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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 07-26-2012, 04:18 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by SeaKing View Post
(new bold above)



I am sure that you did what was expected where you were.

I did the same where I was.

Aside. Yeah, there was arguments (back and forth in the ranks) in the old days about "Miss," "Ms," "Madam," or "Ma'am," or "Sir" and whether an Officer with the rank of Captain (that is Col in the Army) or Admiral should "always" be addressed as "Sir" and other female officers as "Ma'am." But the truth was I was aboard fighting ships and we didn't have a lot of females for a long time, and the ones that did pop up from time to time were generally crusty old salts or really hard nosed young barracudas who wanted you to see only the uniform and were more interested in blending in with the other ranking officers than doing a women's lib thing.

They liked the "Sir" and if they didn't we called them exactly what they wanted with a snappy salute and a quick jump to. That was the real discipline. I indicated as much up above.

I was born and raised in the South near the coast, and it was as natural as breathing to call ladies "Ma,am" but I learned to find out what was expected before I met a new female officer and if I couldn't I would say "Sir" and watch for the reaction.
At one time I believe that female surgeons had the title 'Mister'.
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:32 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by eskimo49 View Post
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.
Calling a person an "it" implies being a thing, rather than implying a lack of gender. It's not about being politically correct. It's about being correct. It is not logical to use the word "he" when referring to someone who might not be male.
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:45 AM   #63
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Originally Posted by eskimo49 View Post
At one time I believe that female surgeons had the title 'Mister'.
There are many intricacies of addressing bound up in custom, tradition, and indeed lore. It varies from Navy to Navy, ship to ship and time to time.

Few outside the Navy realize that the last place an ordinary man can become a real king is at sea as the Captain of a Ship. So what the "old man," the Skipper, the Master, the Captain wants is the law. He or she doesn't even have to have the rank of Captain to be "the Captain." "They" merely have to be in charge of the vessel while underway at sea.
A ship at sea can be considered a last bastion of total autocracy where the Captain is King.
Sure they can be challenged but even if the person challenging wins out at a higher level, their reputation and thereby their career usually suffers unless there is some kind of blatant glaring wrong. The point being that the Captain is going to set the tone for everything though most times they do a good job.

I read a lot of seafaring books, old and new, quite naturally, and it is sometimes hard to keep up with the intricacies of addressing especially over time.

I read a cheap paper book recently that I got at a dollar store though it cost about $1.25 and for a while I didn't understand that the "First Officer" on board the super duper dangerous Asian submarine was a computer, because of the way the addressing was phrased.

Last edited by SeaKing; 07-26-2012 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 07-27-2012, 03:01 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Yeah, I am seeing "they" used more and more. I personally use it, as I think it is much cleaner then "he or she."

Of course there is always himer and shim
I'm actually writing a science fiction novel where there are no genders and I have huge problems with pronouns. I tried doing something like himer or shim and it just make the writing clunky. I have a situation where three people are talking and I want one of them to shake their head to indicate no. It's easy to do agreement..."Ban nodded." But what I can't use, "They shook their head" because that may mean multiple people responded negatively.

Having genderless versions of he/she his/hers would be wonderful.
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Old 07-27-2012, 03:18 PM   #65
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Some people think the language shouldn't bother with specifying the gender of the person with pronouns, that we whould just use something like a version of "it" that can be applied to a person rather than thing, instead of saying "he" or "she". Using "he" or "she" when the gender is known does convey information, some just think that is irrelevant information. But for whatever reason, it does matter to people, which is why "he" fails.

The boat has sailed on "they", like it or loathe it, it has already become widely accepted, opposing it is like holding back the tide. "They shook their head" is has a degree of ambiguity, but it may well be clear in contect. An alternative is to pick to new pronoun for a genderless person.

