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Universal "It"

No more she/he
  (+1, -3)
(+1, -3)
  [vote for,

There are two separate movements pressing for the use of gendered or new genderless personal and other pronouns. One of them is anti-sexist and anti-transphobic and involves the use of "they", wording things so as to avoid the use of pronouns considered problematic or, for God's sake, the use of Spivak pronouns which are clearly never going to gain traction except in the minds of a tiny minority. The other is the eschewment of "it" and "which" by vegans to refer to other species.

This second idea is particularly poorly conceived because it imposes human ideas of gender on species which may be hermaphrodite, asexual or change sex during their lives and consequently there is a sense in which it's disrespectful to snails, oysters, cuckoo wrasses or whatever.

"It" and "which" are considered disrespectful. They are not.

Virtually every item in the Universe is an "it". Trace amounts of entities have some claim to being referred to as "she", "he", "who". We should acknowledge our itness, all of us, because we are items with no particular claim to being something other than things. Or rather, whereas we are other than things, we are also things, and there's no shame in being a thing.

Some might claim that the use of "it" to refer to people is disrespectful, and has a history of being used as an insult and reducing someone to the status of an object. However, we are objects and there's a history also of reclaiming words to defuse their meaning, as with the N word and "queer". The N word is of course only really reclaimable by people it has been used to refer to, but we are all things.

If some of us don't get to be called by the pronouns we prefer, none of us should be. It's the path of least resistance.

Therefore, I propose that we abandon "she", "he" and "who" entirely, not just due to possible speciesism and sexism, but also because it's better to recognise that we are made of matter and part of the Universe of matter.

nineteenthly, Aug 01 2017


       Here's Amanda with the new car. It has a pink bonnet.   

       Convenience, lack of.   

       Both a) creatively genderizing everything (is a trimaran still a "she" or is it a "zhe") and b) flattening everything into "it", go against the natural(ish) dualism of the human race as a persistent species. Not sure civilization is up to the challenge of not fucking it up for the worse, either way. OTOH Spivak's "Calculus" is on my bookshelf: he's not a complete idiot.   

       Insisting on an x-pronoun is analgous to saying that everybody has to refer to the colour of your jacket as "carmine" instead of "red", which is discriminatory against people who are either colour-blind or simply don't care.   

       [+] "It" is (or would be) a drop-in solution for a current flap over here - univ prof adamant about using binary pronouns exclusively. A prof<>random-student relationship is not a personal one... ie: just call them all "it" - problem solved and a bit of a reinforcement as to who gets to sit on the end of the log with the cupholder and paisley cushion.
FlyingToaster, Aug 01 2017

       I would describe it as caerulean and it's not mine.   

       No, Spivak is not a complete idiot but deliberately introducing pronouns rarely works and that particular set of pronouns already exists in English and refers to plurals.   

       I have myself often creatively gendered things to blur distinctions.   

       The ambiguity of not having gendered pronouns is already a flaw in the English language owing to the absence of grammatical gender although we do pluralise certain singular words, which helps. Some languages have noun classes not linked to gender as she is spoke, which would reduce ambiguity at the cost of creating about thirty new sets of pronouns, which is not going to be accepted.   

       Leaving the whole attention-grabbing gender thing aside, this is also about acknowledging our physicality and the fact that we are and have always been cyborgs. We don't operate in a special realm which absolves us of the laws of physics. Therefore, "it".
nineteenthly, Aug 01 2017

       // The ambiguity of not having gendered pronouns is already a flaw in the English language owing to the absence of grammatical gender //   

       It's not a flaw, it's a feature. Other mechanisms exist to allow unambiguous sentences to be created. Compared to many other languages which espouse such foolishness as declining nouns, or the absence of some future tenses in oriental languages, English is simple and flexible.
8th of 7, Aug 01 2017

       Toilets (or Toil Its), would be a good start, in the goal of respecting each other before moving on to other species. Humans would need evolution to give us another layer of neural control/plasticity over our earlier brain structures, though.   

