There’s been a lot of discussion lately about words in the Software Craft community, more specifically, wether it makes sense to keep using the word Crafter to identify ourselves as followers of a movement. I believe the word Crafter isn’t a good choice. It’s actively a bad one, for many reasons. But today, I will focus on just one: etymology.
etymology: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.
I love language. And inside the vast field that is the study of languages, I’m consistently attracted to etymology. So, naturally, I went and looked for the etymology of Crafter. If we look for it, we find out that it’s made out of 3 parts:
From the etymological perspective, a Crafter is someone (implied male) that possesses physical strength, might, courage, science, skill, art, hex, trick, fraud, deceit, etc. The actual definition differs a bit, and goes a bit like: A male artisan. This time it’s not even implied that that person is male, it’s explicit. And if that wasn’t bad enough, let’s do the same for our beloved Craftsmanship.
Its formed by 2 words:
From a purely etymological perspective, Craftsmanship is the act of being someone (implied male) that possesses physical strength, might, courage, science, skill, art, hex, trick, fraud, deceit, etc. And the actual definition looks like either:
The point I’m trying to make here is that you can’t simply stop calling yourself and peers Craftsmen in favour of other, more inclusive words like Crafter or Craftsperson and still call the movement Craftsmanship. They are intrinsically intertwined because one is referenced in the definition of the other. It cannot be any other way.
At the same time the discussion was raging on, I saw this tweet:
s/Software Crafter/Codesmith - job done?— Gavin Clarke (@gavinclarkeuk) 1 May 2018
Codesmith sounds amazing, right?
Right you are.
For me, it was a direct reference to another word which I love:
Wordsmith: One who uses words skillfully — See, no (implied male) here. Progress!
Wordsmith is a term often used to refer to poets and storytellers. And if we dig a bit deeper into where its meaning comes from, we find it’s made of 3 parts as well.
So, a Wordsmith is a craftsperson who works words into desired forms, thus creating story, poem or song. A Codesmith on the other hand, would be a craftsperson who works code into desired forms, thus creating Software. It’s almost poetic. And smith can also be a verb just like craft, albeit not really widely used.
So, instead of sentences like:
She’s very experienced. I’ve seen her craft some amazing software. She truly is a remarkable Crafter.
We could go:
She’s very experienced. I’ve seen her smith some amazing software. She truly is a remarkable Codesmith.
Beautiful. But since nothing is perfect, smiths were historically mostly male. 😢
I know Codesmith will probably never catch on. Don’t get me wrong, I would love it if 10 years for now the metaphor was raging with hype and we had the greatest thinkers of this generation writing masterpieces like:
Or not. You know, we may not need metaphors to guide our communities. We need people to lead them and embody the values we want to live by. At some point, the chosen metaphor stops being so important. But if we’re keen on using a metaphor, then at least let it be one that doesn’t (imply maleness) all over it.