Saturday, October 4, 2008

Grammar War V: He, She... Shit

English, as most of us know, is a strange, erratic language. It almost completely lacks the masculine and feminine distinctions found in most other languages, particularly those of the Romance/Neolatin family. When it comes to singular pronouns, we have "he," we have "she," and we have "it". He, obviously, refers to males. She to females. And it to everything not human.

In this frightening age of political correctness, many parties take issue with the sole use of "he," even when prefaced by disclaimers found in the forewords of several texts. As a result, we often find the unnecessarily uneconomic use of "he or she," "he and she," he and/or she," and the absolutely ghastly "s/he."

Honestly, in my opinion, we need to figure out a solution before many grammarians (including myself) go stark raving mad.

Here are some proposals:

1) They - seriously, it's already colloquially accepted, with only the most involved text-Nazis pointing out the improper use of "they" as a substitute for "he or she." I'm perfectly fine with this, and I don't point it out in edits unless I'm specifically asked to. I use it, you probably use it, and given the proper use of antecedent, it's not going to confuse anybody.

2) The - this one would be hard to swallow, as it's already one of our two most common words used. But the logic is there. He, she, they. Simply drop the y, and we'd have a gender-neutral pronoun that follows the same pattern as the other two.

3) Person - while technically correct, it is, admittedly, a bit awkward. Instead of "if he or she decides to continue," we have "if person decides to continue." Many get around this by using "said person," but that's quite unnecessary. Just for the record, I don't like this option.

4) Phe - another awkward one, but one that also follows the pattern. Based on the word "hermaphrodite," this also offers a certain logic.

5) Shit - no, I'm not joking. Why not legitimize the word? Think about it. Our three singular pronouns are he, she, and it. Look closely. See the logic? Okay, so I am joking, but the relation is quite evident.

6) Xhe - a completely baseless modern "cool" word that uses an underachieving (yet overexposed) letter of English language. On top of that, in speech, it would be pronounced like a Chinese combination of "she" and "jee." And since I made it up, I quite like it and will use it from here on out. Nyah.

Words you probably don't know:

allopatric - occuring in different geographic areas or in isolation

fulvous - of a dull browny yellow

lustrate - to purify ceremonially


Anonymous said...

While I understand the ghastliness of s/he, I also think it is more due to snobbishness than anything else. It's the perfect substitute. Or we could all just use "she" and have everything follow the feminine forms since the feminine includes the masculine. Why should women have to lose our special little letter to be grammatically or politically correct? Why does everything either have to be masculine or complicated? Maybe men are scared of something in that little "s." Maybe you're just the man trying to hold the woman down...

Maybe I really don't care. Besides, I'm perfectly happy with the ghastly. Some non-grammarian probably came up with it and pissed off the snobbies, so they - and you, apparently - must come up with some idiotic way to say it that is grammatically not "ghastly." Kind of like having infantrymen in the Navy.

Posted by Jessica Lynn on October 4, 2008 - Saturday - 7:32 AM

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your writings because even a math-minded, English-ignorant ass like me can understand your the point of your bloggies.

Please explain the ghastliness that is s/he. I don't get it. I think I missed that day when I took freshman English in college. Either that or I just ignored Dr. Collonese, I didn't really care too much for that man.

I rather prefer "shit". I enjoy cursing like a sailor, so any chance to use dirty words legitimately excites me.

Posted by **JEAN** on October 4, 2008 - Saturday - 2:22 PM

Anonymous said...

@JL: You understand the ghastliness of s/he yet believe it's the perfect substitute? That is completely idiotic, Miss "We're a Republic, Not a Democracy."

Not getting into the aesthetic aspect of "s/he," it's an improper textual use of a slash, has no obvious pronunciation in speech, and is just plain stupid due to its lack of necessity. And, guess what, we would still lack a gender-neutral pronoun that means "person."

Feminine forms do not include masculine forms. They are mutually exclusive. Hence, "feminine" and "masculine."

Posted by JeffScape on October 4, 2008 - Saturday - 3:17 PM

Anonymous said...

@JEAN: See my reply to the above poster.

And shit works for me, as well.

Posted by JeffScape on October 4, 2008 - Saturday - 3:19 PM

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