RE: Gender Neutral Pronouns

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Thu Mar 29 2001 - 16:46:05 MST

At 2:35 PM -0800 3/29/01, Peter Voss wrote:
>I agree with Jimmy, John & others: "it" is a lot simpler.
>"ve" "ver" "vis" etc. only slows down communication & comprehension.

How? When you came to the list, you had to learn the acronyms and
new words adopted from science fiction and transhumanist writings
that we use (SI, AI, FAI, computronium, etc.), so why are these all
that different?

Furthermore, it is an active choice of the author of a post to use
these pronouns. If you don't like using them, then don't! Language
is changed by its active use (well, at least languages besides French
;-)) and if Elizer and me are the only ones left who still refer to
SIs with ve, then the word will be dead. I find it very useful and
it eliminates the need for careful sentence structuring that avoids
the use of any pronouns (just as physics texts sometimes use a
misnomer admintadly because it would be silly to write pages and
pages without ever mentioning time or something like that just to get
around some issue dealing with the particulars of one theory or
another). I have better things to do than sit around and think up
other ways to write the same thing.

Finally, it is for the dumb matter. Dogs, books, trees, and my
computer are all its. That guy with a gender change operation is not
suddenly dumb matter because ve made a change to vis anatomy. It is
also used to be derogatory towards monsters and such in literature.
Since I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea, I stay away from it.

Elizer mentioned the use of they as if it were singular for a gender
neutral person. I find that many people do this and I even sometimes
catch me doing it (some contrustions, like you all, I continue to
have no interest in using, but I picked up they before I learned ve
and so I have to unlearn it). I find that this is a poor choice,
though, because suddendly one word is now overloaded and the only way
to tell which meaning is in use is to listen to the verbs. This
becomes really complicated when using the simple past tense, since
subject agreement disapears. 'They went' could either refer to one
person or several, so at this point context becomes even more
important. It gets to the point where indefinate pronoun use is
threatened. I choose to avoid all of this by just using ve, which is
clearly singular.

Then again, a few centuries ago thou was dropped for just you, making
you take care of both the singular and plural second person. When
using you, everything becomes plural, even if only one person is
refered to. This has led to constructions like the previously
mentioned you all to make you more plural.

So, the short of it is that I will continue to use ve for the gender
neutral pronoun of all smart matter, it for dumb matter, and if you
don't like it, use something else. Eventually, if enough people
refuse to use it, then I'll have to stop, or I can just continue as I
do now, putting a footnote at the first apperance of one of these
pronouns in every paper that I write.

Gordon Worley
PGP Fingerprint:  C462 FA84 B811 3501 9010  20D2 6EF3 77F7 BBD3 B003

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