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Is there a non-gendered word for fishermen, that doesn't feel as self-conscious as fisherpersons or as folksy as fisherfolk?

marked as duplicate by snailcar, Nigel J, SGR, jimm101, Skooba Dec 7 '17 at 17:00

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  • Are you specifically asking about those who catch fish for a living and sell their catch in markets? As opposed to those who compete as professionals in fishing competitions. – Mari-Lou A May 20 '15 at 4:59
  • commercial fishing vs. recreational fishing – Mari-Lou A May 20 '15 at 5:02
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    Why? Depending on your context, the simplest (as in, most recognizable) term is usually the best to use. Are you expecting hoards of militant feminists and college students to be your main audience? If not, don't drink the kool-aid. – Oldbag May 20 '15 at 9:16
  • @Oldbag the explanation was edited out by choster. – Mari-Lou A May 20 '15 at 11:09
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    As far as I am concerned, fishermen is non-gendered, as men is also used for (hu)mankind. – skymningen May 20 '15 at 11:31
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I would suggest the following solution

Both fishermen and -women ...bla...bla...

From the first Google results page I found this interesting and long article, posted on CBC news, August 24, 2000. I'll highlight the most relevant observations IMO (emphasis mine).

FISSURE OVER FISHER

In the fall of 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling on native fishing rights (The Queen v. Donald Marshall, Jr.).

As word spread across the country, debate over a word raged inside the CBC. To avoid the sexist noun fishermen, should we call people with boats and nets fishers?

[…]

A few employees shared first-hand accounts of outraged fishermen skewering them as spineless meddlers. One producer said her newsroom had banned ‘fisher’ because women in the industry "are proud to be called fishermen, a la chairmen." […]

According to many Canadian media outlets, fisherman falls into this category. "There is not an entirely satisfactory substitute for 'fisherman'," observes The 1999 Canadian Press Stylebook, "although 'fisher', 'fish harvester', 'fish industry worker', 'fishing licensees' or the phrase 'fishermen and women' are all possibilities."

Angler is not an option because the word (which originally meant "hook") applies to people who use rods for fun not nets for a living. While CP doesn't rule out fishermen, it does point out that the term might not be "accurate" in some contexts — citing the caption under a photograph of Inuit women trying to catch salmon as an example.

The Globe & Mail's 1998 Style Book is much more blunt: "Avoid fisher, except in direct quotes. We encourage inclusive terms, but women in the fishing industry on both coasts have made it clear they call themselves fishermen, and take strong exception to what they regard as a bureaucratic, politically correct term."

I'll leave the OP to make up their own mind.

  • I get why this received a downvote, first it's not gender neutral, second it's not a single-word. But as a solution, it will be understood that the writer is referring to both men and women who fish for a living. It's not such a weird, strange, obscure, or slang way of phrasing. Please, click on the link. If you do disagree, I'd be interested in hearing your opinions. You can downvote this question, as I previously mentioned, I get that it doesn't answer the OP's question. – Mari-Lou A May 20 '15 at 7:02
  • +1. Because I can. This certainly seems like a common phrase from the link. – Tushar Raj May 20 '15 at 10:36
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    This is perhaps the answer that best matches the spirit of the question. A replacement for people who catch fish that honors the fact that men and women both work in the fishing industry and applies to both professional and sport fishers, and doesn't sound whack. Fisher, for instance, brings to mind the Bible's fishers of men. – Wes Modes May 23 '15 at 21:38
  • True, except I would say "both fishermen and woman". – Konrad Gajewski Jun 27 '15 at 18:52
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    @KonradGajewski woman is singular, the plural form, women, should be used. – Mari-Lou A Jun 27 '15 at 19:40
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An angler.

Now, technically speaking, angler only describes fishermen who specifically use a rod and line, as opposed to those who use nets, or trawl, or oystermen, etc:

angler [Collins]: a person who fishes with a rod and line

But in actual, popular use it is considered and used as a perfect synonym for fisherman.

