Category Archives: Language

now you can use they, and they can use you too

I was just listening to A Way With Words, and I heard something that caught me completely off guard.  I’ve been complaining about gender-neutral singular pronouns for years, hoping that something like ‘ve’ would replace the awkward ‘he or she’ or the patently evil ‘s/he’.  Greg Egan aside, nothing ever took off.  It turns out that the verbivores have already solved this one to my satisfaction with an obvious (but previously maligned) choice: they.

To quote from Sex and the Singular Pronoun:

Gentle reader (and listener), please open your ears and eyes. Listen and look for statements that contain an indefinite pronoun or a singular noun and hear and see what pronoun follows. In almost every case that pronoun will be a form of they. We do that because the device is historically tested. We do that because it is more graceful than “he or she.” And we do that because it avoids making a minority of us the linguistic norm and a majority of us a linguistic afterthought.

That settles it as far as I’m concerned.  I’m going to start using the singular they with impunity, and I’ll let anyone I meet know that they’re welcome to do so as well.  ˇViva la evolución!

further signs of empire

Faced with human rights scandals, trillion-dollar deficits, rampant corruption, and a rising death toll, our Senate finally decided to do something:

They declared English the national language of the United States. Or maybe the common language. Something like that.

Sigh. What exactly does this get anyone? Nothing.  Then again, what harm could it do?  Plenty, actually. From the amendment:

Unless otherwise offered or provided by law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English.

Which is all well and good until you realize that this opens the door to effectively deny non-English-speakers who are legitimately in the country any assistance when, say, facing the charge of, say, Driving While Brown.  Perhaps I’m just being oversensitive, but I’ve learned that it’s never too early to oppose stupid policy.

a call for help, a plea for sanity

I need a word. Perhaps I’ll call on the verbivores to help, but you, gentle reader, might know of one already. Here’s the definition: “To become what one ostensibly opposes, often in the course of that opposition.” It may sound like hypocrisy, a la “if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s intolerance,” but this new thing needs an element of menace, of tactics employed to win the battle. Think of Serenity‘s Operative, who hunted down sinners by commiting every sin he ascribed to them.
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