Letter: Homo truths

August 24, 2001

When eyebrows began to be raised about the political correctness of the phrase "ad hominem" (Letters, THES , August 10, 17) I asked my father, a retired classicist, for a view.

He tells me that homo indeed means human being with no gender marker. But he also pointed to a quotation from Virgil, which I have been unable to check, in which the phrase "et homini sunt" is used with reference to women. In other words, homo in classical times appears to have denoted a paid-up member of the human community, but with the implication that such a person is male. In my darker moments, I wonder how much this has changed.

Jenny Woodhouse
Cambridge

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