       I wonder if a generation gap can include a complete change/reversal of socially educated behaviours?
wjt, Aug 01 2017

       Not repeating yourself would be a good start ...
8th of 7, Aug 01 2017

       Yes, this is more toilthey.
nineteenthly, Aug 01 2017

       // Toil Its //   

       If they were Toll Its, you'd be charged when you used them ... presumably on some occasions it would be pay on entry ...
8th of 7, Aug 01 2017

       Can we start with removing the annoying tendency for some languages to assign genders to 'thing's which clearly have no gender at all? What purpose does it serve except to keep the furriners at bay?
RayfordSteele, Aug 01 2017

       ^ We could, except in those languages said words clearly do have gender or, more precisely, something that translates to English as "gender" but is more encompassing than our limited definition.   


       I wouldn't mind seeing the tripping hazard "they" - as a singular pronoun - shown the door, something else in its place: "thems", for instance. :)   


       The problem appears to be deciding on whether a pronoun is strictly a property of the object referenced, or whether it can also project the relationship between narrator and object as do other placeholders, ie:   

       "Talked to Jerry the other day ; bud' walks into a bar, orders a beer then remembers he left his wallet in the car. [etc]" - "bud" is a descriptive placeholder.   

       "So I'm sitting on the porch and the neighbourhood stray cat walks up the steps and sits down next to me. He/She/It then proceeds to wash him/her/itself... [etc]" - whichever pronoun is chosen gives some insight into the relationship between the narrator and cat(s).
FlyingToaster, Aug 01 2017

       How is it "more encompassing" ?   

       In German, "the car" is "das (neuter) Auto" - all well and good. Cars are known to reproduce asexually.   

       However, "the train" is "der (male) Zug". Why a train should be male rather than neuter is not obvious, unless it's some Freudian metaphorical rubbish about trains rushing into tunnels. What purpose does it serve except to complicate the language ?   

       The obvious thing is for furriners to be converted to English, by means of legislation, education, a publicity campaign, and frequent random violent beatings directed at backsliders. Failing that, all linguistic genders will be redefined as neuter except those referring to living creatures which have a defined physiological gender, again accompanied by the aforesaid violent beatings.   

       // referring to a housecat of unspecified sex as a "he", "she" or "it" //   

       ... or simply "Identify target, crossing right, five rounds rapid ! "
8th of 7, Aug 01 2017

       No, my point was that at some point their language could have decided that a penis belonged to the class of pointy things, rather than pointy things belonged to the class of penises.
FlyingToaster, Aug 01 2017

       // less anthropogenically biased //   

       How can any human language not be anthropogenically biased ? Durrrr ...
8th of 7, Aug 01 2017

       there: fixed.
FlyingToaster, Aug 01 2017

       That's cheating.   

       // their language could have decided //   

       No - the users (creators) of the language could have decided/agreed. A human language - unlike a computer language - does not exist in vacuo. It is both the means and the result of verbal communication. You can't separate the language from the speakers, or from the social millieu.
8th of 7, Aug 01 2017

       It's "der Zug" because it's a verby thing which is not an infinitive. The history of grammatical gender in IE languages seems to have been that agent nouns were masculine and adjectival nouns feminine, and it happened that most females were referred to by what they were and most males by what they did, so the gender as we know it bit is peripheral to the grammatical gender.   

       I'm inclined to suggest, just to be annoying, that we adopt Swahili noun classes for pronouns instead but that would be silly.   

       Language tends not to be amenable to conscious planning or efforts, although it can be, as with genericised trade marks. Then again a lot of those are deprecated by the organisations owning them, so it's not under their control. However, the likes of "herstory" don't gain traction or undergo some kind of connotation drift.   

       There are, incidentally, both languages which use the masculine for pointy things and languages which have a noun class for pointy things, but they are not related to IE languages. Or at least closely related - presumably if you go back far enough all languages are related. Or are they?
nineteenthly, Aug 02 2017

       Language is organic and evolving with action and times. This therefore, without a meme or social swell, would be a ' Let's all ..'
wjt, Aug 02 2017

       // It's "der Zug" because it's a verby thing which is not an infinitive. //   

       "Zug" is now quite definitely a noun.   

