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Wednesday Watercooler


In tonight’s video we learn how to flirt like a capuchin monkey. Thanks to Lauren Davis on science fiction blog io9 for the link. If you’re a Bob’s Burgers fan, do you think Louise has been taking notes from these primates?

Vivian Doug linked to this interesting tidbit about language. Genderqueer Identities notes that contrary to popular belief, ‘they’ was once a perfectly acceptable singular, gender-neutral pronoun before a bunch of men in England made everyone change:

Something interesting I learned in my speech class textbook, Reflect and Relate (Second Edition) about they/them/their in the English language, page 187:

‘A language’s regulative rules also change. When you learned to speak and write English, for example, you probably were taught that they is inappropriate as a singular pronoun. But before the 1850s, people commonly used they as the singular pronoun for individuals whose gender was unknown—for example, “the owner went out to the stables, where they fed the horses” (Spender, 1990).

In 1850, male grammarians petitioned the British Parliament to pass a law declaring that all gender-indeterminate references be labeled he instead of they (Spender, 1990). Since that time, teachers of English worldwide have taught their students that they used as a singular pronoun is “not proper.”‘

I always thought that ‘they’ was considered grammatically improper as a singular pronoun because of the possibility of confusion with the plural ‘they’ … I wanted to see if their were other sources on the above and there are! I was interested to learn about this in particular because, time and time again, I’ve heard people rudely remark on they/them/their being “improper” after someone would mention this as the pronoun set they’d like people to use in reference to them — both online and off. They/them/their is also the pronoun set I have gelled with best in reference to myself. If anyone has more info on this, I’d love to know about it!

But then I remembered I had read about this a few year’s ago, in Maria Bustillos excellent article for The Awl, Our Desperate, 250-Year-Long Search for a Gender-Neutral Pronoun.” I try my best to use the gender pronouns a person prefers I use, or to avoid them altogether when their choice is too much of a mouthful for me. As a writer though, I tend to agree with Bustillos that English lacks a really elegant and flexible solution for this quandry. This frustration even led to me inventing an alternative of my own for a fantasy fiction project years ago.

Bonus link:

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and