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Swedes launch 'sexless' web search tool

The Local · 29 Mar 2012, 11:16

Published: 29 Mar 2012 11:16 GMT+02:00

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Creator Philip Westman claims that the plug-in was made to concretize an ongoing debate about the Swedish language's lack of a gender-neutral pronoun.

While the debate has been raging in recent weeks, Westman said he doesn't have a firm opinion on which word should be used.

"I think people should be able to use whichever words they want," he told The Local.

Sweden has been divided into three groups since the debate has flamed up recently: the staunch supporters of "hen"; the language purists who don't want to see a change; and those who don't have an opinion or don't care at all.

Despite coming from the third of these groups, Westman and "Henerator" co-creator Marcus Sjögren decided they could nevertheless take things to a new level through a browser plug-in allowing users to surf the net in a gender neutral way.

The "Henerator" works by removing the standard Swedish pronouns for "he" and "she" ("hon" and "han") and automatically replacing them with "hen".

While Westman admits that he thinks the idea is "half-smart, half-stupid", he added that the plug-in has spawned a bevy of feedback in the online world.

"Judging from what we've seen on Twitter, a lot of people see it as an interesting experiment. Some see it as a funny tool to play around with, and some people took it more seriously, saying that this is the proof that the debate has reached the level of ridiculousness," he said.

For now, Westman is keen to see what happens with the plug-in, but adds that his "genius programmer" Henrik Asp plans to continue improving it.

The debate about replacing the Swedish words "hon" and "han" with "hen" has been a hot topic ever since the publication earlier this spring of a children's book, “Kivi & Monsterhund” ('Kivi & Monster Dog'), which used the word for the first time in print.

Many Swedish speakers continue to be outraged that the term "han" (he) is used to describe something with an unknown gender, which experts claim can make things "loaded with preconceptions".

Story continues below…

The plug-in, which is available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox is available at henerator.se.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:18 March 29, 2012 by Grokh
Great now we can all say "hen är en bra kock" which sounds like the chicken is a good penis .

*sigh* swedes are clueless sometimes they strive for so much inequality and instead of creating laws to make sure women and men get the same payment for the same job, they go and change their damm language totally unecessary step
14:15 March 29, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
....I think everyone can sleep soundly in their beds at night - now this 'sexless web search tool' has been created
14:16 March 29, 2012 by HenryPollard
NEWSFLASH: Swedish nerds will do ANYTHING to get laid by the feminist hordes on their campus.
19:20 March 29, 2012 by calebian22
As soon as we are sexless, this will be relevant.
19:27 March 29, 2012 by Trenatos
This is insane.

This will only work towards making the percieved gender differences bigger, by telling people they shouldn't specify he or she.

It would be better to work towards gender equality through understanding, instead of telling people genders are bad.
23:01 March 29, 2012 by dizzymoe33
Talk about going overboard with this!! This is just useless and it will create more headaches than it will in solving the issue.
04:03 March 30, 2012 by Da Goat
I think the programmers are taking the pi55 and having a satirical joke on the feminists !

imagine reading an article that is ambiguous to the point of not making sense,

the local does a reasonably good job at this already!
08:26 March 30, 2012 by senlac
an early April Fool joke I think
09:48 March 30, 2012 by Central European
The partner I.(II.) hen give(s) a birth to baby-hen :) and partner II. (I.) hen was so pleased to have not just obsolete son or daugter but genderly liberated hen in their (heinr)group of three hens now..... well better do not say no more family what about the "henily" ?
17:56 March 30, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
"Hen" is the lamest choice for a gender-neutral word! Sorry, but I instantly think of a single WOMAN when I hear "hen"! Pfftt!!
19:21 March 30, 2012 by tadchem
In the US a "hen party" is a collection of babbling women. I think the coinage of 'hen' as a neuter pronoun needs to be rethought.

All these linguistic contortions to avoid saying something that might be offensive end up doing something that clearly IS offensive.

This is not language to communicate the truth - this is language to HIDE the truth, and it reveals a lot about the character weaknesses of the speakers.
20:45 March 30, 2012 by ijustice
Hahaha... Already a Huge Fail!

Read the names of those behind the 'madness'... thinking of any woman, female or hen in the creative team? ... think again... Below are the names in the front page of the so-called 'sexless web search'

Check out:

" Av: Marcus och Philip | Kod: Henrik | Design: Gustav | FAQ | Källkod"

All Men no woman/female name or close to 'hen' name, but PURE MEN (Or so their name sounds. So, bimbo heads that are hailing it... sorry there is no space there for you feminists anyway) .... EPIC FAIL! April fools!!

Try again at challenging mother nature...;)
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