It and They and Thon und Es; Pronouns, Pronouns! What a Mess.

So gender-neutral pronouns. English kind of failed at this; I blame Christianity. But I’m not here to blame things, I’m here to talk about solutions!

Anyone who’s read some of my stuff might notice I use “it” as a gender-neutral pronoun, used for when things don’t have a gender, have a single-gender structure, or people just don’t know the gender (though for the last one I’ve started going off what the main character assumes it is.) This works particularly well for robots because they’re machines. “It” also seems to work well for non-human characters because, well, hey, they’re not humans, clearly they are animals then so “it” is totally fine.

But this means if I did have humans appear, the possibility of using “it” would come into play. I try to stay consistent with it, but of course it is impersonal. At this point, allow me to break out Dinosaur Comics. I got to thinking this actually after watching this interview on The Colbert Report with Janet Mock (no idea who she is, by the way).

Yeah, okay, look back at the talking dinosaurs. “They” does not have to be plural, but let’s talk about grammar. My professor for a Philosophy class in college pointed this out, actually. You can say “They ate the pizza,” and it’s all fine, maybe it’s a group of friends, maybe it’s a real hungry individual. Fine. Everyone’s fine. But if “they eat the pizza,” then that has to be a group of friends. If it’s one real hungry individual it’s, “They eats the pizza.” This, of course, is because it would otherwise be “He eats the pizza,” or “She eats the pizza.”

So the problem with “they” is to be grammatically correct, you have to totes sound like you’re being grammatically incorrect. If we then go with Thon like in Dinosaur Comics, well, it’s just rather jarring in normal reading.

So why don’t we do what English does best and steal words from other languages? Let’s steal German’s “Es”. Hex, we can even just dump the dative and genitive cases like our other pronouns and just have “es” and… “es”. Wow. That’s another problem with “it”: there’s just it, it, it, and it, whereas with he and him/she and her we at least have some semblance of what we’re talking about.

What’s the solution? I haven’t gotten a figgin clue. These four (it, they, make it up, and steal foreign words) seem the best solutions, or at least the four I can think of right now. I might stick with “it” because it’s (or they’s) (or thon’s) (or es ist) the least disconcerting–I demand myself to stick with grammar unless I don’t want to, and since I want to in this case, I would use singular grammar for they, making it look weird. Then thon is, again, just jarring, and foreign words might scare people. I dunno. ES IST BEÄNGSTIGEND!

But maybe someday crazy writers can change language to better suit the world. Shakespeare did, or at least to suit himself. For now, I’ll stick with “it”, probably, but does anyone out there who doesn’t read this use a certain pronoun? (If you do read this, you can comment, too.)

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