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View Poll Results: Do you want English to have a genderless pronoun?
No. 37 48.68%
He works for me. 7 9.21%
She works for me. 0 0%
He/she works for me 0 0%
Alternating he and she in example works for me. 1 1.32%
Yes. 31 40.79%
Voters: 76. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 07-20-2012, 02:58 PM   #31
QuantumIguana
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We have genderless pronouns that can be applied to people. "I" is genderless, I have a gender, but the word "I" doesn't convey this information. Likewise "we" and "they" (the latter referring to the plural usage). A genderless pronoun doesn't imply that the person has no gender, only that it is unknown. It's going to be impossible to stuff the singular they genie back in the bottle, and in a few decades, using "he" for a person of unknown gender is going to seem downright laughable.

I can imagine the English classes, children would be reading old books from the mid 20th century, and go to their teacher because they are puzzled about using "he" to refer to someone of an unknown gender. The teacher will tell them that that was just a strange, archaic usage. Rather than "today" being "to-day" or "to day".
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:41 PM   #32
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I am a little surprised no one has brought up the old "thou," "thee," or "thine."

I am not so surprised that there was only one slight attempt to address my real question above which is about that group of people that don't obviously identify directly as male or female and cause difficulties when people attempt to speak or write about them.

An example: In the last few days Warren Beatty and Annette Bening's daughter turned son (transgender son) spoke in an interview. During the interview this person identified as a "q." Actually said in the interview "I identify as a "Q." That is one of those words that draw criticism if some people say them though others can use them with no problem. (Note please that I didn't spell it out.) Those words fall into a category that vexes some, white straight males in particular. i.e. rappers and African Americans use the "n" word all the time but I dare not lest I be attacked and my business boycotted. All that though is another thread and I will leave it at that.

Beatty's original daughter/now son

This young person has not had physical transformation surgery yet, and speaks of having babies, but is referred to in the article as a male.

The question I am raising is how do we indicate officially in a "short definitive manner" that a person who acts or looks like one type is actually not that type. How do we indicate that there could be an issue if some assumptions are made.

There is the categorization problem as indicated below.
"Unknown" isn't exactly right if you know know what the person is physically and how they act. Still others might not.
"Undecided" isn't quite right either for the person may have strong beliefs and detailed plans."
"Difficult" might be considered an insult. Likewise "muddled" and complicated.
"Other" isn't too bad.

Then there is the pronoun.
One way is to substitute an "x" for the "h" in he. This is kind of scientific in a way.
"xe"
Then she becomes:
"sxe" but that looks like a parody or a play on "sex."

My next thought was taking the neutral word "person" and modifying it.

"per" works pretty good, I think.
You can pronounce it, and it is pretty indefinite and gives everyone an idea that there is more there than appears to the eye.

So my vote is for
"other" - category
"per" - pronoun
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Old 07-21-2012, 02:23 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frahse View Post
I am a little surprised no one has brought up the old "thou," "thee," or "thine."
I don't think these terms are available for serious consideration at this time, and I mean that literally. These archaic terms have taken on an essentially humorous aspect, used in modern speech and writing mainly in exaggerations and similar (and historical reproductions I suppose, although accurate usage even there is often questionable). This doesn't make them easily acceptable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by frahse View Post
I am not so surprised that there was only one slight attempt to address my real question above which is about that group of people that don't obviously identify directly as male or female and cause difficulties when people attempt to speak or write about them.[...]
I wasn't surprised because I didn't think the OP was really about this topic, which is far from simple. Would such people even want a genderless pronoun used in their case? Would they really want some new pronoun used to explicitly separate them from "he" and "she"? I would not be surprised if some were offended by explicit non-gender-specific references - isn't the question here usually very gender-specific? (If gender wasn't an issue then it shouldn't matter which they started out as.) But I am only guessing.
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Old 07-21-2012, 03:36 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I don't think these terms are available for serious consideration at this time, and I mean that literally. These archaic terms have taken on an essentially humorous aspect, used in modern speech and writing mainly in exaggerations and similar (and historical reproductions I suppose, although accurate usage even there is often questionable). This doesn't make them easily acceptable.

