I noticed when I was watching the match between England and Mexico in the Women's Football World Cup the other night, that the commentator would refer to a situation where the attacking side 'had a man over'. I also heard of one referring to a possibility of having to play 'a man-short up front'.

In Women's Cricket, they still have 'batsmen', 'last-man-in', and no doubt 'night-watchmen'. Somebody has to field at 'third man' etc.

Is this alright? Or are the commentary teams guilty of misogyny?

When is it ok to refer to a woman as a man, and when should she be a woman or a person?

  • Those are fixed expressions from the time these sports were played only by men, are they?
    – user66974
    Jun 16, 2015 at 20:22
  • Point of fact: women's cricketers are actually batters. Apparently they prefer a stream of C B Fry/ fill it jokes to being either batsmen or batswomen Jun 16, 2015 at 20:23
  • @TimLymington In that case they could adopt the motto of the chippy in our village who have a notice which says well battered but never beaten.
    – WS2
    Jun 16, 2015 at 20:26
  • 1
    ?? Why should one refer to women as men ? Perhaps I'm a bit daft, but I really don't see the problem, though I know that exaggerated gendre-correctness can reach astonishing heights, which I find quite amusing. What would be the gender-correct person? A hermaphrodite? That would be a pity.
    – rogermue
    Jun 16, 2015 at 20:39
  • 1
    How about a "bowling a maiden over"?
    – Neil W
    Jun 19, 2015 at 6:38

3 Answers 3


With the phrases "Thar/there she blows" and "How fast is she?" what gender is the whale/car?

Phrases like "had a man over," "a man-short up front," "batsmen," "last-man-in," etc., are some that have stuck and come naturally. If you'd like, you can think of "man" as a shorter way of saying "human" in instances like these where you're using "man" as the name/title of a position/situation.

  • The whole question of gender distinctions in occupational and related names is sensitive,verging on explosive.
    – Misti
    Jun 17, 2015 at 14:30

Yes this is alright. As an example, we set up the chess men on the board, including the queen.

  • True, but chess pieces are not real people.
    – Chenmunka
    Jun 17, 2015 at 8:53
  • 1
    But what if you have a set of anatomically correct, naked chess people?
    – WS2
    Jun 17, 2015 at 16:19
  • @WS2 How would you tell which piece is which? When that hypothetical situation comes up, we'll deal with it then, same as usual.
    – user867
    Jun 18, 2015 at 23:50

In english man can mean the male species but also the human species. As an example woman means human that causes grief/distress as in many other languages.

  • 1
    The first sentence is all right, but what in the world happened after that. Woman does not mean anything like “human that causes grief/distress” in English or in any other language I'm familiar with. Where on earth did you get that from? Jun 18, 2015 at 23:50
  • wo comes from woe. Same in the nordic languages except there it is female human causing grief/distress. I have seen the same in some other languages, but forgotten which. Jun 19, 2015 at 15:54
  • No. The wo- part in woman does not come from woe. It has absolutely nothing to do with woe, which you could have ascertained easily by looking up the word’s etymology. Woman is the Modern English descendant of Old English wīfman (or wīfmon) meaning literally ‘wife-man’, with ‘man’ meaning (as it did originally) simply ‘human/person’. There is also no such relation in any Nordic languages, where the normal word for woman is etymologically cognate to English queen, and the cognates of wife are not combined with man at all, though forms like kvindemenneske exist. Jun 19, 2015 at 16:00
  • More than 20 years ago I came across an explanation of the word for woman in several languages. Didn't realize it was a joke. Jun 20, 2015 at 10:01

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