shit man i am the last person in th world who has any right to have a go at someone for bieing a bit pedantic! or 'precise' as i like to put it. you weren't on the rail on thing when we had a, uhhh, discussion abou the phrase 'common era' were you?
i agree with a lot of what you're saying, but then you say when you're debating you ar taking people's words 'as is', and don't interpret them. but you do, its unavoidable. you must roughly assume that people use words in the same way you use them yourself, but then there are times when that clearly isnt the case, or when words are utterly ambiguous, so you must interpret them, or you can't understand what is being said. yes of course we must strive for clarity at all times, but ecveryone in reality has there own 'private language' and we cannot hope to exactly understand what anyonme means by their use of any word.
as for does society change language, or language change society.....well i'd make a break with wittgenstein here (who's theories i am nicking in the above commnet). i think it's what they call (gulp) a dialectic, that is to say each influences each other, and reflects trhemselves back upon the other. so a sexist society invents a sexist language, and that language then helps to perpetuate that sexism. but it seems apparent to me that the sexism came first. when it was decided that the word 'man' should be used as a shorthand for human beings of both sexes, i doubt very much that it was a non-sexist world, which only became corrupted through that. But that usage undoubtedly does help to reinforce sexist thoughts and ideas.
right, its late enough now, think it's time for me to feck off home (hurrah, elvis costello tonight). having done nearly 45 minutes worth of the stuff i'm actually paid for, a big bad thanks to all contributors here who have made the last couple of days interesting and thought provoking.