Old 11-03-2002, 10:36 AM   #1
tripleflip
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Talking Pronouns

So, okay, when I was up at UTD I discovered I was one of only three girls on campus capable of understanding the concept that the male pronoun can be understood to apply to the female gender as well. This is, I admit, a difficult concept: It requires the ultimate of abstraction to "understand" something which is the opposite of the literal.

As a result, young women on campus who read, "The doctor... he" and "The nurse... she" were forever locked into those old sex sterotypes of the male doctor and the female nurse. If there is one thing we know today, it's that stereotyoes are bad, if not actually immoral. We need to suspend judgment of the young bearded guy with fuses hanging out of his shoes and the plump grandma with knitting needles hanging out of her purse until we get to know them, as invividuals, as persons--walk a mile in their shoes, understand their lifestyles, don't you see. After all, clothes don't make a man, woman or child, and fuses don't make a bomb. It's the C4 in the shoes, dummy!

Well, a person like me gets stuck pretty fast. It takes me about a hour and a few cups of coffee to get to know someone well enough to have any considered opinion about them. I come into contact with about twenty people a day, about each of whom I have to form some kind of a considered judgement. To so this authentically would take several dozen cups of coffee. This is good, because I'd have only four hours left in my day to do everything else. No, I guess I'm going to have to use stereotypes sometimes, at least until I get to know the person.

I can fix the language problem, though. For years we have been saying "he or she," or the more trendy of us say "s/he" and the most trendy just use "she" for everything. There are still folks being left out. For example, my friend had to lay down his bike, and got a severe case of road rash which effectively castrated him. To preserve his self-esteem, he wanted to be addressed with the neuter pronoun, "it." Then this girl came down with MPD. Some of the alters were male, some female, but they all wanted to be addressed as "they." Well, you can see that by now, the all-inclusive pronoun had grown to quite a mouthful: "she, he, it, or they." So to shorten it up, I just use the first letters.

Now when someone gets all huffy, like, "PLEASE, Ms. Owens! Can't you use a more inclusive pronoun?" I just say, "S.H.I.T"

Kristie

"The Clean Little Girl with the Filthy Mind"

Last edited by tripleflip : 11-03-2002 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 11-03-2002, 02:57 PM   #2
Whispersecret
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LOL, Kristy.

Personally, I think it's just plain silly to get upset over something as innocuous as a pronoun. This is, to me, a prime example of women's lib gone amok. I have enough self-respect as a woman and am comfortable enough in my gender not to become riled at the fact that the male pronoun is sometimes used to describe females. (Same for words like "mankind," etc.)

S/he? I laugh. Talk about ridiculous.

Stereotypes will always exist, just as they will always be inaccurate when applied to individuals.

Here comes a rant:

As for those who feel left out...GET THE FUCK OVER IT. You know, the world doesn't revolve around you and your precious feelings, and the sooner you realize it the better. You'll be a lot happier if you don't take everything personally.

All right. I'm off my soapbox. None of this has much to do with editing. LOL.

(By the way, Kristy, I was WONDERING if you were into skating when I first saw your nickname!)
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:04 PM   #3
othbndy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tripleflip View Post
So, okay, when I was up at UTD I discovered I was one of only three girls on campus capable of understanding the concept that the male pronoun can be understood to apply to the female gender as well. This is, I admit, a difficult concept: It requires the ultimate of abstraction to "understand" something which is the opposite of the literal.

As a result, young women on campus who read, "The doctor... he" and "The nurse... she" were forever locked into those old sex sterotypes of the male doctor and the female nurse. If there is one thing we know today, it's that stereotyoes are bad, if not actually immoral. We need to suspend judgment of the young bearded guy with fuses hanging out of his shoes and the plump grandma with knitting needles hanging out of her purse until we get to know them, as invividuals, as persons--walk a mile in their shoes, understand their lifestyles, don't you see. After all, clothes don't make a man, woman or child, and fuses don't make a bomb. It's the C4 in the shoes, dummy!

Well, a person like me gets stuck pretty fast. It takes me about a hour and a few cups of coffee to get to know someone well enough to have any considered opinion about them. I come into contact with about twenty people a day, about each of whom I have to form some kind of a considered judgement. To so this authentically would take several dozen cups of coffee. This is good, because I'd have only four hours left in my day to do everything else. No, I guess I'm going to have to use stereotypes sometimes, at least until I get to know the person.

I can fix the language problem, though. For years we have been saying "he or she," or the more trendy of us say "s/he" and the most trendy just use "she" for everything. There are still folks being left out. For example, my friend had to lay down his bike, and got a severe case of road rash which effectively castrated him. To preserve his self-esteem, he wanted to be addressed with the neuter pronoun, "it." Then this girl came down with MPD. Some of the alters were male, some female, but they all wanted to be addressed as "they." Well, you can see that by now, the all-inclusive pronoun had grown to quite a mouthful: "she, he, it, or they." So to shorten it up, I just use the first letters.

Now when someone gets all huffy, like, "PLEASE, Ms. Owens! Can't you use a more inclusive pronoun?" I just say, "S.H.I.T"

Kristie

"The Clean Little Girl with the Filthy Mind"
Kristy,

S.H.I.T. is the perfect pronoun, unless of course we are talking about ourselves, and then maybe we can be Asses instead of me, myself, or I, since we produce the S.H.I.T.s to begin with.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:43 AM   #4
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i agree with the rant, for the most part, but ok, 9/11 changed everything...or something like that. Gender-inclusive is the way to go. Not in my writing, and not in writing for others if it means having to use monstrosities like "chairperson," though. So many of these convolutions scream to me, "Oh! See how much a new age man I am?"

