1. caters
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    caters Member

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    Unnamed character with unknown gender?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by caters, Jul 30, 2016.

    So far in my story, Lisa has given birth to and started taking care of her baby. This baby I know will be named Alma later on. But currently in my story, it has no name(not even a nickname). Gender has already been genetically predetermined but externally, it doesn't show until the child's 5th birthday. Right now the baby is 2 weeks old and getting some climbing practice(Lisa's species is fast developing in physical and social milestones but slow in transition from breastmilk to solids).

    I don't know how to refer to an unnamed baby with unknown gender without implying a certain gender or using "it".

    I know "he" is used a lot for unknown gender but that implies male.

    "He/She" is used a lot but again it implies male or female(and not all creatures have males and females, some have other genders and some are genderless).

    The only other one I can think of to use is "it". But several people have told me that that means the baby is an object, not a character.

    "They" implies plural(which if this were twins or above I would use but this is a singleton) and the Xis/Xe/Xir etc. are just too odd for me.

    How else can I refer to the character without using any of these or "that baby" or "the baby"?
     
  2. hirundine
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    hirundine Member

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    How about giving the baby a nickname? That would give you something to call the baby without implying gender.
     
  3. caters
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    caters Member

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    True but how would I know what nickname to give the baby? I already went into a lot of effort with the real name and the worldbuilding and am putting a lot of effort in the writing(have been doing this for months and I am only partway through the sixth chapter). I don't want any more effort than I have to since I am already giving it a lot of effort. If you think real names are hard, to me nicknames are even harder, especially those of short names.
     
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I really think that just using 'it' or 'they' are your best choices. There is precedent for 'they' as a singular pronoun, and I think you'd get mixed opinions on the 'it' thing. Since you say species I'm assuming Lisa (and the baby) is an alien or something? Consider that an alien race would be accustomed to referring to their genderless young with a gender-neutral term, and in English 'it' could fit the bill. My preference would be singular 'they', though.
     
  5. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I don't know how locked you are into "Alma" or how you think this might fit, but what if the as-yet ungendered baby is referred to as "Al", with the understanding that if it becomes male, it'll be Alra, female, Alma.

    Or something like that, needn't be a suffix, but I could see a species with a life cycle like that having something similar.

    Alternatively, it could just be referred to as "Baby", if they aren't in the habit of having more than one pre-gender child per family.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd hate it, but I think "they" is your best bet. Or else use one of the proposed gender-neutral pronouns that haven't caught on (xhe or whatever). Or give your aliens a new pronoun that they use.
     
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  7. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    They are aliens....
     
  8. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    Have you had a hunt through other languages you could borrow from, or are you trying to avoid something you'll need to explain to the reader? If you do borrow something (or make something up) readers might pick it up through context.

    I googled 'gender neutral pronouns in other languages' and there's a long wikipedia entry about it.

    Malay: dia can mean 'she', 'he' or sometimes 'it'
    Estonian: ta means both "she" and "he"
    Finnish: hän is gender-neutral and means both "she" and "he"
     
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  9. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Give the kid a gender neutral nickname. @GuardianWynn has somewhat of a similar problem with one of his characters, and he just has the main character think of the kid in a specific way to make it easier (the main character acknowledges the associated problems with this). And as for a name goes, the parent just assigned a completely neutral name until he/she chooses what they want to be.

    ETA: Or you can do what I did in this post and say "the kid" or "the baby" or "the youngin'" (if they're from the south lol). Other examples include but are not limited to: the brat, the bastard, the cutie pie, the ball of human flesh (my particular favorite reference for little babies), dumbass, lovebug, etc.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2016
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  10. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    They means plural. I don't think that's what you want to do. And it means thing. However, if gender doesn't show up for the first few years in this world you have created, wouldn't there be some sort of word for all these pre-gender kids that already exists? Some pronoun that people use in your fiction world for these sort of kids? Just a side note -- I think this could be a fascinating idea! Good luck with it.
     
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  11. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    Maybe you won't have to. Why not have your little one remain genderless until puberty? Her child, infant, babe, youngling, bairn, etc. may do the trick. :)
     

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