But how about an alien species with three sexes? Then you need a pronoun for a person who is not genderless, but of a gender not found on Earth. In that case, if the alien language cares about gender for pronouns, you could use the alien's pronoun for that third gender.
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Old 07-27-2012, 07:41 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by MidnightBlue View Post
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.
Very interesting comment. I like it.
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Old 07-27-2012, 07:56 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by MichaelSullivan View Post
I'm actually writing a science fiction novel where there are no genders and I have huge problems with pronouns. I tried doing something like himer or shim and it just make the writing clunky. I have a situation where three people are talking and I want one of them to shake their head to indicate no. It's easy to do agreement..."Ban nodded." But what I can't use, "They shook their head" because that may mean multiple people responded negatively.

Having genderless versions of he/she his/hers would be wonderful.
Assuming this is futuristic... would those characters even think about the pronoun or would they just use he/him for everyone? Language adapts with time, so maybe it would have gone that route for them. Or she/her could happen, but probably less likely.

I would say if you want to emphasis the genderlessness, use a made up pronoun. I have read books in the past that have used some mashup of him/her and he/she to do just that. If not, use he/him.
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Old 07-27-2012, 10:55 PM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelSullivan View Post
[...]Having genderless versions of he/she his/hers would be wonderful.
Quote:
Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
[...]But how about an alien species with three sexes? Then you need a pronoun for a person who is not genderless, but of a gender not found on Earth. In that case, if the alien language cares about gender for pronouns, you could use the alien's pronoun for that third gender.
I think one of the things this conversation has highlighted has been that there are multiple topics/requirements/agendas appearing: genderless vs gender-neutral (gender-inclusive) vs gender-alternative-specific. Such mission-creep is one of the reasons why committees have so much trouble reaching consensus, and I don't think we're likely to do much better here.
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Old 07-28-2012, 11:04 AM   #69
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Assuming this is futuristic... would those characters even think about the pronoun or would they just use he/him for everyone? Language adapts with time, so maybe it would have gone that route for them. Or she/her could happen, but probably less likely.

I would say if you want to emphasis the genderlessness, use a made up pronoun. I have read books in the past that have used some mashup of him/her and he/she to do just that. If not, use he/him.
I would go with a made up pronoun. Using "he" affects how you perceive the character, it causes the reader to see the character as male, which isn't accurate. The same problem exists with if you use "she", it causes the reader to see the character as female, which isn't accurate either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I think one of the things this conversation has highlighted has been that there are multiple topics/requirements/agendas appearing: genderless vs gender-neutral (gender-inclusive) vs gender-alternative-specific. Such mission-creep is one of the reasons why committees have so much trouble reaching consensus, and I don't think we're likely to do much better here.
Oh, I think we will be just fine. The latter two, we don't need any consensus. Until we meet genderless aliens or aliens with three or more genders, that remains in the realm of fiction, and each author can decide for themselves how to handle it. With fiction you get to examine many possibilities.

But the first one the real-world application of a genderless pronoun, that's pretty much already been settled. The language is moving to "they" whether any of us likes it or not. If we had the internet centuries ago, we might have debated the switch of "you" from a plural to a singular.
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Old 07-28-2012, 11:52 AM   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelSullivan View Post
I'm actually writing a science fiction novel where there are no genders and I have huge problems with pronouns. I tried doing something like himer or shim and it just make the writing clunky. I have a situation where three people are talking and I want one of them to shake their head to indicate no. It's easy to do agreement..."Ban nodded." But what I can't use, "They shook their head" because that may mean multiple people responded negatively.

Having genderless versions of he/she his/hers would be wonderful.
If you've got three people, any pronoun would be confusing anyway, wouldn't it? Seems like you'd pretty much have to use the names to convey who's who.
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Old 07-28-2012, 03:09 PM   #71
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If you've got three people, any pronoun would be confusing anyway, wouldn't it? Seems like you'd pretty much have to use the names to convey who's who.
Yes I do use their names, but how do a refer to possession such as a body part of one of them as in:

Ban shook his head.

