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Thread: The English Language Needs a Neutral Gender

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    Boll Weevil cuppajoe_9's Avatar
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    The English Language Needs a Neutral Gender

    Anybody who has ever written about hypothetical persons of unspecified sex knows what I'm talking about. Sentences like "Any person can execrise his or her legal rights how ever he or she sees fit" are awkward, ugly, hard to read and self-concious. I have heard of the word 'hir' used as a neuter possesive pronoun, so let's work on getting that one into the dictionary. However, I don't know of any replacements for 'he or she', aside from the craven '(s)he' and 's/he', which are no less irritating, and read as 'she' anyway. Suggestions?
    What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it.
    - Gertrude Stein

    A washerwoman with her basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; th purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
    - Virginia Woolf

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I have no problem using the masculine pronoun when being general. I don't give a hoot about political correctness when it comes to grammer.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Boll Weevil cuppajoe_9's Avatar
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    I have no stomach for political correctness. It's factual and gramatical correctness that concerns me.
    What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it.
    - Gertrude Stein

    A washerwoman with her basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; th purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
    - Virginia Woolf

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    I'm reminded of that scene from "Life of Brian"...... hahahah, if you've seen it you know what I'm talking about.


    I, as well, generally use "he" as a general pronoun
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  5. #5
    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    they

    from LDOCE:
    used when talking about someone who may be male or female, to avoid saying 'he or she':
    If anyone has any information related to the crime, will they please contact the police.
    Every child, whoever they are, deserves to have a mum and a dad.
    ..If anyone doesn't like it, they can leave.
    it works fine most of the time but in some sentences it does sound a bit awkward

    PS: didn't you say you were from Iceland, cuppa? have you moved to Canada for your studies?

  6. #6
    Serendipity! Kaltrina's Avatar
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    yep I generally use he as a pronoun, because it is very tiresome reading both of the pronouns every time... a professor of mine used (s)he, it is more practical but then I usually read it as she only...

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    If grace is an ocean... grace86's Avatar
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    Political correctness..bah!! I always use "he" it is a pain to do (s)he or s/he or he or she!

    Professors always mark it out when someone uses the word "they."

    Although the administration might find my essays a little un politically correct...my capital punishment essay uses "he," they might rag on me for women also being death row inmates...oh well..I just put "he" for the fact that it makes things easier.
    "So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about, the way....He loves us..."


    http://youtube.com/watch?v=5xXowT4eJjY

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    semper eadem
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    German has a neutral gender "das". (you have "it" or for us "es" as well, but we also have "das" as an article) No one uses "it" or "das" to address a person apart from persons who are not yet persons, children for instance. I personally hate the female versions of generals and never use them to denote myself and think "person" is a fine term to make a general reference to either gender. For any information and some philosophical fun with "das" see Martin Heidegger's "Holzwege" (I don't know the English title unfortunately).
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

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    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    when i was studying in England, professors didn't mark "they" out ..or should I say "them" ? maybe it's different in the UK and US?

    about German, some academic writers even use the female form of nouns (e.g. Lehrerinnen - female teachers, or Schülerinnen - female pupils) to mean both male and female.. now that's so much more confusing than using the male form for both. whenever i read stuff like this, I first assume they are talking about females only but then it turns out they mean both sexes... ???
    i don't see how that is any more PC than using the male form for both.

  10. #10
    Banned Turk's Avatar
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    The English Language Needs a Neutral Gender

    YES.

    We have "o" in Turkish as neutral gender. And sometimes even someone like me (who doesn't know English very well) having problems with this. For example you mention about someone you don't know, and you can't decide if you should call him or her. It's annoying.

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    I completely agree. Although I'm vocally against PC in just about any context, I subconsciously force myself to either use "they" or if possible reword a situation to where I can use either pronoun (i.e. instead of "Imagine he/she grabbed a gun" I'll try to find something like "Take Johnny for example; imagine he grabbed a gun." A bad example and not perfectly PC anyways, but if it's done right it puts it in a slightly different perspective.)

    If you're writing something with lots of different situations, one thing I'd recommend is alternating--it's something I've seen a lot of modern college texts do. One chapter will be from a "he" perspective, the next will be from a "she" perspective. Sometimes it works, other times it's more confusing than anything else.

    Of course, "they" is always a good throwback in a pinch--you'll get dinged for it, but if you're more comfortable with that (or strictly "he" or strictly "she") you'll probably put out better work anyways and compensate.

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    Boll Weevil cuppajoe_9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SleepyWitch View Post
    PS: didn't you say you were from Iceland, cuppa? have you moved to Canada for your studies?
    The other way around. I'm from Canada, but I am interested in attending the University of Iceland in a year or two. I actually got the idea for a neutral gender while I was stuying Icelandic.

    'They' is usually plural, but I sometimes use it anyway.
    What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it.
    - Gertrude Stein

    A washerwoman with her basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; th purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
    - Virginia Woolf

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    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    wow, you're studying Icelandic? that's too cool
    a friend of mine went on a Geography field trip there this summer and brought back some breathtaking pics of glaciers and other things only geographers delight in

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    Boll Weevil cuppajoe_9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SleepyWitch View Post
    wow, you're studying Icelandic? that's too cool
    a friend of mine went on a Geography field trip there this summer and brought back some breathtaking pics of glaciers and other things only geographers delight in
    Yeah, I can imagine a geographer would love it there. A linguist would probalby enjoy him or herself (see?) as well. Tenses galore.
    What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it.
    - Gertrude Stein

    A washerwoman with her basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; th purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
    - Virginia Woolf

  15. #15
    We do have a neutrel gender pronoun. "One".

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