The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 May 2005

Ze said

We linguistic mossbacks are apparently standing athwart the path of a grammatical and/or sexual revolution:

For those who are not familiar with ze/hir, it is used rather than she/her or he/him/his for some people who identify outside of a man/woman dichotomy. Like he and she, ze has several forms that are not particularly easy for the average person to classify grammatically (he, she, ze; his, her, hir; him, her, hir; his, hers, hirs; himself, herself, hirself), but anyone who can use she and he is capable of integrating ze. Listening to individuals who respect self-identification and pronoun preference makes this quite clear, as they form sentences like "ze knows that's hir job," "that book is hirs," and so on. There is a pattern that is consistent and easy to produce.

I suppose it's better than "it," but I submit that persons who "identify outside of a man/woman dichotomy" have issues far beyond mere pronoun usage. Even transsexuals, as I understand them, are binary: they are A and seek B-ness, or vice versa. While I must assume it's possible to live Somewhere In Between, I really have to wonder if this is good for one's — um, hir — social life: does the pool of putative datables increase markedly, or does it shrink to the dimensions of Newspeak?

(Swiped from Joanne Jacobs.)

Posted at 9:16 PM to Almost Yogurt

As far as I am concerned, the first confusedly-genitalled person to whine at me about how I should help destroy the English language so ze won't have to feel upset that everyone else in the world doesn't need to order their size 14EEE pumps and 47AAA brassieres over the internet will be directed by me to go have anatomically difficult and ultimately frustrating transexual relations with zirself.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 10:35 PM on 16 May 2005

Why can't they use "they" like all the other pronominally challenged folk?

Posted by: Dan at 1:12 AM on 17 May 2005

Dan's suggestion makes sense, actually -- if one is both a "he" and a "she," the plural is the only appropriate choice.

Posted by: McGehee at 7:10 AM on 17 May 2005

Aren't "hers" and "hirs" the same damned word when pronounced out loud?

Posted by: aldahlia at 3:21 PM on 17 May 2005

I would assume so, in the absence of guidance otherwise.

Then again, I'm still wrestling with singular vs. plural "you," which shows you how far behind I am.

Posted by: CGHill at 3:42 PM on 17 May 2005

I first encountered "hir" about 20 years ago in a Diane Duane Star Trek novel entitled "My Enemy, My Ally". She was describing a crew member whose sex didn't fit into a neat male/female category; an Altasan, IIRC.

I thought it was a neologism she created for her book, but maybe she was ahead of her time. (And yes, I do mean "her", not "hir".)

Posted by: timekeeper at 4:04 PM on 17 May 2005

Then there's Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed, in which children are genderless until puberty, necessitating both suitable pronouns and education in the cultural demands of both sexes, since which one you'll get is not generally predictable.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:52 PM on 17 May 2005

Heh. Aldahlia beat me to it. "Her" and "hir" would be pronounced the same, at least in our neck o'the woods.

Posted by: Lynn S at 9:34 PM on 17 May 2005