Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What Are Your Pronouns?


At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements. 😉

The other day, someone was telling me about the gender neutral pronoun "ze". I'd never heard of it. All I'd heard about was singular "they". The point of this conversation was complaint, so I won't go there. (I don't see what the big deal is. We should all be able to identify ourselves the way we wish.) But it got me thinking...

What if our language had no gendered pronouns?

17 comments:

  1. I'm shocked you never heard of that pronoun. As for not having them gender specific, I thought of something similiar before it was such tricky territory. For example, when answering phones or placing calls, one could easily offend by using mister or miss incorrectly as timbre of voice is no sure indicator. It would sure make things simpler. Be well!

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    1. We've just been using singular they. I didn't realize there was another one.

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  2. I've never heard "ze" either. I've been using "they".

    Announcements in the NYC subways used to begin "Attention ladies and gentlemen." Now announcements being "Hello, everyone."

    I'm trying to imagine genderless Hebrew...It's even worse than romance languages ...As a woman I would say "Ani medaberet ivrit", meaning "I speak Hebrew." A man would say "Ani medaber ivrit."

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    1. I guess English is pretty genderless compared to many languages. (I never could keep track of le vs la in French.)

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  3. I've never heard of ze either. I think completely genderless is a little creepy. (I read a science fiction book years ago where one race was like that and it was creepy.)

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    1. Was it "the Left Hand of Darkness"? Ursula Le Guin? Weird book.

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  4. Chinese uses a the same pronoun for he/she/it when speaking, from what I remember. This fact helped me understand why Chinese students in my basic literacy ESL classes often had difficulty picking the correct one.

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    1. Interesting. So this would be easier in Chinese.

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  5. There are several languages that don't use gendered pronouns, so it can definitely work. It would certainly make things easier for a lot of people. Not to mention shut up the jerks who flip out when someone mentions their pronouns.

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  6. Never heard of "ze." I'm trying to think how it would be with no gendered pronouns. Lots of they and them; might get a little confusing.

    betty

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  7. My niece considers herself binary and does not want to be called niece as she coldly texted me New Year’s Eve. I mistakenly wrote, “Happy New Year to my beautiful niece and he wonderful partner. I love you.” Her response...”Happy New Year. I would appreciate you not calling me niece.” I am all for equality and if people don’t want to be known as male or female, ok but my niece needs to smarten up with how she speaks to me. Christmas she was dismissive with me, not her dad or my hubby, just me. I truly wanted to smack her. Ok this has nothing really to do with being binary so it must be bugging the hell out of me and I need to come to grips with it.

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    1. Birgit,

      Girls are the absolute worse for this foolishness. Your niece was disrespectful and unkind to you. She has no idea how blessed to have someone care enough to send her a loving New Year's greetings.

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    2. I'm so sorry. It hurts when our family treats us that way.

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  8. I almost wish we *didn't* have gendered pronouns...in general. Like you, I think we should be able to identify as we wish. In my writing (like, back in high school, even, which was a LONG time ago), I often used them/they/their. Not really for identity purposes so much as inclusivity purposes. I can see where maybe for medical reasons, the biological genders should be used. I've come across a lot of people who don't agree with not using biological genders, but honestly? It isn't hurting me to use someone's preferred gender.

    Kim

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    1. I know, right? If someone changes their name, we respect that.

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  9. Liz,

    We are male or female. Folks need to be happy with his/her sexuality, instead of finding ways to degrade it for whatever reason. I didn't answer your question but I haven't given that much thought. It's interesting to read some of the comments about other languages that have neutral genders but it doesn't negate the simple truth of one's sex. Obvious people in other countries recognize the difference between women and men. Interesting.

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I appreciate your comments.

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