Wednesday, March 24, 2010


hegan = he (as in male) + vegan

This portmanteau appeared in a Boston Globe article on March 24, 2010, and was used to describe "men in their 40s and 50s embracing a restrictive lifestyle to look better, rectify a gluttonous past, or cheat death."

There was a time in our not-to-distant past in which we moved away from names that designated gender: stewardesses became flight attendants, firemen became fire fighters, mailmen became postal workers, and the famous faces you see on the silver screen are of actors, regardless of what reproductive organs they were born with. Although it sometimes got a little weird and iffy (ombudsperson, anyone?), it generally made our language more compact, equitable, and malleable.

Why, oh why, then, would someone see a need to take an already gender-neutral term like vegan and create a new gender-specific term? Why the backward step?

I recognize that the author was trying to be witty and creative with her (yes, her) language. I just think this particular choice was a bad idea. I hope hegan doesn't catch on.

Thanks to @CopyCurmudgeon for pointing this out to me on Twitter.