Another thing that frosts me is using bad grammar to dodge libber police. People just automatically use "they" instead of "he" or "she." It's ugly and at times can garble the meaning of a statement. And it's lazy as well. Think before you speak or write, and you won't say things like "If your child is less than 4' 6" tall, they cannot go on this ride."

If you have a plural antecedent, "they" is natural AND correct. So start with a plural and you won't stop dead in the middle of the sentence, terrified, because a "he" is going to come out of your mouth and make you a pariah at the Greenpeace meeting.

Sometimes you can dodge a pronoun completely. "Children under...cannot go on this ride."

Or at the risk of some slight loss of rhythm, repeat the noun. That's still better than "your child...they..."

S/he who hesitates is lost. Ugh!
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:32 AM   #5
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I actually disagree with palisa about this, as I believe that something like "If your child is less than 4' 6" tall, they cannot go on this ride." is quite elegant. Even better, of course, "Children less than 4' 6" tall, cannot go on this ride." or, "They who hesitate are lost." But I have no objection whatsoever to the singular "they" notwithstanding that strict grammarians may blanch at the idea.

Like palisa, however, I do object to the foolish s/he idea and some other convoluted ways of trying to be "politically correct", although repeating the noun almost always involves a total loss of rhythm.
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:46 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by palisa View Post
... if it means having to use monstrosities like "chairperson,"
I attend a committee where the approved noun for the controlling person is "chair", but that is OK because all the upper part of that individual seems to be made of wood, with a decorative veneer of skin.
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Old 10-09-2012, 06:39 PM   #7
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I hope y'all noticed that you're reviving a thread that died ten years ago...

Quote:
Originally Posted by palisa View Post
i agree with the rant, for the most part, but ok, 9/11 changed everything...or something like that. Gender-inclusive is the way to go. Not in my writing, and not in writing for others if it means having to use monstrosities like "chairperson," though.
Meh. Today's monstrosity is tomorrow's convention. I know some people dislike any change to the language of their youth/Shakespeare/Chaucer/Beowulf, but I'm not fond of the attitude that male = default.

For those who don't like "he/she" or "they", another option is to alternate: switch pronouns every time you're talking about a different unnamed person. Of course, people will still complain about that - I've seen several who didn't notice the 50% "he" and mistakenly complained that the publisher was using only "she", which suggests some interesting cognitive biases at work.
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by bumblegrum View Post
I actually disagree with palisa about this, as I believe that something like "If your child is less than 4' 6" tall, they cannot go on this ride." is quite elegant.
The problem is this: Every pronoun (except for dummy pronouns as in "It is raining") has to have an antecedent. So "your child" is a "they"? Split personality, maybe?

Or how do you handle something like "If your child sasses the teachers, they will be punished"? (Rhetorical question.)

Agreement in number and gender are pretty basic English grammar elements.

And if you believe that pronouns with gender attached demean you, consider the plight of the downtrodden and oppressed German, French and Spanish women!

Finally, I wouldn't go so far as to say that any repetition of the noun breaks the rhythm. It's commonly done where there might be some ambiguity.

Change the sentence above to "If a child bribes a teacher, ___ will be punished. Whatever your meaning, a pronoun doesn't work. You have to specify "the child" or "the teacher" to avoid ambiguity.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bramblethorn View Post
I hope y'all noticed that you're reviving a thread that died ten years ago...
Kinda makes you feel like Jesus, doesn't it?
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Old 10-10-2012, 04:38 AM   #10
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OK palisa, fair points; I would rephrase your rhetorical question to avoid the inherent ambiguity to read, "Children (or even, "Any children") who sass teachers will be punished." No pronoun problem. Or, again, "Any child who bribes or attempts to bribe a teacher will be punished."

I have no problem with using "he" or "she" where the gender of the subject is not in question, eg "My son is getting married tomorrow. He is marrying a lovely girl." And I agree that "Agreement in number and gender are pretty basic English grammar elements." Nevertheless, the "he/she" dichotomy has been around for centuries - it's just that there is now a recognition that we do need to distinguish between men and women, and where the distinction is not clear, there needs to be an acceptable alternative. It exists in the plural ("they", "them") so I believe it is legitimate to press these terms into service in the singular.

Yes, that usage does defy what you have defined as "pretty basic", but English, perhaps more than any other language, is fluid and adaptable. I suggest that this is a useful adaptation.

Regards

Jesus (aka bumblegrum)
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Old 10-16-2012, 12:49 PM   #11
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tripleflip,I've only just read this thread.

English speakers like us have difficulty grasping the difference between 'gender' (a grammatical term) and sex(physical attributes).

In French, vodka is feminine gender and gin masculine, so does that make a vodka martini hemaphrodite? Also, in most european languages, the personal pronoun refers to the gender of the following noun not the sex of the antecedent - like 'the mother loved 'his son' or the father loved 'her daughter'.

'Man' is in principle a neuter noun in English, meaning a human being of either sex. It leads to mind/mental - ability to think and mankind, manslaughter and such neuter terms.

It's funny, in old English the personal pronouns were 'he', 'hit'(it) and 'heo'. By the twelth century women had got so pissed off being indistinguishable from males, from prononciation, that the the feminine demonstrative pronoun, 'seo' gave rise to 'she'.
Early case of feminism.

As we Anglo-Saxons purge our language of gender, foreign languages embrace the difference to promote equality.

The singular of the ugly plural personal pronoun 'they' is what exactly? Just sexlessness?

( Why do we continue to use the very formal, plural 'you' in favor of the more personal 'thou'?)

I'm proud of being a 'she' and take offence at your 'h/she' abomination.

If Ms. Clinton gets to be President is she 'Mr. President' or 'First Lady'?
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Old 10-16-2012, 08:48 PM   #12
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