gender-neutral pronouns

One of the deficiencies of the English language as she is spoke or writ is the lack of gender-neutral pronouns. As any corporate comms practitioner or PR hack will attest: "he/she", "his/hers", "him/her" and "himself/herself" are clumsy; "it" and "its" are dehumanising; and "they", "their" and "them" are singularly ungrammatical.

So let's all agree on a new set of gender-neutral pronouns? How about "ze" for "he" or "she, "zem" for "him" or "her", "zir" for "his" or "her", "zirs" for "his" or "hers", and "zirself" for "himself" or "herself".

I use these new pronouns in everything I write, including this and other blogs. For example: "Ze remembered when zir life was under control, when ze could look at zirself in a mirror without becoming afraid."

A language is a living, breathing, evolving thing. So come on people, it's a numbers game. Tell your friends, your enemies, your colleagues, your children, your parents. Let's get it up and happening. Gender-neutral pronouns: get 'em while they're hot!


Anonymous said...

take away gender and you take away kabalah and do not understand he or her and have fallen asleep into not knowing PC world...i gather you never have encountered a living master....if you had......

master mistery said...

Thanks for your comment. I do not suggest a gender neutral pronoun in order to diminish variety and diversity. I do so simply to add variety and diversity to the language by giving it additional and more flexible capability to express meaning.

Anonymous said...

give me a break

Amika Babilfrenzo said...

I think singular "they" is a well-attested, often used solution to the problem which is a couple centuries old. The problem is with grammarians who fight against arbitrary "bad usage", not with constructions such as "ain't", singular "they", and split infinitive. It is because of these grammarians that I treat Formal English as a small subset of Standard English. If writing in Formal English, I would use neither singular "they", nor a coinage such as "ze".

masterymistery said...

Amika, you make a good point but there are still situations where the use of "they" is confusing.

For example, when there are two subjects in the same sentence, a gender neutral singular, and a plural, eg "Jo and his/her friends went to their house."

Re the above, Firstly, it's unclear whose house it is. Secondly, if one wanted to refer to Jo in a gender-neutral way, the sentence would need to be written as "Jo and their friends went to their house" which still creates ambiguity about whose house it is.

More issues involving the use of "they" as follows:

To write a sentence involving a gender-neutral singular subject, eg a person called Jo, without referring to "them" by name, you would have to write "They walked down the road", which clearly is confusing if only one person is involved.

Another issue is the possessive case, eg "his/hers". One could use "theirs" but this would potentially be confusing where there are multiple subjects in the same sentence, eg "Jo and his/her friends went to collect their books"

Firstly, it's unclear whose books we are talking about. Secondly, if you wanted to avoid using "his/her" you would have to write, "Jo and their friends..." etc.

And finally, there are issues relating to the pronoun as object eg in relation to "him" "her" "himself" "herself" etc. All of the issues mentioned above apply to this final case as well.

Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments.