Re: Gender Neutral Pronouns, one last time

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 16:46:06 MDT

At 4:11 PM -0500 4/4/01, Jimmy Wales wrote:
>Advocates of strange pronouns are right to point out that the language can
>evolve dynamically over time. And it will evolve, but in a natural way, not
>in a forced and artificial way. The connotation of "it" as "dumb matter" (if
>there is such a connotation, which I doubt!) will soften and be lost
>over time.

This is the natural way. We start using this pronoun more or less
spontaneously (it doesn't really matter where we got the idea for it
from). Over time, more and more people start using it. Before you
know it, everyone is saying 've'.

The artficial way is the French way, which actually works. When the
Academy decides to add a new word, there is resistance at first, but
eventually everyone starts to use it instead of whatever word was
used previously for the idea (probably something adopted from

>We already see this taking place. People speak, quite naturally,
>about the "intentions" or "desires" of their computers, VCRs, etc.
>"Why is my VCR blinking like that?" "It wants you to set the time."
>"Why is my computer cursor spinning?" "It's still trying to find that
>This natural usage will be expanded as computers get smarter.

I doubt this. As of right now, there aren't any computers running
software that you might want to refer to as ve. My computer is just
a tool, at the moment, that can complete tasks that I tell it to do.
It's no smarter than the desk it sits on or the ground under my
house. Even with current AI software, the computer wouldn't really
be smart enough to warrant the use of anything besides it. In the
future, however, when AIs are smart enough to converse as well as or
better than humans, it will be much harder to use it, except by those
who wish to be derogatory. Compare calling a person it. This line
will blur even more with SIs, as they will include uploaded humans.
I know that I personally won't put up with being called an it.

Also, computers won't get any smarter, but the software that they run
will. I might refer to it being slow, but I would refer to the copy
of Chat Bot 3000 that I might having running as ve being slow. Ve is
something that is intelligent, but it is not. The two are seperate.
Of course, there will always be those who misuse language (the
singular 'they', etc.). :-/

BTW, are there any languages that have gender neutral pronouns
already (besides the SL4 dialect of English)? I don't know of one
off the top of my head and such a novelty seems like it would have
been pointed out to me by now, but then again it is easy to miss this

Gordon Worley
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