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Thread: Plural pronouns for non-binary people: would a neologism be a better option?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think it’s interesting that:

    People are resistant to changes in language.

    All languages change over time.
    Lane Greene's recent book, Talk On The Wild Side, is about exactly that. And also pretty funny.

    Grant Hutchison

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    I don't think people are resistant to changes in language, in general, so much as they're resistant to dictated changes...
    They're certainly not resistant to dictating changes, or (perhaps more commonly) dictating the status quo.
    People do sometimes get themselves into a self-righteous froth about stuff that's merely the natural evolution of language. I was in a little family-run coffee shop the other day, and a young customer at the counter asked, "Can I get a flat white, please?"
    The (late middle-aged) barista replied, "No. I'll get it. You can have it." And two people at a table nearby applauded.
    I admit that usage of "get" wears on my nerves a little, but there was a casual rudeness to that exchange which wears on my nerves even more.

    Grant Hutchison

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    They're certainly not resistant to dictating changes, or (perhaps more commonly) dictating the status quo.
    People do sometimes get themselves into a self-righteous froth about stuff that's merely the natural evolution of language. I was in a little family-run coffee shop the other day, and a young customer at the counter asked, "Can I get a flat white, please?"
    The (late middle-aged) barista replied, "No. I'll get it. You can have it." And two people at a table nearby applauded.
    I admit that usage of "get" wears on my nerves a little, but there was a casual rudeness to that exchange which wears on my nerves even more.

    Grant Hutchison
    The use of "get" like that hardly registers on my radar, but I agree with the annoyance with the casual rudeness to a customer. If I was that customer, that would be the last time I visited that shop.
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  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    The use of "get" like that hardly registers on my radar, but I agree with the annoyance with the casual rudeness to a customer. If I was that customer, that would be the last time I visited that shop.
    Small place in a tourist village - I'd guess he has about ten regulars and everyone else is passing trade. So he didn't recognize the young woman, figured he'd never see her again, and played to the gallery in the form of the two people at the table next to the counter.
    I hate it when rude and unpleasant people say things I agree with.

    Grant Hutchison

  5. #35
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    It certainly tends to make me less certain that I'm right, anyway.
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  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    I don't think people are resistant to changes in language, in general, so much as they're resistant to dictated changes...
    I wasn’t thinking about dictated changes, but more about things like “the person who I called. “ at least in American English, it is the standard now but there are still people who insist it should be “whom”.


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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    They're certainly not resistant to dictating changes, or (perhaps more commonly) dictating the status quo.
    People do sometimes get themselves into a self-righteous froth about stuff that's merely the natural evolution of language. I was in a little family-run coffee shop the other day, and a young customer at the counter asked, "Can I get a flat white, please?"
    The (late middle-aged) barista replied, "No. I'll get it. You can have it." And two people at a table nearby applauded.
    I admit that usage of "get" wears on my nerves a little, but there was a casual rudeness to that exchange which wears on my nerves even more.

    Grant Hutchison
    ...American here. What's wrong with "get"? It's a common usage where I grew up.
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  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    ...American here. What's wrong with "get"? It's a common usage where I grew up.
    There's nothing wrong with "Can I get?" - it's been established in American English for well over a century. But it has filtered into British English within the last generation or so, which is why those of us stricken in age still find it jarring when it replaces "May I have?"
    There are two changes in usage, both involving agency. In British English, to get traditionally means "to obtain through some effort or contrivance" - you have to work to get something. And Can I implies "Am I able?", contrasted with May I, "Am I permitted?"

    So "May I have a flat white?" acknowledges that we are asking the barista for a service - "Is it possible that I will end up in possession of a flat white with your assistance?" Whereas "Can I get a flat white?" asks a question about the speaker's ability to climb over the counter and personally manipulate the controls of the coffee machine to produce a flat white.

    Depending on what sort of day you're having, that mental image can be anything from irritating to amusing.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Thank you for clarifying, Grant.

