Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#21  Postby wunksta » May 27, 2010 3:41 am

Scott H wrote:Interesting. 'They' still sounds somewhat awkward, however.

'Said one' might work, but would we continue to say 'said one,' or being saying 'one'?


said one would just reinforce that the sentence is about the initial subject, which isnt necessary because it should already be understood without further reference.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#22  Postby GreyICE » May 27, 2010 4:16 am

Scott H wrote:Interesting. 'They' still sounds somewhat awkward, however.

'Said one' might work, but would we continue to say 'said one,' or being saying 'one'?

Pronouns should logically refer to the appropriate subject without further elaboration. If there's a case where a pronoun would require further elaboration, then the appropriate subject should be restated (for instance, "Tom and Harry went to school together. Then he went to the store alone after school." This is incorrect). Usage of 'one' should similarly not require further elaboration.

I fail to see how this is particuarly awkward, if we need a gender neutral pronoun, 'one' and 'they' can pretty much cover it, with very few cases where a 'he or she' is actually needed. Certainly the confusion caused by the gender neutral pronouns proposed (such as 'ze' which would be oh so easy to distinguish from 'she' in casual conversation, obviously) is an order of magnitude greater.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#23  Postby GordonWillis » Jun 24, 2010 9:43 am

I think it is very difficult to invent such a fundamental kind of word as a personal pronoun from scratch. The history of “its” seems a good example of how such things normally come about — which is, by building on what is already accepted. In Old English, the subject form was “hit”, with a possessive form “his”, the same as the possessive of the masculine pronoun “he”. By the end of the 16th century, “hit” had lost its H, and people were clearly somewhat uncomfortable with the possessive form: some people began to replace neuter “his” with “it”, and then eventually with the current form, “its”. The development is well illustrated in Shakespeare, who uses each of the forms at one time or another. I think it unlikely that any new form will become generally accepted unless it develops by some similar sort of process.

To my mind the most plausible candidate is “they”. For one thing, it’s already in wide use. The problem of distinguishing singular from plural is not actually very great, and the main objections are “it’s not what one is used to” and “it sounds wrong” (and also, it’s uncouth, vulgar, shockingly immoral, not to say downright wicked, etc. In other words, once people get used to it no one will care). A good comparison might be made with the two (originally different) German pronouns “sie” (she and they/you), and as with German, capitalising the word might help to reduce possible confusion in writing (which is all that really matters). In any case, we already capitalise “I”, so why not write “They” as a singular? (German has “sie” = they, “Sie” = you, both with plural verb, and “sie” = she, with singular verb). If speakers of German can cope with this, as they do, I don’t see why speakers of English should have much trouble, either. The point is that it would be a natural development from existing usage, and therefore not “artificial” or “imposed”. The key, of course, is general adoption.

I can’t agree about “one”. Its functions are rather too particular for it to be very usable as an ordinary common-gender pronoun. It is mostly used in general statements which include the speaker; for which reason it’s too easily used to avoid simply saying “I” — I suspect that that's why many people consider it “formal” (i.e., dishonest). This is a pity. In any case, if it were adopted in place of “he” and “she” it would still be needed in its present functions, or else a replacement would have to be found to cover those uses. Either way, it just starts a new problem somewhere else.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#24  Postby Tyrannical » Jun 24, 2010 9:47 am

she / he / it ("shit")

(oh, someone beat me to it. Not that it wasn't incredibly obvious)
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#25  Postby Scott H » Jun 28, 2010 11:53 pm

'They' sounds too uneducated.
'Said one' sounds like 'sad one.'

I still think we could use androgynous pronouns.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#26  Postby GreyICE » Jun 29, 2010 6:44 am

Scott H wrote:'They' sounds too uneducated.
'Said one' sounds like 'sad one.'

I still think we could use androgynous pronouns.

You're still wrong to think that. /end thread
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#27  Postby hotshoe » Jun 29, 2010 8:01 am

I use "zhe" all the time in writing. I imagine that some readers just think I mistyped either "he" or "she" - but if that's true, no one has corrected me.

I can't stand "one" for ordinary use as it sounds old and pompous. I can stand, but don't prefer, a singular "they" because I dislike the (minor) confusion of plural vs singular.

I predict that singular "they" will officially replace "he or she" within the lifetime of people on this forum. in which case, I'll give in to the crowd wisdom.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#28  Postby Bolero » Jun 30, 2010 6:48 am

I actually don't mind gendered pronouns as a rule. I mean, if you're talking about someone female, use 'she', someone male, use 'he'. As has already been mentioned, common use has led to 'they' becoming a perfectly acceptable term when referring to a person of unspecified gender, so the alleged conundrum doesn't really exist. Language is a living thing - use changes it.

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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#29  Postby GordonWillis » Jul 04, 2010 12:54 pm

I agree that “one” is not suitable. Too many people have strong feelings about it, and besides, we need it for its proper use. I think that Bolero's idea is most likely correct (although I don't think that anyone here is questioning the established “gendered pronouns”). We'll keep the usual singular pronouns for when we know whom we are talking about and use the plural when we don't. The fact that people in all parts of the English-speaking world are complaining about singular “they” strongly suggests that it is becoming general everywhere. Maybe I should start using it more — with a capital T, of course!
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#30  Postby kiore » Jul 04, 2010 3:25 pm

shh wrote:"In order that the participant be fully aware of the guidelines they must yadayada." :D


Actually I am a fan of using the plurals, it works fine with native English speakers as they auto correct but I have found it confused or bemuses French and German speakers who frequently try to 'correct' me.. But if the Queen can be we, so can we.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#31  Postby mindyourmind » Jul 04, 2010 3:31 pm

I'm going to wait until you puzzle it out then I am going to complain bitterly about my individual rights as a male being oppressed and maligned, and as males are a shrinking minority I will be able to write books and whine on talk-shows. And I will continue to refer to "he" and "she" even though there are statutes prohibiting it.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#32  Postby Bolero » Jul 04, 2010 11:43 pm

GordonWillis wrote:I agree that “one” is not suitable. Too many people have strong feelings about it, and besides, we need it for its proper use. I think that Bolero's idea is most likely correct (although I don't think that anyone here is questioning the established “gendered pronouns”). We'll keep the usual singular pronouns for when we know whom we are talking about and use the plural when we don't. The fact that people in all parts of the English-speaking world are complaining about singular “they” strongly suggests that it is becoming general everywhere. Maybe I should start using it more — with a capital T, of course!