I don't like any of the alternatives:
Ban's head shook. (Which implies the movement was not under Ban's control)
Ban shook its head. (Makes him seem like a thing)
Ban shook their head. (Which is the wrong tense as their is plural)
Ban shook his/her head. (Seems awkward).
Ban shook hiser head. (Seems confusing - especially since I don't want to explain to the reader hiser is a combination of his and her.


It's easy to say:

Ban nodded.

But I'm having problems for how to denote Ban's disagreement without using a gender centric word.

Last edited by MichaelSullivan; 07-28-2012 at 03:14 PM.
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Old 07-28-2012, 03:33 PM   #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelSullivan View Post
Yes I do use their names, but how do a refer to possession such as a body part of one of them as in:

Ban shook his head.

I don't like any of the alternatives:
Ban's head shook. (Which implies the movement was not under Ban's control)
Ban shook its head. (Makes him seem like a thing)
Ban shook their head. (Which is the wrong tense as their is plural)
Ban shook his/her head. (Seems awkward).
Ban shook hiser head. (Seems confusing - especially since I don't want to explain to the reader hiser is a combination of his and her.


It's easy to say:

Ban nodded.

But I'm having problems for how to denote Ban's disagreement without using a gender centric word.
Ban shook Ban's head.

Of course that might be perceived as 2 different people named Ban, with one shaking the others head.

I think you will just need to make up a pronoun and use it consistently through out the book. Assuming this is written for adults, they will figure it out pretty fast.

I wish I could think of the scifi book I read a while back that did this. So I could quote it as an example.
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Old 07-28-2012, 05:17 PM   #73
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Sea King,

I totally agree with you about the Captain thing. I've not been in the Navy or commercial shipping but I've sailed a lot of boat and the Captain is the Captain even if the Captain decision is crap. Sure you can go against the Captain but you'll never be on that boat again and shouldn't. I remember having one of my friends beak off about how he could not take a Captain telling him to swab the deck or something in reply to a TV show where some crew on a tall ship were yell at for not doing their boring job. I was going to argue but he would never get everyone on the boat is the Captain's responsibility. That is the way it has to be.

Have fun, Jan
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Old 07-28-2012, 05:52 PM   #74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelSullivan View Post
I'm actually writing a science fiction novel where there are no genders and I have huge problems with pronouns. I tried doing something like himer or shim and it just make the writing clunky. I have a situation where three people are talking and I want one of them to shake their head to indicate no. It's easy to do agreement..."Ban nodded." But what I can't use, "They shook their head" because that may mean multiple people responded negatively.

Having genderless versions of he/she his/hers would be wonderful.
he/she/it. His/hers/its
If Ban is genderless (that is, is definitely known not to have a gender, rather than being of unknown gender), then 'it' is the correct English pronoun.
Ban nodded its head. Ban shook its head.
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Old 07-28-2012, 08:07 PM   #75
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Originally Posted by MichaelSullivan View Post
Yes I do use their names, but how do a refer to possession such as a body part of one of them as in:

Ban shook his head.

I don't like any of the alternatives:
Ban's head shook. (Which implies the movement was not under Ban's control)
Ban shook its head. (Makes him seem like a thing)
Ban shook their head. (Which is the wrong tense as their is plural)
Ban shook his/her head. (Seems awkward).
Ban shook hiser head. (Seems confusing - especially since I don't want to explain to the reader hiser is a combination of his and her.


It's easy to say:

Ban nodded.

But I'm having problems for how to denote Ban's disagreement without using a gender centric word.
Oh, sorry, I get it now.

I'd go with it-its, then. It would be the clearest and most succinct, and easily understandable for the reader. I would use workarounds as much as is feasible, though:
  • Ban frowned in disapproval.
  • Ban's eyes darkened in anger.
  • "I disagree," Ban said.
  • "Bad idea," said Ban.
That sort of thing, depending on what fits the situation.
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