?

Which is more common in the UK?

  1. Ze/Zir

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Xe/Xyr

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Other; please comment

    1 vote(s)
    16.7%
  4. I wouldn't recognise any of them

    5 vote(s)
    83.3%
  1. Woof
    Offline

    Woof Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2014
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    122

    Which gender-neutral pronouns?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Woof, Jun 2, 2015.

    I've written a poem using the gender-neutral pronouns ze/zir for a fictional person who identifies as both male and female at different points, in order to avoid narrative confusion... or so I thought. Last week I took it to my poetry group; they have a rule whereby the poem is read and commented on by the rest of the group before the author can comment, and to a one they all missed that I was using a gender-neutral pronoun (or at least thought I was?). They thought I was trying out some crazy 'foreign' voice...?!

    I wonder whether perhaps, in the light of that, I've got it wrong and/or if I should switch to xe/xyr, because I think it's more common in the UK but I don't know. Or maybe I do need to be identifying the person as male/female in line with when their gender identity shifts? What do you all think? Ze/zir, xe/xyr or something else entirely? Does anyone know of any examples where they've been used well? To be clear: I've ruled out it or they; they're too impersonal, and that's not the point in this instance.
     
  2. Stacy C
    Offline

    Stacy C Banned

    Joined:
    May 3, 2015
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    I'd guess that's the reaction you'll always get from readers when you try to use made-up words. I've never read anything using ze/zir or xe/xyr, and think that whole movement is a little silly. It might be easier to write characters whose sexual identity doesn't 'shift' during the story.
     
  3. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,098
    Likes Received:
    5,311
    Location:
    California, US
    Woof likes this.
  4. Stacy C
    Offline

    Stacy C Banned

    Joined:
    May 3, 2015
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    True, but I have to glackle satye wassert lolopo nnuyt if I want you to understand what I'm saying. :wtf:
     
  5. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Language just doesn't work this way, and by that I mean it's rarely something individuals or even academies have any control over. Think about the 2nd person plural pronoun that came into existence in the American south: y'all. Most of us know this word, even if it's only through media contact. If you didn't know that word, if it had never existed and you were sat on a committee to come up with a pronoun that distinguishes the 2nd person singular from the 2nd person plural (and bringing thou back was off the table), does the construction of y'all seem intuitive? Does it seem like the kind of thing that people would think up given the task of thinking something up? I don't personally think so. Had I never heard that word and it had never existed anywhere, a contraction of you all would never have gotten my vote. I would have thought it inelegant and not in keeping with similar pronouns that naturally exist in other, related languages. Yet there it is.

    That's what I mean. ;)
     
  6. Stacy C
    Offline

    Stacy C Banned

    Joined:
    May 3, 2015
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    Agreed, but it seems to me that it takes a sort of critical mass of usage (in your example, everybody in the US South) to make words common enough that everyone understands and is comfortable with their meanings. I just don't see the whole zi/zer, ve/ver thing getting that kind of traction, limited as it is to works (and authors, and, I guess, readers) which/who deal mainly with 'gender' issues.
     
    Wreybies likes this.
  7. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    That's exactly what it takes. Well put. ;) And though the reasons for wanting to create a gender neutral pronoun are reasons I can sympathize and empathize with, without this kind of traction it just won't happen.
     
  8. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,098
    Likes Received:
    5,311
    Location:
    California, US
    But pronoun use is clear. That's what matters. The words beatnik, cyberspace, and catch-22 were all "made up" in novels, for example. A use of a single word or set of pronouns doesn't make the meaning unintelligible like when you create a whole sentence of gibberish.
     
  9. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,098
    Likes Received:
    5,311
    Location:
    California, US
    I wouldn't say Egan is dealing with gender issues much in Diaspora. Ve/ver/vis just makes sense in the context he uses them.
     
  10. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    would love to help but sadly up until this point, i'd not really head of gender neutral pronouns (just tended to use 'they' as i thought that was quite generic)

    We learn new things every day so this is a bit of a learning curve!
     
  11. Stacy C
    Offline

    Stacy C Banned

    Joined:
    May 3, 2015
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    We pedants aren't permitted to use 'they' in the singular.
     
  12. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    ... yet we happily use you (inflected form of ye), which was originally only for the plural (and formal) to now indicate the singular, and worse, we use the original object version of the pronoun to serve as the subject pronoun. :whistle:
     
  13. Woof
    Offline

    Woof Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2014
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    122
    Thanks all who've responded so far; it's interesting reading!

    I agree language is fiddly both in theory and practice. I'm sure the reason there are so many options and so little take-up is that no one's coined anything that doesn't sound contrived or clumsy yet. I think the honorific 'Ms' was slow to catch on, for instance, because it can be difficult to distinguish audibly, which meant people had to be really comfortable being frequently misunderstood when using it! However, I don't see many other options when speaking in the past tense of a person who hasn't consistently identified as male or female? I'll keep chewing it over though because I really like the character, and the poem :)
     
  14. Stacy C
    Offline

    Stacy C Banned

    Joined:
    May 3, 2015
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    127
    Location:
    Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
    I always use ya'll.
     
  15. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    867
    Likes Received:
    957
    Location:
    SC, USA
    I can't speak for the UK since I'm from 'merica but I tend to see xe/xir used most often (though obviously since I went for xIr and you went for xYr there's discord in the ranks, hahah). I use it for one for my characters, as well, and yeah gender neutral pronouns haven't taken off in a big way yet but the only way they're going to is if we keep using them. That said I don't see how 'they' is too impersonal, but it's up to you and I'm never going to advocate for not pushing nontraditional pronouns, frankly.

    For what it's worth my xe-using character got xemself published, so hey :>
     
    Woof likes this.
  16. Shadowfax
    Online

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    1,351
    Yeah, you 'mericans have always gone your own sweet way when it comes to spelling!
     
  17. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    867
    Likes Received:
    957
    Location:
    SC, USA
    We're still in our rebellious teenage phase. You can't just tell us how to spell words, MOM, gosh.
     
    Shadowfax likes this.
  18. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    If only Ben Franklin had had his way... :whistle: I mean, come now, we landed on these far shores with one of the most idiosyncratic spelling systems on the planet. :crazy: A stonking huge number of words may as well be logograms for all the meaning the letters of which they are composed convey. The -augh and -ough words alone, sorry, but that's just taking the piss.
     
    Shadowfax likes this.

Share This Page