Thursday, November 21, 2013

Organic English and the IT factor

Let's talk about English. If learning all of its many quirks and inconsistencies is not enough, it's constantly evolving. Into a better language is yet to be determined. If only we could go back and do damage control and make it easier to learn for those who didn't grow up with it. Not to mention those who are stymied by its many contradictions and crazy grammar rules. At least everything is gender-neutral. That is we don't have a male and feminine form for all of our nouns. However, I suspect that that would be a far easier thing to learn than memorizing all of our homophones, homonyms and the many pronunciation exceptions.

The most interesting changes to the Oxford dictionary since the inclusion of OMG and LOL is the introduction of because as a preposition and the word "selfie" for a photo you take of yourself. Still, my word, "procrastinatable", hasn't made the cut.

Here's the Atlantic article about the word "because" as a preposition, filled with examples. I'm making you go check it out there because ranting.

Now, this is where I launch into my pet peeve. I have long wanted a word in the English language for "it" that isn't derogatory when used for people. I know there have been some attempts in this direction, but none of them have stuck.

If you don't see the need for this new pronoun, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What do you call an unborn child of unknown sex? 
  • How do you refer to someone whose gender is unclear without being offensive? Or what do you call someone who is agender? More about agender can be found in this recent SF Gate article.
  • Wouldn't you rather have one word you can use rather than having to use he/she?
  • You can't just use "them" when you're referring to one person of unknown or irrelevant gender. Not if you want to be grammatically correct.
    You've announced the requirements for the candidate for office. You can either keep saying he/she must this and that, be incorrect and say "they", when you're referring to one candidate, or keep saying "the candidate must" this and that.
    You've just learned you will be meeting with the VP of Marketing of the company at which you are applying. Congratulations.
    I ask you, later that day, if you've met him or her yet, because you haven't told me the President's gender. Or, worse still, you tell me, "No. And I don't know if it's a man or woman. His/her name is Robin."
So, do we go with heshe? That's too long. And women won't like being second any more than men would for shehe. What can we do with two letters that's not already taken and wouldn't be confused with an existing word when spoken? Ba? Ga? Va? Wa? I'm using the "ah" pronunciation of the a here. Or Zo? Vo? Gu? Xo? What's your idea?

On the other hand, can we, through use, remove the derogatory connotation from that perfectly useful pronoun? Maybe that's easier. How do we reclaim the word "it" so we can use it for humans?