    As for the OP, I think "they" is perfectly acceptable in the absence of information or stated preference. I'd readily say "they" about someone whose gender I didn't know, so why not extend that to someone whose gender is non-traditional?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    There are two changes in usage, both involving agency. In British English, to get traditionally means "to obtain through some effort or contrivance" - you have to work to get something. And Can I implies "Am I able?", contrasted with May I, "Am I permitted?"
    Even in the US, there is some resistance, by grammar teachers, though I think it’s pretty futile at this point. I’ve heard of exchanges in school like this:

    -Mr. Smith, can I go to the bathroom?
    -I sure hope so.




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  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    -Mr. Smith, can I go to the bathroom?
    -I sure hope so.
    Ah "go to the bathroom" as a euphemism for the excretory function itself. That kind of vexes me too.
    I remember a student nurse reporting to the charge nurse, "Mr Smith has just gone to the bathroom in his bed."
    I had such a logjam of possible responses in my head that I had to go for a walk.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    And Can I implies "Am I able?", contrasted with May I, "Am I permitted?"
    That distinction seemed outdated and artificial to me when teachers at school tried to enforce it about 50 years ago.

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Ah "go to the bathroom" as a euphemism for the excretory function itself. That kind of vexes me too.
    I remember a student nurse reporting to the charge nurse, "Mr Smith has just gone to the bathroom in his bed."
    I had such a logjam of possible responses in my head that I had to go for a walk.
    I’m not sure what vexes you. Doesn’t everybody use euphemisms for that? WC, loo, restroom, even toilet, are all euphemisms. And every language I know also uses euphemisms. In Japanese you say, “I’m going to wash my hands.”

    The example you used is strange, though. I’ve never heard anyone say that or “He went to the toilet in his bed” for example. Almost universally people say “He wet the bed’” which of course is a euphemism too.


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  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I’m not sure what vexes you. Doesn’t everybody use euphemisms for that?
    Well, I don't, and my friends don't. I guess that's why the euphemism seems so coy and twee.

    The "wash my hands" thing is not just Japanese. I overheard a marvellous conversation in the cafe on Ulva recently, which has the only toilet on the island.

    She (on entering): "I'll just go to wash my hands."
    He: "I need to wash my hands too."
    She: "Is it urgent?"
    He: "Kind of urgent."
    She: "You'd better wash your hands first, then."

    I'd actually initially thought they wanted to, you know, wash their hands.

    Grant Hutchison

  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    That distinction seemed outdated and artificial to me when teachers at school tried to enforce it about 50 years ago.
    Still alive and well in our house.

    Grant Hutchison

  17. #47
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    "Will you marry me?" is really just a request for a prediction of the future and not any kind of suggestion or proposal, right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    "Will you marry me?" is really just a request for a prediction of the future and not any kind of suggestion or proposal, right?
    No, under the old prescriptive will/shall distinction that no-one has ever used consistently in the entire history of English, it's a question about whether the person being addressed wants to marry the speaker.
    I shall, you will, she will express bald futurity; I will, you shall, she shall express determination or insistence that something will happen. But when asking a question, you use the modal verb you expect from the answerer. So "Will you marry me?" invites the responses "I will" or "I will not", which express the speaker's wish for the future.
    "Shall you marry me?" would be the form required if you wanted a bald prediction of the future, in some bizarre fortune-telling incident.

    Grant Hutchison

  19. #49
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    I have noticed a sad habit to use the jarring expression as in "her and her mum went out" or "me and my mum went out"on the BBC not just in dramas but in news commentary programs. Is this part of reluctance to use I, he and she? It hurts me in a way that is almost physical but "they and her mum went out" has different meaning while being acceptable grammar.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I have noticed a sad habit to use the jarring expression as in "her and her mum went out" or "me and my mum went out"on the BBC not just in dramas but in news commentary programs. Is this part of reluctance to use I, he and she? It hurts me in a way that is almost physical but "they and her mum went out" has different meaning while being acceptable grammar.
    I can't see anything wrong with those. I would be less likely use the first but I am quite used to hearing it. I would be very likely to use the second. They may be regional variants you are not familiar with, until recently. They are certainly not new.

    There is an odd prescriptive rule that says that logically it should be "I and my mum" because if there was just the pronoun it would be "I". But language does not have to (and frequently doesn't) follow logical rules. The actual "rules" (ie how people use language) regarding coordinated pronouns is extremely complicated and depends on lots of factors.

