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Washington state gives boot to gender-specific words, ‘fisherman’ and ‘penmanship’

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Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee passed on Monday a ban on gender-specific words in state laws, calling for the rewrite of legislation that mention terms like "fisherman" and "freshman."

Now state officials will have to go back and replace the texts with words like "fisher" and "first-year student," the Toronto Sun reported.

The new law is the latest in a series of bills that have been passed since 2007 to abolish perceived gender bias in state documents. The mandate hails from 1983, when Washington legislators first required that laws use language that didn't specify a gender, the Toronto Sun said.

Some words, however, aren't so easy to replace. For example: What do with penmanship?

The Toronto Sun said that "handwriting" has replaced "penmanship" and "signal operator" has blotted out "signalman." And one more: "Journey-level plumber" has taken the place of "journeyman plumber." The list goes on — and at least nine other states are considering similar laws.

"This was a much larger effort than I had envisioned," said Democratic state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the bill sponsor, in Reuters. "Mankind means man and woman. ... [But] there's no good reason for keeping our legal terms anachronistic and with words that do not respect our current contemporary times.

California, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Utah all have gender-neutral requirements for state documents, the Toronto Sun reported.

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