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An actor is someone who acts. Actor is most often used to describe someone who gives performances on stage or on film, but it could be used as a way to refer to the person who performs some action in an everyday situation as well.

Regarding stage and screen performers, at one time there were actors and actresses. Now, I think that we’re supposed to use actor as a gender-neutral term. Then again, maybe not. The Academy Awards still hands out Best Actor and Best Actress awards. Are they sexist or just behind the times?

This political correctness stuff can be so confusing at times.

For the record, I’m in favor of equal opportunities for both sexes (and for people with most other characteristics that are used to slot humans into categories), even if it doesn’t do anything to improve my sex life. It all comes down to that, doesn’t it. Or is that just me and my loneliness talking?

(Re the parenthetical comment in the preceding paragraph: Yes, I said most other characteristics, not all other. For example, if the characteristic used to categorize humans is murderer versus non-murderer I’m perfectly happy to see the non-murderers get more opportunities in life than the murderers.)

The problem is figuring out were things stand at the moment in the evolution of the language of politically correct gender-neutrality. As I said, actor seems to becoming a gender-neutral word that is to be used for both sexes of performers.

The word actor has it easy this way. It never had a gender-specific term embedded within the word. Fireman, mailman, chairman and others of that ilk had it harder. To become gender-neutral they had to lose their men. So they became fire fighter, letter carrier and chairperson. Those are longer words that don’t trip off the tongue as easily the original sexist versions, but I suppose its worth it to further the cause of equal rights.

Politically correct language isn’t consistent. Waiter has the same advantage as actor in that it doesn’t have a gender-specific term embedded in it. But waiter doesn’t seem to be going the same way as actor. I don’t think there is yet a universal consensus on this, but that job title seems to be morphing into server rather than using waiter as a gender-neutral job title as is the case with actor.

For consistency’s sake, why didn’t actor become, say, performer or waiter come to be taken as gender-neutral? Stay tuned. It’s bound to continue evolving.

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