  21. #51
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    Maybe everybody should always take along a pet (at least) rather than walk alone.
    Then we can easily say "They just left" and such without being grammatically incorrect.

  22. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Well, I don't, and my friends don't. I guess that's why the euphemism seems so coy and twee.

    The "wash my hands" thing is not just Japanese. I overheard a marvellous conversation in the cafe on Ulva recently, which has the only toilet on the island.

    She (on entering): "I'll just go to wash my hands."
    He: "I need to wash my hands too."
    She: "Is it urgent?"
    He: "Kind of urgent."
    She: "You'd better wash your hands first, then."

    I'd actually initially thought they wanted to, you know, wash their hands.

    Grant Hutchison
    There's a gag wherein a sharp lower-class fellow has occasion to visit an elegant house.
    "Mistah Jones, how nice of you to come! Dinner will be served in a moment. Would you like to ... wash your hands?"
    "Thanks ma'am, but I washed my hands out there against the fence before I came in."

  23. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Still alive and well in our house.

    Grant Hutchison
    And mine.

    My father, who was an English Master for many decades, was unfailingly polite, gentle, good-humoured but grammatically precise because he felt that imprecision in language was the underlying cause of many avoidable problems. I recall he occasionally would wear a T-shirt that read:

    Let's eat, Grandma.
    Let's eat Grandma.
    Grammar saves lives!

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    Quote Originally Posted by AGN Fuel View Post
    And mine.

    My father, who was an English Master for many decades, was unfailingly polite, gentle, good-humoured but grammatically precise because he felt that imprecision in language was the underlying cause of many avoidable problems. I recall he occasionally would wear a T-shirt that read:

    Let's eat, Grandma.
    Let's eat Grandma.
    Grammar saves lives!
    That's not grammar, that's punctuation.
    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

  25. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    That's not grammar, that's punctuation.

  26. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    That's not grammar, that's punctuation.
    Looks a lot like grammar to me. The comma makes the difference between "eat" as an intransitive verb, and "eat" as a transitive verb with "Grandma" as its object.

    Grant Hutchison

  27. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Looks a lot like grammar to me. The comma makes the difference between "eat" as an intransitive verb, and "eat" as a transitive verb with "Grandma" as its object.
    Not in the context indicated by "grammar saves lives."

    There's a grammatical difference between the two sentences, but you can't use the grammatical difference to determine the meaning - you have to know the meaning in order to determine the grammar.

    The punctuation, when the sentence is written down, allows you to determine the intended meaning and grammar - when spoken, it would be the inflection and context that told you what was intended. But neither inflection, context, nor punctuation are grammar themselves.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    Not in the context indicated by "grammar saves lives."

    There's a grammatical difference between the two sentences, but you can't use the grammatical difference to determine the meaning - you have to know the meaning in order to determine the grammar.

    The punctuation, when the sentence is written down, allows you to determine the intended meaning and grammar - when spoken, it would be the inflection and context that told you what was intended. But neither inflection, context, nor punctuation are grammar themselves.
    Yeah. And I would guess the original T-shirt might have used the word "Punctuation"--that's certainly the meme I've seen around the place.
    My point was really about this idea that punctuation is somehow always separate from grammar, which seems to be a thing these days. I was taught that if it marks grammar, it's grammatical; if it marks intonation, it's intonational; and if it's a matter of personal choice, it's stylistic or conventional. Admittedly the boundaries are hazy, but it seems to make more sense that way. Hence my "Looks a lot like grammar to me."

    (Giles Brandreth tried to cover all the bases with the title of his book, Have You Eaten Grandma?: Or, the life-saving importance of correct punctuation, grammar and good English, but ended up leaving the reader uncertain about whether "correct" also applied to "grammar".)

    Grant Hutchison

  29. #59
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    Punct"ion, I have mentioned before a capital book called "Apostrophe theory" plus of course "Eats, shoots and Leaves" from the former I love "The missing 'ink" and "I think therefore I'm".
    There is no equivalent to the french Academie Francais but poor grammar can definitely count against you in employment and other formal situations. I have not read Giles Brandreth's book but it sounds fun'.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    There is no equivalent to the french Academie Francais but poor grammar can definitely count against you in employment and other formal situations.
    I assume you mean "non standard" rather than poor.

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