The discussion is about pronouns.
Gender neutral pronoouns, to be exact. Should we use he, she it — or they — when we are speaking about a singular person whose gender we do not know? And, to complicate this a bit further, what about when the gender of the person is ambiguous? Genderqueer. It’s all so complicated.
Tolerant, Gender Neutral Language FTW*
The Washington Post columnist, Steven Petrow, said a few brilliant things on the subject. He reminded us of the horrors we all felt when the word “Ms.” was introduced in the 1970s. I can still remember how much the world was going to fall apart if and when that ever caught on. He schooled us on the fact that the word “you” used to have a counterpart, “thou” and now we don’t worry so much about how ambiguous not having a singular “you” is. He also let us know that the debate about using “they” for singular situations has been going on for 100 years.
More and More Tolerant is Good, Amirite*?
Today I’d like to pose a question about language: Is there a case of a language becoming (evolving) into a form that is less tolerant? And, okay, a follow up question: Wouldn’t living in that world, with that language, suck?
It’s a new question for me, one that I haven’t thought of before. I tried researching this, and came up completely empty. Our language, and most languages that I am familiar with, are becoming more and more tolerant.
And yet we complain. Japanese, traditionally, has quite different forms of language for men and woman. It is becoming less stratified and men and women are able to use the same language in more and more cases without seeming rude or odd. French is more inclusive. Spanish, too. I wonder how it would feel if our languages and cultures were becoming less inclusive? Wouldn’t that be worse? Change is difficult. But change is the only thing we can count on. Shouldn’t we be glad when the change is toward more tolerance?
*The Internet Speak Harkens Back to These Posts:
I’m fairly obsessed with Internet language now, and have sprinkled it in this post to liven things up a bit. If you are interested in the evolution of language on the Internet, which I am fairly certain now is a kind of creole, please see this post on texting, and this one on the language of social media.
Tolerant = Good or We Are Devolving into Neurosis!
Which one is it? Are we becoming more tolerant, and that is a good thing? Or are we turning into a bunch of over-sensitive twits who can’t tie their shoes without looking at their smartphones to make sure their laces are unoffensive? (Did that even make sense?)
Let me know.