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Let's talk special pronouns and English


strategist_ceo
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I received a request some time ago with a special requirement to use "they/them" pronouns; since I genuinely don't know how to use these pronouns as intended (as a pronoun for a single person), I declined.

Merriam-Webster has included they/them as a standard term in its dictionary. I wonder how many writers here are already actively using special pronouns in their writing?

Pronoun cards 2016-02

Personal Pronouns listed on University of Wisconsin website.

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This is one of the things that always make me feel really old and out of touch on Twitter...

I had to use the "they" pronoun a few times in Danish. But I don't like to do it because the "they" pronoun ("de" in Danish), when used for a single person, is meant to be used in very formal contexts--like with royalty. Even some of the royals have stopped using it, so... it's just weird in Danish.

Edited by vibronx
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8 hours ago, catwriter said:

I use they/them when needed. I never had a reason to use the 'special' ones, though I doubt I'd have a problem with them.

Are you using the pronouns they/them correctly? The use of they/them as a singular pronoun can be confusing. 

For e.g:

Quote

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by every one who looked at them, but most of all by their grandmother, and there was nothing that they would not have given to the child. Once they gave them a little cap of red velvet, which suited them so well that they would never wear anything else. So they was always called Little Red Riding Hood.

One day their mother said to them, "Come, Little Red Riding Hood, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother, they is ill and weak, and they will do them good. Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle, and then your grandmother will get nothing. And when you go into their room, don't forget to say, good-morning, and don't peep into every corner before you do it."

:classic_ninja: I replaced she/her with they/them. Opinions?

8 hours ago, vibronx said:

This is one of the things that always make me feel really old and out of touch on Twitter.

This is no longer a matter of concern for being out of touch on twitterverse, many dictionaries are accepting this as standard usage.

Edited by strategist_ceo
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35 minutes ago, strategist_ceo said:

 I replaced she/her with they/them. Opinions?

You don't just replace she with they for no reason. You use they when it should be used (for example, when the gender is unknown, or when the person is non-binary). That way, it's far less confusing.

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5 minutes ago, catwriter said:

You don't just replace she with they for no reason. You use they when it should be used (for example, when the gender is unknown, or when the person is non-binary). That way, it's far less confusing.

In the case that little red and grandma pronouns are they/them, this interpretation is not incorrect. 

Or is it? I am so confused. I guess I'll go back to the standard ones that I am used to.

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I honestly would need to make sure I'm using them correctly each time (if I was using a neopronoun for a character) but honestly I don't think it's that hard once you get into the habit of it. I do write non-binary characters fairly often. If it feels right for someone, I'm happy to try and put in the effort to make sure I don't misgender them.

THAT being said, coming from Hungary where we only have 'Ő' (which is basically he/she) and ők (they)... it WAS a bit jarring at first. French was even harder though!

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1 hour ago, strategist_ceo said:

In the case that little red and grandma pronouns are they/them, this interpretation is not incorrect. 

If their pronouns are they/them, dear little girl would be a dear little child, and grandma would be a grandparent (or a word with similar meaning). 🙂

1 hour ago, strategist_ceo said:

I am so confused.

It can take some time to get used to it. I got used to it by reading books with non-binary characters and observing how authors not just used pronouns, but also wrote it in a way that didn't read awkward.

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5 hours ago, catwriter said:

If their pronouns are they/them, dear little girl would be a dear little child, and grandma would be a grandparent (or a word with similar meaning).

Corrected:

Quote

Once upon a time there was a dear little child who was loved by every one who looked at them, but most of all by their grandparent, and there was nothing that they would not have given to the child. Once they gave them a little cap of red velvet, which suited them so well that they would never wear anything else. So they was always called Little Red Riding Hood.

One day their birthing parent said to them, "Come, Little Red Riding Hood, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandparent, they is ill and weak, and they will do them good. Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle, and then your grandparent will get nothing. And when you go into their room, don't forget to say, good-morning, and don't peep into every corner before you do it."

This is not meant to be argumentative.

I'm curious about how the new English Standard will work and am concerned that the English we're used to won't be relevant anymore.

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6 hours ago, strategist_ceo said:

This is not meant to be argumentative.

I understand that. I see a lot of confused people.

So, now everyone in the story is non-binary? I've never read such a story, to be honest. They/them typically applies to one character only. I've also seen, in some stories, ze/zie used for everyone, but the pronouns as such were used sporadically, and simply meant that the main character didn't assume anyone's gender (and those stories were happening in the future, so pronouns were just a part of that).

6 hours ago, strategist_ceo said:

I'm curious about how the new English Standard will work and am concerned that the English we're used to won't be relevant anymore.

Language, any language, changes with time. For example, several decades ago, certain words (say, for people of color, or for the LGBTQIA+ population) were commonly used, but now they're considered to be derogatory terms and a polite person wouldn't use them. We change, the society changes, and the language changes to reflect that. It's a normal process.

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I spend quite a lot of time on wording things in order to avoid distinctly male or female nouns or pronouns, where possible, without getting your tongue or brain into a knot or ending up with a text double the length of the source text. It's really easy in English, compared to some other languages... 

However, most people either aren't aware, or don't care, or leave it up to me, apparently, and while I had some requests for "gender-neutrality", nobody so far was as specific as to ask for those pronouns to be used, and most of the people who ask for "gender-neutral" seem to understand avoidance of male/female nouns and "they" under it, or even male AND female nouns and pronouns, while that doesn't make it gender-neutral, but just less male-centric (and a lot longer). 

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On 12/17/2022 at 6:55 PM, strategist_ceo said:

Or is it? I am so confused. I guess I'll go back to the standard ones that I am used to.

Having a lot of trans friends who have gone or are going through several forms of transitions, I've had to hardwire my brain to use gender neutral language for large chunks of their transition while they figure themselves out. It's also really great in helping to avoid accidentally offending anyone on YouTube/Twitter since I'm terminally online and would very much like to avoid getting cancelled. (And that's even with 2 attempted cancellations under my belt!)

At this point I assume everyone is genderless until proven otherwise.

I use they/them when referring to anyone online until I'm sure of their gender (like, written proof on their profiles or in statements they've made or others have made to them). I've tried guessing and apparently I suck at it. Just because someone has a cute profile and feminine name doesn't mean it's a girl, and vice versa for guys. And it happened to me twice within two weeks of each other. So embarrassing 🤦🏽‍♀️😖

So I just stopped assuming. And because of that I've created scenarios where I never asked and I've now known people for 6 months to two years and I don't know their gender and I'm in too deep to ask. Please send help 😀

I start or end (in certain situations) written statements with "Dear/Good Sir, Madam, or Non-Binary person" or "great job dude, dudette, or anything in-between or outside!" and have been praised to high heaven for my inclusive language, even though I feel I shouldn't.

Is it bulkier and weights down a sentence? Yes. But if it gives someone peace of mind than its well worth it.

I'm being paid after all, who am I to argue with the customers wants 😅

Edited by izah_moh
Typos & Clarifications
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