Monday, 28 December 2020


On 21st December, Eddie Izzard announced that she would be using the pronouns "she" and "her" in future, because she identified as gender-fluid and was wanting to be in "girl-mode" now. She hasn't as far as I know chosen a new name, just moved to female pronouns.

A month earlier Jan Morris, who used to be James, died and received mostly respectful obituaries, having changed both gender and pronouns in the late 60s and early 70s, in a long transition as one of the first high profile transsexuals in this country.

Traditional grammar offers a small group of pronouns which differ in inflection according to number, gender and function in the sentence. But traditional grammar can't keep up with changing ideas about identity and orientation and new pronouns have entered the language:

(Converse, 1884)
thon is laughingI called thonthons eyes gleamthat is thonsthon likes thonself
(Rogers, 1890)
e is laughing I called em es eyes gleam that is es e likes emself
(Rickter, c. 1973)
xe is laughing I called xem xyr eyes gleam that is xyrs xe likes xemself
(Elverson, 1975)
ey is laughing I called em eir eyes gleam that is eirs ey likes eirself
(Piercy, 1979)
per is laughing I called per per eyes gleam that is pers per likes perself
(Hulme, c. 1980)
ve is laughing I called ver vis eyes gleam that is vis ve likes verself
(Humanist, 1982)
hu is laughing I called hum hus eyes gleam that is hus hu likes humself
(Spivak, 1983)
E is laughing I called Em Eir eyes gleam that is Eirs E likes Emself
ze, mer
(Creel, 1997)
ze is laughing I called mer zer eyes gleam that is zers ze likes zemself
ze, hir
(Bornstein, 1998)
ze (zie, sie) is laughing I called hir hir eyes gleam that is hirs ze (zie, sie) likes hirself
(Foldvary, 2000)
zhe is laughing I called zhim zher eyes gleam that is zhers zhe likes zhimself
sie, hir
(Hyde, 2001)
sie is laughing I called hir hir eyes gleam that is hirs sie likes hirself
(Dicebox, 2012?)
peh is laughing I called pehm peh's eyes gleam that is peh's peh likes pehself
ze, zir
(anon., c. 2013)
ze (zie, sie) is laughing I called zir/zem zir/zes eyes gleam that is zirs/zes ze (zie, sie) likes zirself/zemself
fae fae is laughing I called faer faer eyes gleam that is faers fae likes faerself

Here the sheer range is dazzling (I took the chart from Wikipedia). And there is no clue to what recent gender-identities they relate to. Non-binary, gender-fluid, pansexual, intersex, transgender people might choose to use one of the above, use traditional singular pronouns or opt for the very versatile "they, them. their" choice.

The problem is the lack of universal agreement, with such a lot of choice. But there is a movement now for people to introduce themselves by pronoun as well as name: "I'm Mary; I use she and her pronouns," "My name is Sam; I use they and them pronouns." This can only be helpful.

The new pronouns are not "gender-neutral" but "non-binary."

Word of the week: Granularity

According to the Cambridge dictionary this can mean: the quality of including a lot of small details. "Granular" and "granularity" has become extraordinarily popular with politicians in the run up to the UK/EU Brexit trade deal.

1 comment:

Sue Bursztynski said...

Goodness, who knew there were so many choices? I rather like the sound of “thon”.

I’ve noticed quite a few people who don’t change names when moving on.