I wasn't surprised because I didn't think the OP was really about this topic, which is far from simple. Would such people even want a genderless pronoun used in their case? Would they really want some new pronoun used to explicitly separate them from "he" and "she"? I would not be surprised if some were offended by explicit non-gender-specific references - isn't the question here usually very gender-specific? (If gender wasn't an issue then it shouldn't matter which they started out as.) But I am only guessing.
Yes, I did add further complications to a difficult subject. I can only say that the questions were already implicitly there. I only brought them forward.

The article I showed above had words, used by a young person to describe that person, that could not be used by a more normal person without some people being incensed, yet some would claim that there is not a "more normal" person, that everyone is normal. Confusing? Yes.

I find when descriptions become confusing or overly complicated then there are going to be problems.

Basically when people become exposed to these kinds of confusing, complicated, and difficult things they have a tendency to withdraw, stop associating, or separate themselves and that has the tendency to make things worse.

And finally your statement:

Quote:
I would not be surprised if some were offended by explicit non-gender-specific references - isn't the question here usually very gender-specific?
If you note the title of this thread it says

Quote:
Is it time English adopt a genderless pronoun?
"Other" and "per" as I used them are that.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:54 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by frahse View Post
Yes, I did add further complications to a difficult subject. I can only say that the questions were already implicitly there. I only brought them forward.
I saw the same questions... but I think we have to talk about cases.

In the case when the gender is not known because the person that fits the pronoun is not known, then the choice of "they" appears to be what American English is adopting. For example:

If someone gets sick, they should see a doctor.

instead of

If someone gets sick, he should see a doctor.

which was the proper way not all that long ago.


The case of a gender switcher is different. Lets say Pat was born with a healthy physical girl body, including all girl parts. Then any time we speak about Pat we would use "she." That is obvious. Now Pat for <insert reason> decides she is a boy and starts dressing like a boy, and dating girls. At this point she still is a girl, just dressing up, so I would imagine most would still use "her." At some point she decides to start hormone therapy, and other medical treatments to change her physical body into a male. Then I think many would start using "he" for Pat's pronoun.

The point of that little story about Pat is that Pat's gender is a known condition, so you would use the matching gender based noun to it. In our modern day, some have changed the gender they are, but they still have a gender. It is not an unknown. If you are to be respectful, you would go with the gender pronouns that match the gender that the person choose, otherwise you would go with the gender at birth (assuming you knew this).

Now there is the case where a person is born with both parts, but as I understand it that is exceedingly rare, and one set of parts does not work. It is way out of my experience or knowledge so I would not speak with any authority on it, but my guess is that person has an inclination towards one gender or the other and would choose to take on that gender. In that case, that would be the proper gender pronoun to use.

So in short, I think the language can already handle all the cases, and does not need new words.
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:34 AM   #36
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So the definitive answer is NO.
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:45 AM   #37
WT Sharpe
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I thought it interesting that in Star Trek: The Motion Picture all officers, regardless of gender, were addressed as 'Sir'. I believe this carried forward for a while but was later dropped.
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Old 07-21-2012, 04:00 PM   #38
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I've seen they/their quite often used here on this forum and every time stumbled over it as it was followed by the verb in its singular form. For a non-native speaker it sounds soooo wrong - we are glad to get at least the basics of grammar right. It took me a very long time to realise how they/their is meant and that this was just another case of political correctness (and, of course, we do have the same problem in German too!).
Was kann mensch tun? :-)

Even when used to mean the singular, "they" takes the plural form. "Can I bring a friend to the play?" "Sure, if they like Shakespeare." (Not *"If they likes Shakespeare.")

I think that "they" will inevitably become the 3d person singular pronoun we use for persons of indeterminate gender. It has a long history in English, including being used by Shakespeare, and it is already very common in non formal contexts.

Aesthetically, I tend to prefer "he" or "his," since that is the form used in so much good writing, especially from the 19th C. (Jane Austen's use of singular they notwithstanding), but it's on the wrong side of history and is already losing out.

At work, our manual requires "his or her," which is awkward and not the way people normally speak, either. Even though "their" doesn't sound quite right, it has less of a workaround feel to it.

Note: we don't actually need a "genderless" pronoun - our first and second person pronouns (I/we, you/you) don't indicate gender, nor does our 3d person plural pronoun (them). And we already have a 3d person singular genderless pronoun (it). What we need, specifically, is a third person singular pronoun we can use to refer to persons (animals, too?) who have a gender, but whose gender is unknown. (And we need a possessive to go along with it).