Yes, sorry, upon re-reading, I realised I'd implied something I hadn't intended. I was really just thinking aloud.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#33  Postby Eryemil » Jul 04, 2010 11:47 pm

I use "they".
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#34  Postby Scott H » Jul 09, 2010 11:36 am

GreyICE wrote:
Scott H wrote:'They' sounds too uneducated.
'Said one' sounds like 'sad one.'

I still think we could use androgynous pronouns.

You're still wrong to think that. /end thread


That remark took about as much intelligence as slamming a brick in someone's face, and you're not being very creative.

Lately I've been experimenting with 'one' and 'said one' in place of 'he,' 'she,' etc. It's extremely awkward in practice. 'Said one' is a whopping two syllables long and can't be repeated without butchering the style of speech. 'One' draws too much attention to an arbitrary person rather than the mentioned subject. 'They' sounds just plain uneducated -- it makes it sound like both possibilities are real, somehow, which is an actual fallacy.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#35  Postby shh » Jul 09, 2010 1:11 pm

Scott H wrote:Lately I've been experimenting with 'one' and 'said one' in place of 'he,' 'she,' etc. It's extremely awkward in practice. 'Said one' is a whopping two syllables long and can't be repeated without butchering the style of speech. 'One' draws too much attention to an arbitrary person rather than the mentioned subject. 'They' sounds just plain uneducated -- it makes it sound like both possibilities are real, somehow, which is an actual fallacy.

If it sounds uneducated or sounds like "both possibilities are real" that's just your impression, not an actual anything.
People use "they". It doesn't sound like they're uneducated to me, it sounds like they picked the obvious word to do that job, and that's the job it's doing.
That seems like the best course of action to me, and dismissing it because it "sounds uneducated" is just snobbery.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#36  Postby CookieJon » Jul 09, 2010 1:27 pm

Scott H wrote:'They' sounds too uneducated.


Claiming "they" sounds too uneducated sounds too uneducated. :snooty:

The use of the singular they is recommended by the Attorney-General's Department of the Commonwealth of Australia, for reasons including:

1. There used to be two second-person pronouns in English: thou in the singular and ye in the plural. By the end of the 17th century you had replaced both and today remains the only second-person pronoun. For the past three centuries, English speakers have demonstrated by their usage that they are not disturbed by using the one pronoun in both a singular and a plural sense…language can -- and does -- change without a collapse in successful communication.

2. We may be prepared to accept a sole use of he or she but in a string of sentences it becomes far too cumbersome and they is by far the happier solution:

If a person was asked to define a zebra, they could do this quite efficiently without calling up a whole 'zoo' or 'safari' frame. But if they overheard someone talking about a zebra seen in London earlier in the day, then they could go deeper into their memory, and call up a zoo frame, which would allow them to fit the narrative into a predicted set-up.
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#37  Postby GordonWillis » Jul 09, 2010 3:40 pm

Thanks for that, CookieJon. I must say that the Attorney-General's Department seems to me to express itself entirely naturally on the subject of zebras. I also agree with those who feel that the argument "it sounds uneducated" is not acceptable.
Scott H wrote: ... it makes it sound like both possibilities are real, somehow, which is an actual fallacy.

This is a good example of idiomatic usage ("like" for "as though") which, not too long ago, would have been considered "uneducated", and is so still by many people. It neatly illustrates how new usages sneak up on a language and become taken as "normal" by a process which is as unconscious as it is natural. Sorry, Scott H, but one needs to be very careful when using this argument! (Sorry to rub it in, but some people would complain about your use of "fallacy" as well).
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#38  Postby Ragwortshire » Jul 09, 2010 3:45 pm

There are always the Spivak pronouns - ey, em, eir etc. (Just take the plural form and drop the "th" from the start).
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#39  Postby CookieJon » Jul 09, 2010 3:49 pm

GordonWillis wrote:Thanks for that, CookieJon. I must say that the Attorney-General's Department seems to me to express itself entirely naturally on the subject of zebras.


Yes - I had to re-read that a few times myself... I thought I'd copied and pasted from a different blog or something ;-)
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Re: Invent your own androgynous personal pronouns!

#40  Postby GordonWillis » Jul 09, 2010 4:45 pm

Ragwortshire wrote:There are always the Spivak pronouns - ey, em, eir etc. (Just take the plural form and drop the "th" from the start).


Thanks, Ragwortshire (no reference to "Oxford" I suppose?), I've not heard of Spivak pronouns before. I must admit I don't care for his "em". I like traditional "em" in its normal use, being no doubt uneducated, but it is all that survives of Middle English "hem" since it was ousted from "educated" usage by that foreign upstart "them", and I like to think it continues to be used properly, even if only in a shadowy half-life. And I also have a dislike of "artificial" words. But there we go: we all have our pet likes and dislikes!

And, yes, I like to begin sentences with conjunctions. :sigh: Will there ever be an end to linguistic solecism...?
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