       It doesn't matter what it was, historically. Today, it's a neuter noun. Grammatical gender - other than for living things - is redundant, and declining pronouns is certainly just pointless frivolity.   

       Even more reason to promote the planet-wide adoption of English.
8th of 7, Aug 02 2017

       There are plenty of other languages which have no gender. It's not essential to the working of the human mind or society to have these categories. What disturbs me though is that it often seems to be particularly sexist-seeming cultures which speak genderless languages, which I think means that gender is expressed so strongly in other ways that it can be dispensed with linguistically. E.g. a nurse is always female, a doctor always male.   

       It's not always so. Finnish would be one counter-example.
nineteenthly, Aug 02 2017

       Finnish isn't a language, it's a crude - very crude - shorhand code to allow alcoholics to discuss moose, snow, pickled fish, and order more vodka. And it's got a tiny vocabulary... most Finns learn English because no-one else in the world ever learns Finnish. The ones that don't learn English are the ones who are happy* to stay at home and drink themselves to death.   

       *Although the Finnish word for "happy" is nearly the same as their word for "blind drunk".
8th of 7, Aug 02 2017


       Better to propose a language where pronouns are not required. This is context-less and therefore removes the possibility for some cognitive errors. Although bare in mind this is also baked like whipped whites and sugar *yummy*.   

       Perhaps best to adopt single letters, a, b, c, ..., i, j, and k as necessary to convey meaning where co-instant type is discussed.   

       For example: cat i, j; i here; j there;   

       And so now see....
madness, Aug 02 2017

       // a language where pronouns are not required. //   

       Latin ? Russian ?
8th of 7, Aug 02 2017


       Now hang on just a rootin' tootin' moment. I think we should be speciesist. If we're not, then something has gone seriously wrong.   

       I don't mean we should not respect other species, nor that we should treat them carelessly or thoughtlessly. In this sense, the "-ism" in speciesism refers to discriminating, rather than discriminating against.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 02 2017

       Well there's the other side of it too [MB], in the sense that we are in a very real sense, some might say the realest sense, physical objects and the likes of psychology and culture are all that prevents us from seeing each other and ourselves in that way.   

       Pronoun-dropping I like, and it needn't rely on complex inflection either because the Chinese do it, for example.   

       Another possibility which comes to mind is to create a whole thicket of pronouns to refer to all sorts of things with features in common, none of which bear relation to gender as she is spoke.
nineteenthly, Aug 03 2017

       // create a whole thicket of pronouns to refer to all sorts of things with features in common, none of which bear relation to gender as she is spoke //   

       ah, so you want the language to go metric.
FlyingToaster, Aug 03 2017

       [8th] With reference to your Freudian theory about German article gendering, I note that the German for "the tunnel" is "der tunnel", not "die tunnel"
hippo, Aug 03 2017

       German genders vary with dialect, and the same is true elsewhere, for instance in Scandinavia.   

       I'm coming up with a related idea which I shall post shortly.
nineteenthly, Aug 03 2017

       No, don't do that ... we're losing the will to live ...   

       // I note that the German for "the tunnel" is "der tunnel", not "die tunnel" //   

       ... meaning that tunnels are also masculine. Told you, Freudian. And kinky ...
8th of 7, Aug 03 2017

       //Well there's the other side of it too [MB]// Yes, but the problem with that alternative argument is that it's wrong.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 03 2017

       There are lots of words, beginning with N. To which, were you referring?
pocmloc, Aug 03 2017

       Probably "Nigger", a pejorative contraction of the word "negro", which means "black" in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.
8th of 7, Aug 03 2017

       If you say them fast enough with an indefinite article in front of them, there are markedly fewer N words, including the N word. Hence "orange", "adder" and "apron".
nineteenthly, Aug 03 2017


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