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    i was gonna say that, but I decided against it. Angling is a hobby while fishermen are professionals, I think. – Tushar Raj May 19 '15 at 20:38
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    You're right that there is a distinction, but it's not professional vs amateur, it's rod+reel-only vs more generic kinds of fishermen. – Dan Bron May 19 '15 at 20:42
  • Oh! I see. Only saw angling in the context of hobbies yet, hence the confusion. – Tushar Raj May 19 '15 at 20:43
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    I'm glad you are. Help yourself! Also, +1 for an answer which isn't from the 1700's (like mine) – Tushar Raj May 19 '15 at 20:58
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    I have the same qualms as others here, but still upvoted with the provisio that the word is indeed only used for rod-and-reel fishing. Someone who uses net trawling in the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic is assuredly not an angler. However, within its mielu, angler is the word used. For instance, there is a pro bass fishing tour. Nearly every general resource I can find for it uses the word "fisherman", but the women's pro association is named the Lady Bass Angler Association, and the main fan site that keeps track of rankings uses "angler". – T.E.D. May 20 '15 at 13:16
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A piscator

rare A fisherman.


A fisher, is also applicable

A person who catches fish for a living or for sport:

[Oxford]

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    Isn't the -or suffix in Latin male, and a female fisherman would be called a piscatrix? – Thomas Padron-McCarthy Jun 17 '15 at 14:58
  • @ThomasPadron-McCarthy In Latin, yes, when it refers to people who carry out an employment. In English, -tor is normally quite gender-neutral. In Rome, all senātōres were male, but even in the US today, we do not have *senatrices, nor do we have auditrices, realtrices, dictatrices, janitrices, or victrices. (Same goes for the more common female counterpart in English: -ess.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 30 '15 at 21:43
  • To add cultural significance, Jesus called his disciples 'fishers of men'. – IchabodE Jul 30 '15 at 22:44
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Actually, "fisher" is very well-established with this meaning. None other than the KJV: And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

This verse is very well known -- it listed as one of the 454 most popular Bible verses. Pretty much every adult Christian would be familiar with it.

  • A fisher is a member of the weasel family which DOES NOT CATCH FISH FOR FOOD. – user131081 Jul 30 '15 at 0:54
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    Eheh, it took me so long to format my answer that yours slipped in before I finished. +1 for a good example and common sense. – Tonepoet Jul 30 '15 at 4:41
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    @ceevee - So you thinks that that Bible verse means "I will make you weasels of men"? – Hot Licks Jul 30 '15 at 11:23
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There is fisho in Australian slang.

Fisher is archaic according to OED (superseded in ordinary use by fisherman). OED lists two other meanings of fisher that are not archaic:

  • an animal that catches fish for food.
  • a fishing-boat; a vessel employed in fishing.
  • I already said fisher :) – Tushar Raj May 19 '15 at 20:40
  • @Area51DetectiveFiction: Yes I was writing the answer but I explained differently. – ermanen May 19 '15 at 20:41
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Trawler crew,

Seine crew use a seine net.

Longliners catch their fish on hooks.

I realise this doesn't easily fit into most situations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations used the following terms (non-gendered policy) to avoid saying 'fishermen'

the traditional fishing communities

large number of people for towing the seine

Fishers are inventive and not afraid of trying new ideas.

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Fisher is in the American Dictionary of the English Language and the meaning remains constant across all versions Noah Webster himself worked on:


Fisher, n. 1. One who is employed in catching fish.


Wait, you want a word with the same connotation of a hobby as a Fisherman does? Well it does in Noah Webster's dictionary because as far as he's concerned, fishing is an occupation:


Fisherman n.

  1. One whose occupation is to catch fish.

  2. A ship or vessel employed in the business of taking fish, as in the cod and whale fishery.


Maybe Noah Webster means to use these words occupation and employ is being used in what is now a less common, albeit still used sense to simply mean people doing the act, to keep themselves busy or engaged, as in keeping occupied or employing one's self. However it is hard to say, since he also has connotations of professionalism in other definitions for those words, which are more specific to them. As long as I am discussing occupations, I should note that it is a common occupational surname, much like Baker or Smith, as B.B.C. Kid's article "What's In a Name? Your Link to the Past" by Paul Blake (last updated, 2011-04-26), last updated can demonstrate.

