Can we use freshwoman to refer to a girl in her first year in college, or is freshman acceptable?

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    It may be in the dictionary, and there may be a slow but substantial trend brewing, but some women might still consider this a bit of an overcorrection. I don't believe any of my daughters would prefer freshwoman over the more traditional alternative. – J.R. Feb 20 '14 at 13:29
  • Whatever the alternatives might be for 'freshman', the term 'freshwoman' is just not used (at least in AmE). – Mitch Feb 20 '14 at 13:44
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    I'd avoid referring to a female frosh as "girl." This is a lingering bit of sexism. While high school kids are 'girls' and 'boys', college males have been 'men' for ages, so college females should be 'women.' Then again, take a look at the FB list of gender options! – Carl Witthoft Feb 20 '14 at 13:45
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    Remember that man is perfectly suitable for any member of Homo sapiens — as opposed to say Vulpes vulpes or Bos taurus — and you will see that freshman is the correct term for the year prior to one’s sophomore year. Don’t let useless political correctness and hypercorrection destroy the language. – tchrist Apr 24 '14 at 20:32
  • @tchrist: the language started being "destroyed" some time before the word "man" was an allowable substitute for "werman". Those trying to uniformise usage are trying to fix language, not break it. – Niel de Beaudrap Nov 19 '14 at 5:58

There is a slow but substantial trend of avoiding gender-specific nouns when either gender could qualify. "Chair" in place of "chairman/woman/person" is one example. If you wish to refer to women using terms usually reserved for men, then it's perhaps a good hint that you should start using a different term, which would include both the men and the women.

There are some explicitly gender-neutral terms for these, which for the moment are appropriate for informal speech:

In formal speech, I would tend to prefer constructions such as "first year Bachelor's student" — or just "first year" if it's clear from context.

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    Note that the plural of frosh is often frosh. – Peter Shor Feb 20 '14 at 13:42

We were called "freshies"--it's gender neutral.


protected by tchrist Jul 2 '14 at 2:51

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