Traditionally, the form -man was combined with other words to create a term denoting an occupation or role, as in fireman, layman, chairman, and mailman. As the role of women in society has changed, with the result that women are now more likely to be in roles previously held exclusively by men, many of these terms ending in -man have been challenged as sexist and out of date. As a result, there has been a gradual shift away from -man compounds except where referring to a specific male person. Gender-neutral terms such as firefighter and mail carrier are widely accepted alternatives. And new terms such as chairperson, layperson, and spokesperson, which only a few decades ago seemed odd or awkward, are common today.
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