Rethinking use of the term Master

Hey Everyone. There are a lot of discussions going on about removing the term ‘master’, and other references to slavery in various industries. Lots of companies are renaming their ‘master’ git branches. I believe even Github is working to change this. Although I’m not sure if it’s just internally or taking steps in customer repos to encourage changes.

With that in mind, maybe we should start using the term ‘sources’ instead of ‘masters’? As suggested by Kris Sowersby here:

It’s already used in designspace files, and is actually a bit clearer if you take a step back. I don’t think the mental leap would be too difficult. I bring it up in this forum though, because I think font editors have a lot of influence in how we talk about things, due to the interface and documentation.

Maybe there’s a better term, and I do not mean to imply Glyphs is responsible for this. I just thought it’d be good to get a discussion going. It would be nice to see these changes made in Glyphs.

So in the spirit of political correctness and to avoid any misinterpretation, what term should we use for our master bathroom now?

How should I now refer to the master key to my apartment building?

There is such a thing as going too far. Leave well enough alone.

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I realize renaming this isn’t going to fix the fundamental problem. It’s a pretty weak step. But really how hard is it to use the word ‘source’ instead of ‘master’?

Source is much clearer, free of the baggage, and is already used within the industry. What is the argument for using master instead? Other than it just being something the industry has lazily defaulted to?

I’m not pointing blame at anyone, and am just as guilty of using the term without thinking about it. Now seems like an appropriate time to rethink stuff like this though.

I prefer to evacuate the intention of the speaker instead of hiding behind some correct words.

There are a lot perfectly fine usages of the word like Master Degree or Calligraphy Master. But for branches and bathrooms – as in “this bathroom is only for the ‘master’” – it is a bit more difficult. But in both cases “main” can be used.

In our case “source” makes sense. We’ll discuss this.

Thanks for considering it Georg!

I agree there are acceptable uses of the term. A master copy in music recording, being used to create duplicates, is probably the closest reference to the type world. I really don’t know the source of this term, but the audio world has lots of other master/slave references, so to me it’s still murky water.

Even if it’s not a direct reference to a master/slave relationship, it’s such a loaded term. I guess my thinking is if there is a non-controversial alternative, why not avoid unwanted associations and having to explain/defend the etymology of why we still use the term?

Maybe in the end it is ok in the type design context. But I thought it was worth some discussion. It’s also worth noting that Python removed all uses of the terms a few years ago as well.