May 13, 2005

Don't Make Me Come Over There

With my English major hammer and get busy. Seriously. As an English major--with all the elitist word snobbery that implies--I have always felt that people who demand we change the language for purely political reasons are, to put it politely, pissing into the wind. Changing "women" to "womyn," for example, does not eradicate centuries of misogyny, nor does it empower the female of the species in any way. I promise. It does, however, mark its users as self-absorbed idiots who really think that spelling, not getting off their asses, is the key to "making a difference."

And now there's apparently an "outcry" (if by outcry you mean one person writing about a controversy that no one outside of Oregon has ever even heard of) concerning the use--or lack thereof--of ze/hir, the magical non gender-specific pronouns. According to the author, a linguistics major (don't get me started on the inter-disciplinary tensions between English and Linguistics majors), there's no other way to refer to a transgendered or otherwise not easily identified by "traditional gender norms" person without resorting to words that resemble a writer's attempts to represent a bad French accent in prose.

Umm, how about using the person's name? Or title? Or another descriptive phrase, such as "the writer," "the student," or "the crazy person who lives in a box?"

But no. We must use ze/hir because to NOT use it means we are FASCISTS! MEAN EVIL LANGUAGE FASCISTS BEING ALL FASCISTY ABOUT PRONOUNS!

Money quote:

Fights about pronouns are nothing new. Most, if not all, English speakers use "they" as a third person singular gender neutral pronoun, even though grammarians attempting to reinforce class hierarchies through language have tried for hundreds of years to convince us that this is impossible.

DAMN THEM! DAMN THEM ALL!!!!! Oh, wait. Did I use "them" properly in that sentence? And by "properly," I mean "did I correctly reinforce class hierarchies via a PRONOUN?!?!?"

Your tax dollars at work, people. And by "people," I mean everyone. Yeah, that's so egalitarian and populist of me, I know. See? I can fight the power, and I don't have to make up words to do it!

Link via Joanne Jacobs.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at May 13, 2005 10:13 AM

I always use ``he or she'' for transgendered persons.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at May 13, 2005 11:14 AM

Uh, I know this is really crazy, but why don't we call a person what ever it is that s/he feels s/he is? Even if that means referring to them with lots of slashes?

Posted by: Nikki at May 13, 2005 11:59 AM

Nikki, it's not slashes, its a whole 'nother word.

My daughter refers to gender-ambivalent people as "he-shes".

Posted by: Laura at May 13, 2005 01:19 PM

Me, I just call people "he" in the generic case.

Because, hey, English.

If I happen to know a specific transsexual in question, I'll be happy to use whatever-they-want for a pronoun, providing that whatever-they-want is in the set of "he" and "she", but beyond that, people can basically go to hell if they want more than that.

The way I look at it, neither me nor the English language are here to provide linguistic satisfaction to freaks. (And I say this as a minor-league freak myself. Just not the kind that has gender issues, or more relevantly, Issues with gender terminology that could stop a bus.)

Posted by: Sigivald at May 13, 2005 02:55 PM

I was actually making fun of my own s/he-ing. The ze/hir crap is pretty stupid.

Posted by: Nikki at May 13, 2005 03:31 PM

There's a "person" on another forum in which I participate whom I knew as Dick Zeitlung.

A few years ago, he proudly announced that he felt more like a female than a male and was undergoing a sex change operation to fix things.

"He" still participates in the forum, but now goes by the name of "Nancy".

Forgive me, but in my mind I now call him "Dickless", since he lost both his name and his manhood.

(Remember the scene in Ghostbusters?)

I'm just glad someone didn't find the part he had removed in a bowl of Wendy's Chili...

Posted by: snopercod at May 13, 2005 06:00 PM

Is this simply a case of pronoun envy?

Posted by: colin at May 19, 2005 04:17 PM

Well Colin,

As Freud said, sometimes a pronoun is just a pronoun...

Posted by: BAW at May 20, 2005 10:44 AM