Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sexicographers

It's odd, but just as Western society is becoming very laid-back on sexuality, we are seeing the rise of a class of linguistic law-makers battling prejudices that are ceasing to exist.

I'd have thought that this modern nonsense started with "Ms", but Wikipedia tells us that the first proposal for this marital-status-neutral honorific goes back to 1901:

"The earliest known proposal for the modern revival of "Ms." as a title appeared in The Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts on November 10, 1901:

There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill. Every one has been put in an embarrassing position by ignorance of the status of some woman. To call a maiden Mrs is only a shade worse than to insult a matron with the inferior title Miss. Yet it is not always easy to know the facts... 

Now, clearly, what is needed is a more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expressing any views as to their domestic situation, and what could be simpler or more logical than the retention of what the two doubtful terms have in common. The abbreviation "Ms" is simple, it is easy to write, and the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances. For oral use it might be rendered as "Mizz," which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis' does duty for Miss and Mrs alike." 

Before then, as Shakespeare readers will know, "Mistress" ("Ms" for short) merely indicated an adult female. In an age when gays can marry and nearly half of British children are born out of wedlock, the issue is dead anyhow.

Although the Académie Française-like attempt to regulate our language is associated with the Left, this week the Archdruid says that prejudice against gays sometimes came from that side, not from the Right:

"The crusade against the “lavender menace” (I’m not making that phrase up, by the way) was one of the pet causes of the same Progressive movement responsible for winning women the right to vote and breaking up the fabulously corrupt machine politics of late nineteenth century America. Unpalatable as that fact is in today’s political terms, gay men and lesbians weren’t forced into the closet in the 1930s by the right. They were driven there by the left."

There are serious dangers in skewing the coding of our thought-processes. Words are so fundamental to the way we perceive and communicate; we don't need yahoos pissing in our mental swimming-pool. But on they will go - here is one try at gender-neutral pronouns:

HE/SHEHIM/HERHIS/HERHIS/HERSHIMSELF/HERSELF
ziezimzirziszieself
siesiehirhirshirself
eyemeireirseirself
vevervisversverself
teytertemtersterself
eemeireirsemself
The above - somehow reminiscent of the dialect-poetry of William Barnes - is reproduced from the University of Wisconsin's website. I'm glad I'm not at college now. When did universities turn from the free exchange of ideas to the suppression of them? This isn't about liberation; it's about power.

Still, after the ant-lion comes the ant-lion wasp, and I follow Milo Yiannopoulos with interest as he explodes the intolerance of those who claim to represent tolerance; it's mischievously delicious. UC Davis in California is the latest example (and to be consistent, now I have to reconsider my intense dislike of pharmaceutical profiteer Martin Shkreli, who was also scheduled to speak).

Come to England, dear children. We have been a conquered nation for almost a thousand years, and despite many changes of axe-handle and blade the structure of exploitation and oppression remains the same - how else could we explain the deep, systematic treachery of our elite? Little wonder that we pretty much taught the world principled civil war and revolution, and those experiences taught us a lesson, too. One positive consequence for us grunts is that we have a don't-give-a-damn attitude to most attempts at whipping us into some fresh Puritan frenzy. "We don't need no re-education," to misquote the [college-educated] boys of Pink Floyd.

Thirty-some years ago, a teaching colleague met one of her ex-pupils, a burly lad who had decided to "come out" and made, she said, a most peculiar-looking woman (though of course he was not attempting impersonation). She wished him well, calling him by his name, Bill, to which he replied, "Billette, if you don't mind." Very sweet; so polite.

And no problems with assertion there.

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