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I've frequently come across the term "fisherman" (more rarely in the feminine) meaning a person who catches fish, whereas "fisher" was limited to religious texts. Now in a Cambridge FCE test a number of people chose the word "fisher" to complete a passage, and I couldn't find any reason to dispute their choice, which however sounds wrong to me. Some dictionaries accept the term, others do not even contemplate it. Can anyone help me? Thanks

  • There is also "a fishwife" or "a loud, unpleasant woman" :) – Andrew Tobilko Mar 10 at 21:37
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'Fisher' for someone who, for sport or work, seeks to catch fish, is a real word, but was, until recently, considered archaic. In the King James Bible (1611) Jesus says "I am a fisher of men". Recently, some governments and public bodies in various countries have attempted to revive the word as a gender-neutral term to replace 'fisherman', with some resistance (allegedly) from people in those countries' fishing industries. 'Fisherperson' is possible also.

  • Then you mean to say that both terms are to be considered correct? The sentence was "the development of storage methods such as drying and salting made it possible for _____ to go on fishing trips further away." The key to the exercise is only "fishermen" and as I said "fishers" sounds wrong... – Paola Mar 10 at 21:21
  • I don't know what country you are in, or how old your lesson materials are, but in many Western English-speaking countries, names for occupations ending in '-man', e.g. fisherman, fireman, policeman, etc, are increasingly considered sexist and restrictive, as if to say only men can do important jobs, so that gender-neutral terms are used more. As I implied in my answer, 'fisher' is a word, and you can use it, but you may have trouble convincing your teacher of this. – Michael Harvey Mar 10 at 21:29
  • I'm in Italy, the materials are rather recent, and in a sense they set the standard for the exams, so I feel awkward at the idea of disregarding their position. Thank you for your explanation. – Paola Mar 10 at 21:59
  • Often in education, and languages are no exception, the 'pedagogical lie' is used. It is sometimes called the 'lie to children', although it is used for all ages. A 'lie to children' is a useful oversimplification that starts one on the path to better knowledge. At an initial, basic level, students are told a simplified version, for example that something is the only right answer. Only later on are nuances and the possibilities of different valid answers explored. Problems may occur for an intelligent student who begins to see through the 'lie' of their particular stage before their peers. – Michael Harvey Mar 10 at 22:39

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