So what about now? The description that the fifth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary description of Fisher drops the implications of professionalism and compounds the boat into the same sense, oddly. It is also lists fisherwoman, interestingly.

The Washington State Legislature, in the U.S.A. also thinks Fisher is gender neutral and appropriate, at least according to National Public Radio in their article Washington State Now Has Gender-Neutral Laws.

So what about "across the pond"? well, aside from the British Broadcasting Corporation link above, Collin's Dictionary simply says "a person who fishes; fisherman" and The Free Dictionary by Farlex, also linked above for the A.H.D. definition, affirms that this is also the meaning in the *Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged (© 1991-2003). Collin's dictionary also calls an evangelist a "fisher of men" which is vaguely amusing. It is especially so if you imagine a trout in a Chasuble with a fishing rod catching fishermen.

"Oh but Collin's dictionary says fisherman, so it's meaning is gendered!" is what you might be thinking but oddly, none of the dictionaries mentioned expressly gender fisherman. I'm not going to speculate too much as to why for now since there are many possible reasons and it is a very tangential consideration. One thing to note is that The Online Etymology Dictionary points out Fisher is actually slightly older than Fisherman and hypothesizes that Fisherman came into being because many animals, possibly like that weasel (which is also apparently known as a pekan), also started being called Fishers or the kingfisher bird, implying a need to specify the person.

Google nGrams corroborates the relative age and notes some sparse, intermittent use of fisherwoman as far back as the 1770s. Fisher looks like its' not used as often as fisherman and there's noise to be certain. I think the ngrams for fly fishing should eliminate most of that. It seems like Fisher is still less popular overall but it actually catches up a bit in that context. Regardless of commonality of use, I doubt anybody who knows what Fisherman don't think anybody will fail to understand what Fisher means, since it seems like prerequisite information for understanding fisherman. Here's a link to the pair of nGrams screenshots, just incase hell freezes over, causing Google's geothermal powered server farms to blackout.

In closing, fisher is not a joke, it is not slang, it is not newfangled and it is not ostentatious. It is a customary, formal and proper word, which primarily refers to this and very well suits the application.

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I am going to say something that may sound preachy, but I personally feel is important to answer your question.

I think you already know that historically and in many languages today you would have a gender specific word often accepted to be able to apply to both male and female individuals. Historically instructions saying something like "Once he is in the boat the first thing..." even if it can just as easily and knowingly apply to a woman. That was a convention in writing. And like all conventions there is bias. Why some argue that conventional wisdom refers to poor wisdom.

I say this to drive the point that there is convention in writing and word-making. Take 'doctor' and 'nurse' for example, as these hold no gender but historically did apply to specific genders in many communities more than the word fishermen. Lastly take the word Human. Few people surprisingly try and argue gender neutral version of this likely because it never applied to a task uniquely performed by one sex or another, yet it still uses the same spelling convention. Huwoman.. had to try it out =P. SO..

So your arguement is that the masculine "fishermen" is due for some updating to challenge gender role implication. Luckily there is a simple answer. Fisher Personally I suggest not trying to hard to avoid "distracting" as feminism requires it. Better to keep it engaging with I think fisherfolk does over fisherperson. Still 'fisher' is an existing word for someone who catches fish for a living.

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    Human does not derive from man. – Steven Littman May 19 '15 at 21:17
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    @StevenLittman I think that is Ryan's point, just as history is not derived from his story or person from per son (and even if they were, etymology does not dictate meaning). Still, I agree the commentary is distracting and the answer of fisher all that is needed, if some examples or citations could be included. – choster May 19 '15 at 23:33
  • I don't think the "sermon" is really necessary here, and unfairly imputes motives on the questioner that are likely not there. The content of the last sentence is really all you needed for a decent answer. – T.E.D. May 21 '15 at 23:05
  • It may not be necessary, but serves as a direct response to some comments saying, "Just use fishermen. Don't drink the cool-aid." That cool-aid would be the cool-aid of believing that men and women are equally able and should be equally represented in our language. The very spirit of my original inquiry. – Wes Modes May 23 '15 at 21:41
  • And I thought Oldbag meant the Kool-Ade of political correctness. Which is not what you just said. – ab2 Jul 30 '15 at 17:59

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