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a situation where using "they/them/their" would unavoidably cause ambiguity...but I suppose that might happen in rare cases.

"My roommate and the football team are coming over for dinner." "Oh, I'm looking forward to meeting them." [Meaning the roommate, not the team]. But English is full of ambiguities; this would happen rarely enough that you could specify if necessary.

But of course if we look just a little further ahead in the future, we can recognize what the real usage problem will be.

"Do you still want to bring your friend on the hike?" "Yes" "Well, it might rain, so tell them to bring they're raincoat." :-)
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:00 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
I thought it interesting that in Star Trek: The Motion Picture all officers, regardless of gender, were addressed as 'Sir'. I believe this carried forward for a while but was later dropped.
This was the standard aboard a US ship at least until early 2000s when I left. Yes there could be exceptions. You might say to the Captain (Navy) "Yes Ma'am" on some occasions or if that was what they required but formally it was "Yes Sir! even if they were a female dolphin dressed in the Uniform.

Admirals were likely to accept "Yes, God!" on a very casual occasion.
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Old 07-21-2012, 09:46 PM   #40
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But English is full of ambiguities; this would happen rarely enough that you could specify if necessary.
Yes, that's why I more I study this language, the less I become confident on how to use it properly. For example, I still don't know whether it is:

"Thank you for your invite." or "Thank you for your invitation."

I was taught at school "invite" is a verb, but now it's also used as a noun.
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Old 07-23-2012, 03:30 PM   #41
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Yes, that's why I more I study this language, the less I become confident on how to use it properly. For example, I still don't know whether it is:

"Thank you for your invite." or "Thank you for your invitation."

I was taught at school "invite" is a verb, but now it's also used as a noun.
"Invitation" is standard; "invite" (as a noun) is more informal. Almost...flippant, maybe.

Since "Thank you for your..." is somewhat formal, I would tend to use "invitation." But "invite" isn't wrong. For "invite," I would tend to say "Thanks for the invite!"

There is also (I think) a subtle difference between "Thank you for *your* invitation" and "Thank you for *the* invitation," with "your" expressing maybe more thanks and being a little more personal as well.

I think that "Thank you for the invitation" is probably more common. But if you are declining the invitation, "Thank you for your invitation, [unfortunately,...]" seems more appropriate. (Maybe because since you aren't going, you want to make sure that they know that you really are happy that you were invited.)

I'd be happy to hear other people's thoughts on this, though.
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Old 07-23-2012, 04:12 PM   #42
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Why not just use 'it' for a genderless pronoun. To the best of my knowledge I have never met anyone who is genderless, so can't see why I would need a pronoun for one.

Probably some people are getting too political correct and just trying to protect themselves.
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Old 07-23-2012, 10:53 PM   #43
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I just love our language, it is full of subtitles and innuendos.

Our language is evolving continually, although I recently read a manuscript written in English over a thousand years ago, and I could still clearly understand the gist.

It is a shame that the words 'thou', 'thee' and 'thine' have fallen out of favour.

In mainland Spanish, 'thou', 'thee' and 'thine' are still used ('usted' and 'ustedes') when addressing someone you haven't met, or addressing someone through a business letter. South American Spanish have other rules for using 'usted' and 'ustedes' I believe.

In 'Romantic' languages, plural nouns are matched to plural pronouns, e.g. "tu taza roja" (your red cup) / "tus tazas rojas" (your red cups). Pleased rules of the English language don't insist on this law.

Writing styles are just so interesting. The more I read about writing styles, the more I realise just how much I have to learn! It is a continual fascination to understand the complexities of a 'so called rule', and wonder at how it's been implemented all along without me (us, everyone) knowing, or even being concious of it.
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Old 07-23-2012, 11:13 PM   #44
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I do a bit of technical writing and I can't stand the he/she or he or alternating he then she every other example. So want a genderless pronoun. How about you?

Have fun, Jan Tailor
If you ask them, they will tell you that they already have a genderless pronoun, and if you ask for more detail they will tell you that the genderless pronoun is they.
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Old 07-24-2012, 02:26 AM   #45
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