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Holmbo

Gender neutral pronouns

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It seems to me that the most commonly used gender neutral pronoun in English is They. I feel kinda uncomfortable about this term because it feels weird for me to use a plural pronoun for one person. I suppose that maybe native English speakers have a easier time with this since it's kinda an extension of using the same word for second person and fourth person. I just feel like all my childhood years of English classes crashes in my brain when I try to think of They as a single person. Am I being silly and should just gt used to it? I'd much rather prefer a third pronoun. I've seen some different exponentiations on that, like xe or e, but they all seem kinda clunky to me.

What is your preferred gender neutral pronoun (in English or other language)?

Also a disclaimer, I'm quite uninformed about this topic compared to many people, so feel free to ignore me if I add nothing interesting.

 

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I'm also not a native English speaker, and I seriously stumbled at ze/zir before I saw the use of "they" as singular pronoun. "they" in singular meaning seems so weird to me, I practically see my English teacher behind me saying "You failed and now must take remedial English". I would prefer ze/zir, not that clunky imho. But 'xe'  is a bit difficult to pronounce for a word that aspires to become very common. It also reminds me of Xenon, Xerox ... and Lucy Lawless. xD

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As a native English speaker, I frequently use "they" as a singular pronoun when referring to someone whose gender/pronouns I don't know (like if I have encountered them by label, for example "the teacher" etc.) or who I don't know well/at all (using she or he always seems more familiar to me, although that's just me... I know many people will disagree) in addition to using it as someone's pronouns.

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On 28/11/2017 at 8:41 PM, Holmbo said:

It seems to me that the most commonly used gender neutral pronoun in English is They. I feel kinda uncomfortable about this term because it feels weird for me to use a plural pronoun for one person. I suppose that maybe native English speakers have a easier time with this since it's kinda an extension of using the same word for second person and fourth person. I just feel like all my childhood years of English classes crashes in my brain when I try to think of They as a single person.


Some reference:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they
https://www.npr.org/2016/01/13/462906419/everyone-uses-singular-they-whether-they-realize-it-or-not
https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-nonbinary-they

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Native English speaker here. For some reason I always think of singular 'they' as having a location component. sort of like 'they (over there) wont like that'.

But fundamentally it is treated as a plural, like who says they is? it is they are. So it is not a clean gender neutral pronoun, in the sense you can't use find and replace to change it in a text and still have all the sentences as grammatical. I don't have a problem using it though. I use it quite a lot. 

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Singular 'they' is totally fine in English. Ignore the overzealous prescriptivists who say otherwise.

 

"I've just made a new friend from another country!"

"Oh really? Where are they from?"

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English is my first language and I really like they as a singular pronoun even though it does have plural origins. They has also been used singularly for a while although it’s mostly been used for anonymity instead of a personal pronoun. But it’s still used in the same way. As far as other singular gender neutral pronouns go at least in the English language they aren’t as commonly used as singular they is. Merriam-Webster dictionary has a cool article about the usage of singular they https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-nonbinary-they (oh this article was already shared above)

I like being referred to as they because gender is very detached from that pronoun and since people generally are more familiar with it it’s easier for me to not get misgendered opposed to if I were to use neopronouns which only a few people have heard of and even fewer people know how to use them. But ya they isn’t entirely plural it’s used singularly too plus language changes overtime gay used to mean something else so did queer. So why can’t they be singular and used as a personal pronoun? On another note you is plural and singular yet we never hear people say “you is” it’s always “you are” they works in the same way. Another thing I’d like to add is that people use singular they pretty often like when you don’t know someone’s gender ex. “Someone called today.” Who were they?” That’s singular they, but the only time I really hear the “but it’s plural” argument is when it’s used as a personal pronoun for nonbinary people, so there’s that.

Sorry about the long post I’m just really passionate about singular they.

 

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So I'm agender and I didn't like existing pronoun options so I made my own.  While I commonly use they for other people, I didn't like it for myself; I think part of that might've been because of the backlash against it for being plural, but also because the common historical usage of it as a singular pronoun involves has a connotation of vagueness, whereas I wanted to be referred to specifically rather than vaguely?

 

Amusingly, my in-denial 16yo self came up with my pronouns "hypothetically" in the context of trying to think what would make sense.  

(here is a chart I made for explaining usage):

pronoun_chart.JPG

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@Magni I am seeing the Ze form much more now and I think they are a cool set of alternatives to use! Are you saying you coined them? if so, super cool!

(Though a little while ago I read a short (very short) work of fiction which had two characters (un-named characters I might add) that used Ze and it's other forms. It was the most confusing thing I have read recently. The author had taken it all a bit too far. The same exact problem would have come up using two 'she', 'he' or 'they' characters. The author just really needed to give at least one character a name!)

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1 hour ago, Apathetic Echidna said:

I am seeing the Ze form much more now and I think they are a cool set of alternatives to use! Are you saying you coined them?

There's lots of variations for pronoun sets which start with "Ze".  Common ones include: Ze/Zir/Zerself, Ze/hir/hirself, and many others.  I know there was at least one of the "ze" pronoun sets floating around before I made mine; it's a logical letter to start a pronoun set with.  I personally didn't like any of the existing ones especially because they used the "i" spelling, which isn't consistent with any of the other pronouns?  Also they uses the same pronoun for both the possessive and the objective pronoun.

 

My thought process for my pronouns:

  • Ze: he & she both just end with -e
  • Zem: both him and them end with -m; (also I took latin and this noun form ended with "m" in latin)
  • Zer: both their and her end with -r

Also, by keeping the only vowel as "e", it made it simpler? plus overall it's similar to they/them pronouns except replaces the "th" with "z"...and then uses different subject pronoun which is more similar to the other singular pronouns.

 

I think I might've seen something listing my specific pronouns or ones very similar once? But I haven't seen it elsewhere.  The unfortunate side effect of this is I can't easily buy pronoun buttons, instead I had to make my own :P

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7 minutes ago, Magni said:

Ze/hir/hirself

I actually haven't ever seen that variant before with the 'h', but I have seen many using the 'i' like in Zir. The Ze is probably becoming more popular (well at least the pile of content using it is growing quicker) because the letter makes sense to many people. Your chart certainly makes it clear, and as a singular it would bypass the only failing I think 'They' has which is its need to change more than one word in most sentences to keep it grammatical....but it is not like I use find & replace regularly to swap out She/He with They.

 

also I just noticed this

On 3/8/2019 at 9:09 AM, HotRamen said:

we never hear people say “you is”

That comes into regional grammatical slang. Have you seen the movie 'Brother where art thou?' ? it is used there, and is representative of the speaking quirks of the region and time but I doubt it has fully dropped out of use. There is a great quote that starts "Is you is, or is you ain't...". It is like the English/British(?) use of 'I was stood' rather than 'I was standing' 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, Apathetic Echidna said:

a singular it would bypass the only failing I think 'They' has which is its need to change more than one word in most sentences to keep it grammatical....but it is not like I use find & replace regularly to swap out She/He with They.

Are you referring to difference between singular and plural verbs?  Generally, even when used as a singular pronoun, the verbs for they conjugate as if it is plural, similar to how you works.  The only change I know of when used singularly is that people use "themself" instead of "themselves"....even though spellcheck objects to it.

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11 minutes ago, Magni said:

Generally, even when used as a singular pronoun, the verbs for they conjugate as if it is plural, similar to how you works.

oh, I was thinking it might be swapped to singular to avoid the plural use of They. None of your examples in the table specifically made that clear, so thanks for telling me!

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