I’d like to propose some new words. Who do I write to about that?
These aren’t frivolous words I want to add to the language, like “braggadocious” (adjective; informal, chiefly US; boastful or arrogant: “It sounds braggadocious, but I don’t think I ever dropped a pass in a game.”) or “gambusia” (noun; another term for mosquitofish), both of which were recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary (motto: “We don’t even know how to spell ‘colour’ correctly; why would you look something up here?”).
I’ll tell you what we do need: new pronouns. Specifically “dem,” “dey,” and “deirs.”
I am sick and tired of trying to be both grammatically correct and politically correct. For instance, consider this sentence from one of my recent posts:
“But, of course, anybody who’s always wanted a body part named after them can announce some eye layer that they’ve made up, possibly by slicing an existing layer lengthwise.”
That sentence is not, I’m ashamed to say, kosher. You see, “anybody” is singular, and so the following pronouns, “them” and “they’ve,” should be singular as well. When I was in elementary school, if I was to write a sentence like that, it would have been:
“But, of course, anybody who’s always wanted a body part named after him can announce some eye layer that he’s made up, possibly by slicing an existing layer lengthwise.”
Of course, if I had written a sentence like that in elementary school, I would have lost points for starting a sentence with “but.” Then I would have been sent to the school psychologist for counseling, since it’s generally frowned upon for third graders to write about slicing up eye layers, and perhaps that early intervention would have changed the trajectory of my life so that I never would have watched the movie The Human Centipede.
Where was I?
Right. Grammar. So then there was that whole “women’s lib” thing, and now everything has to be gender-neutral, so you end up with stuff like:
“But, of course, anybody who’s always wanted a body part named after him or her can announce some eye layer that he or she (or he/she, or s/he) has made up, possibly by slicing an existing layer lengthwise.”
Not exactly James Joyce. Not even James Patterson. And if you have an entire paragraph filled with pronouns, well, it can get downright unwieldy.
If our writing is to be gender-neutral, we need gender-neutral pronouns. That is where “dem,” “dey,” and “deirs” come in:
“But, of course, anybody who’s always wanted a body part named after dem can announce some eye layer that dey’ve made up, possibly by slicing an existing layer lengthwise.”
I must admit that this is not a revolutionary idea. There are even blogs devoted to proposing gender-neutral pronouns. “Ze/zirs/zir” has been tried often, but has never gained traction, possibly because it makes you sound like you’re trying to talk with a French accent. Other attempts have been coopted by the transgender/genderqueer* community, which really has an urgent need for gender-neutral pronouns, not to mention a better term to call their community.
The words I’m proposing, “dem,” “dey,” and “deirs,” have the advantage of already being in use in some parts of the country, primarily New Jersey and Brooklyn. In addition, they could be easily adopted by popular music stars for whom the word “with” has become “wid,” so that “with him or her” can now become one word: “widdem.”
If, after hearing a lyric like that, you would like to know if the person the performer is referring to is male or female, you’re just going to have to ax him.
See you soon.
*I had never heard of the term “genderqueer” so I looked it up at dictionary.com:
“pertaining to or having a gender identity that is other than male or female or is on a continuum between the two genders: ‘She identifies as genderqueer.'”
It would seem that its example makes the point of this post.