The problem with the gender-neutral translations of "Greater love hath no man..." is that they just don't sound as good. But I think there's a serious semantic difficulty in coming up with a gender-neutral translation for this phrase:
Man's inhumanity to man.
The problem is that I think this phrase plays on the ambiguity of "man" between specific people and humanity in general, somewhat like the Malcolm Lowry poem that starts "How like a man is Man, who rises late." (Not on the web, damn it!)
There's no gender-neutral word for the whole species that can also signify an individual. And if you said "Humanity's inhumanity to humanity," that would make it sound as though the species is both the collective agent and the collective target, which I think is not what is meant.
(The official Opiniatrety position on gender-neutral language is that it's nice to use language that doesn't connote a specific gender, but sometimes it sounds funny. Usually when I need to denote a generic person in my papers I use "she.")Posted by Matt Weiner at February 13, 2004 09:27 AM