chair, chairman

chair, chairman2


Chair was once a perfectly good word, meaning a seat with a back and sometimes with arms. It was a thing to be sat on, and sometimes where a person with authority sat, that is, a place from which the person in the chair (the chairman) would conduct a meeting.

Although chairman is a word without gender, feminists have driven it nearly into oblivion, causing some people to think up words like chairwoman, chairperson, or even chair.

To be called a chair makes no more sense than for a conductor to be called a podium and to podium an orchestra, or for a preacher to be called a pulpit and to pulpit a congregation.

Not many dictionaries these days continue to support the old meaning of chair. That’s a pity. Nouns do become verbs, but we don’t have to hurry the process.



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The Writer's Stylebook is a unique collaboration between two former journalists -- my father, Lawrence, and me. Mr. Fellows, an impassioned wordsmith and journalist of long standing, created the original Stylebook, which he distributed to Connecticut newspapers and worked on for over a decade until his death 16 years ago. In 2003, the Connecticut Press Club published "Wordwatch: A Writer's Guide to Linguistic Distinctions," a compendium of nearly 300 of my father's word features. Unfortunately, that book is out of print and my father's features have been languishing in the attic of our family home in Westport -- until now. With the blessing of my mother, Ruth, I'm reviving the Stylebook and putting it online in the hope that it will find new readers. I think there's a need for a lively, illustrated guide to words and word usages that isn't wordy -- especially in today's fast-paced world!

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