humble births from using the facilities.

It is altogether curious that the House of Representatives, which is supposed to represent us, the commoners, has chosen to elevate its female members to the twice-noble title of gentlelady. Besides, how do they even know who is a gentleman and who is a gentlelady? Do they just assume? Or, do all freshperson Representatives have to publicly declare their pronouns, as did Senator Kamala Harris on national television? It is obviously a better idea to simply switch to the word gentleperson before someone gets horribly misgendered.

However, I still see a real problem with insisting that all people’s Representatives are members of the gentry–“well-born, genteel and well-bred people.” Even if some of them actually are, they should, perhaps, drop the gentle- bit altogether and self-identify simply as persons.

Calling someone a person, on the other hand, despite the pun, is somehow very impersonal. “The person from New York yields to the person from California, and the chairperson recognizes the person from New Hampshire.” Plain awful (and not in the awe-inspiring kind of way)! How can they build bi-partisan support for anything if they keep calling ear other “person”? It is almost as bad as calling someone one: “The chairone recognizes the one from Florida…”

Perhaps, comrade would be much more appropriate. A comrade is a fellow member of an organization (unity) and one who shares one’s activities (bi-partisan support!). Comrade is quite a bit more personal and personable: “Comrade Ocasio Cortez” sounds so much better than “Person Ocasio Cortez.” “The chaircomrade recognizes the comrade from New York!” Comrade is inclusive of both the gentry as well as those of humble origins and offers unparalleled equality in this respect. Finally, comrade conveniently happens to be gender-neutral and, thus, most versatile.

When addressing a mixed group of male, female, non-binary, non-gendered, fluid and other individuals, gentry and commoners: “Comrades!” (emphatically).

When identifying a gender-inclusive toilet room: “Comrades” (inclusively).

When in doubt about one’s preferred pronouns: “Comrade!” (confidently).

When building camaraderie with lawmakers from across the isle: “Comrades!” (warmly).

When censuring a fellow Representative: “Comrade!” (sternly).

Comrade works for almost every occasion! (For reasons of theology, I continue to insist on “brothers and sisters” when addressing fellow Christians.)

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