Gender in the English Language

Clark   Sunday, August 03, 2003, 02:23 GMT
You know the debate going on about not being sexist when speaking English? You know, the one where some people want to say "human kind" instead of "man kind." The part I want to focus on is the "he/she" debate.

Everybody has tried to come up with these off-the-wall words like "ze" and "s/he" and even one like "xe." Everytime I hear something like this, I think two things:

1.) You stupid feminists
2.) The "e" in both "he" and "she" sounds like the "ee" in "feet."

With the second thought in mind, why not just turn "he" and "she" into "e." This would be so easy! And pronunciation would be a cinch.

This would make writing reports, novels, books, etc. so much easier!!!

For example, "When the author of a book wants to explain something, e will do it by saying what e has been thinking."

See, much easier!
Lana   Sunday, August 03, 2003, 04:11 GMT
Hmm... well, I think that would still sound like you are saying 'he.' Especially since the h is dropped so often, as in 'Why did e do that? Because e wanted to.' That's just how it is already pronounced with the word 'he.'

By the way, you are saying that making such a change would make things so much easier for you when writing reports, etc. , yet you say 'You stupid feminists.' hmmm. So do you want this to be changed or not? I guess men have trouble making up their minds.

I'll give my opinion. We already have a word for it- 'one.' One will do it by saying what one has been thinking. It would be expanding the usage of this 'impersonal' pronouon to use it in your full sentence, 'When the author of a book wants to explain something, one will do it by saying....' It sounds strange, but not a strange as the other alternatives you mentioned.
Clark   Sunday, August 03, 2003, 04:26 GMT
Where did you come up with "I guess men have trouble making up their minds." ?

I have clearly stated, or so I thought, that it would be easier just to say "e" instead of trying not to offend anyone.

Also, "one" can get annoying and overdone. "If one does that, then one will have to see what one might do in the other place where one would have to go..."

Anyways, I am looking at this from a grammatical point of view.
Ryan   Sunday, August 03, 2003, 06:35 GMT
Yeah, Lana is right. Everyone will sound like a Cockney if we just drop the 'h.' Better to come up with different words altogether.

In Japanese, women and men usually use entirely different words for "I," and "he" and "she" don't even really exist, so it's kind of a reverse situation there.

Clark   Sunday, August 03, 2003, 07:38 GMT
Well, I think that this is a much better solution than "xe" or something. SO what if "e" sounds like "he" said in normal conversation speed. The main thing is that in writing, certain people would not be offended if the author used just "he" or just "she" instead of writing "he or she" or "one."
Me   Sunday, August 03, 2003, 09:33 GMT
I say leave the language alone and not make a big deal over this he/she crap.
Jack Doolan   Monday, August 11, 2003, 04:04 GMT
So "he" and "she" are sexist, are they? Non-sexism in language is a mere fad and should go the way of all such fads, and I hope soon. What are the promotors of this pathetic drivel going to do with French, German, Spanish and so forth where most nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter? They should spent their time doing something really worthwhile like train spotting or building plastic aircraft models.
Clark   Monday, August 11, 2003, 04:41 GMT
Ah, but in these languages, there is a way to get around the gender issue because of the grammar. In English, when you say, "one goes here, " and "one does this," "one" becomes tiresome. But in French and German, this is part of the language, therefore, one can say this until they are blue in the face. As for Spanish, they use "el" to mean "one" in English, and therefore, it is just like French and German in this regard.

And on another note, in English, we say "his hat" and "her coat." In French and the other Romance languages, "his hat" is "sa casquette." It is the object being posessed that determines what gender the pronoun will be in the Romance languages, whereas in English, it is the person posessing something that requires the gender of the pronoun. I really hope I explained this correctly as I cannot think of the exact words used to explain this.

So this is why the gender issue in most other languages is non-existant because of the grammar of the other languages is utilised in a way that is "gender friendly" if you will.
hmm   Monday, August 11, 2003, 05:08 GMT
I know it makes some grammarians thow a wobbly, but use of the word 'they' as a singular is slowly making a comeback after being suppressed by these um grammarians for about 100 years or so. I read an article about it somewhere, I'll see if I can dredge it up.

Personal note: I'm quite happy to use they, I have been using it verbally for years, and a lot of other people seem to aswell.
Clark   Monday, August 11, 2003, 05:46 GMT
Hmm, I have always used "they" for the 3rd person singular. It is just part of a lot of English-speaker's way of speaking. I know this is the case for most Americans, and I would bet it is the case for most all English-speakers.
Simon   Monday, August 11, 2003, 08:40 GMT
Yeah, I have always been a THEY advocate too.
Da Frogg   Monday, August 11, 2003, 12:05 GMT
I don't know if I could get used to this "they" thing.

Being French, I am used to having a word for "he" ("il"), one for "she" ("elle") and a neuter one ("on") which is sometimes replaced, in the speech, by "tu" (and that is often very weird as we have a "tu" and a "vous", depending on how much you know the person you're talking to).

Having learnt both Spanish and Italian, I am also used to the "usted" and the "lei" problems (for example, "lei" is "she" and also the neutral one, in some cases).

In fact, every language has its own rules for the third person (singular or plural). And knowing several languages leads to confusion... ;o)

By the way, we have a problem in French with the gender : some people want to feminize (?) words that cannot be with the usual rules. So they just add an "e" at the end and that makes really awful words ("auteure", "écrivaine", etc.). And there's a nice little war between the ones that use these words and the ones that refuse to do so, and are suspected of being anti-feminist.

Anyway, I just read my post... congratulations to anyone who understands what I just wrote :oD

Da Frogg
Ashley   Tuesday, August 12, 2003, 15:23 GMT
It's not being sexist saying he/she it's just seperating the sexes..english isn't the only language that has that, how can you think it's sexist? I don't think it is, anyone agree with me?
Anyone   Tuesday, August 12, 2003, 15:55 GMT
No, I don't.
Clark   Tuesday, August 12, 2003, 18:21 GMT
Ashley, some writers use "he" when they are refering to someone that could be either a male or female. And now in retaliation (I guess), some women writers have started to use "she" when they are refering to someone that could be either male or female.

This is why I think "e" would be the best change. Just drop the "h" and the "sh" off of both words respectively, and then you have one long "e" sound. Some people are worried about phonology; don't be! Who cares if "e" sounds like "he" in a colloquial sense. They main thing is that people know that in the English language, the would be onle "e."