Baron, a professor of linguistics at the University of Illinois, has been monitoring the development of epicene—that is, gender-neutral, third-person singular pronouns—since the 1986 publication of his book Grammar and Gender.
I don’t know why I find this so interesting, but I do. I guess it’s along the lines of my longstanding consternation with the inherent gender bias with “husband” and “wife.” Michelangelo Signorile wrote about this recently, and I feel much of the same consternation that he does. And there’s even more eye-rolling with epicene pronouns.
Most of that, I assume, is because English is a language filled with nuance. Someday I’ll become comfortable calling my husband my husband, but I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable using the alleged pronoun “e.”
I’m an admitted grammar geek, you know, and — or rather & — I’m really getting a kick out of these quick little videos from leftside-rightside.com. This one contains a whole bunch of facts that I had no idea about! I love it when you can learn something cool when you’re not even trying!
Grammar, Identity and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive
This is a great TEDx Talk from my friend Phuc Tran. He’s a wonderful, funny, insightful man, telling a deeply personal story in a way that is universal in scope and appeal. He’s so incredibly intelligent that he nearly vibrates with it. I sometimes wonder if his students are not just in awe of him.
He touches on something very important here. He talks about being different, wishing he were like others, wishing for normalcy, whatever the hell that is. Often, these days, I’ve been so sensitive to putting those thoughts in context of gay teens, that it was a bit jarring for me — definitely not a teen — to hear Phuc speak of these feelings.
I just couldn’t imagine it for a moment. I had a very, very adult reaction — bewilderment for a moment, really — and thought, “Why on earth would someone not simply adore this man?” More to the point — how could he not know how important his life was?
And then I had to filter it through a teenaged prism. Yeah. Being different sucks. It shouldn’t; but it does, sometimes. I forgot for a second that straight people go through these tortures, too. Sometimes self-inflicted, sometimes not.