Saturday 4 July 2020

Non-binaire, pronoms

I am The Patriarchy: ticking all the boxes: old ✓, white ✓, straight ✓, male ✓, educated ✓, wealthy ✓, (retired). But I'd like to think I am down with The Gays. A couple of years ago, The Institute dealt with the problem of gender-neutral bathrooms by putting the ⚧ symbol on the wheel-chair access toilets. As a preamble to slaggin' The President about this shameful expediency, I affirmed "I'm down with the gays". This caused considerable flutter from herself and another of my colleagues, who was earwigging "You can't say that" they said in unison. I clarified "I'm down with the gays" not "down on the gays"  and then ripped into the cheap signage solution to what the the management considered a metaphysical issue rather than something that marginalised a chunk of the community.

I've been proactive in my attempts to get down with the Pronouns. And I've added {he | him | his} to my e-mail sig on the grounds that if everybody does it then it's easier for those who might otherwise get othered. Dau.II has been proactive in her Coronarama attempts to get down with a foreign language. As a Foodie, she has naturally concentrated on DuoLingo  French . As a raised anglophone, she's worn out by everything having a M/F gender. [English used to be a highly inflected language like Latin or Irish but we've dumped most of the word endings and all the gendering. The spelinge otoh is bonkers and this makes it quite difficult for foreigners.] "everything" is not just the la/le/les  and un/une/des and the pedantically agreeing noun endings cousin / cousine but the fact that the attached adjectives have to agree as well votre beau cousin but ma belle cousine.

The clash of grammatical and political gender all came up last weekend in a three-way skype with Bob, Dau.II and Dau.I [our Go To  BLT liaison officer and a librarian]. While we gabbed on Dau.I multi-tasked her way to a couple of informative sites about pronoms non-binaire. Seems the most common N-B pronoun is iel which sounds different from il or elle; but it's still fluid, with some folks kiting al ol ul and yul. The ultra-conservative Patriarchal L'Académie française is still reeling from the loss of l'âccênt circônflêxe and has yet to add its imprimatur to iel. Indeed in 2017 the academy had kittens about inclusive language «devant cette aberration inclusive, la langue française se trouve désormais en péril mortel, ce dont notre nation est dès aujourd’hui comptable devant les générations futures» "in the face of this inclusive aberration, the French language finds itself in mortal danger, and today's users will find themselves answerable to succeeding generations".  The Atlantic batters at the gates of Chateau Patriarch.

You can follow up neutrality in several other languages. Big long essay by Amia Srinavasan on English pronouns masquerading as a book [this one] review in LRB.

Gender in French, like speeling in English, is a bit random, as you'd expect from something that jest growed over several hundred years.
Le Boywords
La Girlwords
Pound £ lb
sac à main
There are rules and conventions but also many exceptions.

1 comment:

  1. No sure about French, but my old Latin teacher told us that the latin declension of the root of the word determine the gender of the word. First declension female, second male, etc. But this doesn’t explain why the table is female and the fork is male. I read somewhere that objects from the home are generally female as are things that are close to us. People in Madrid talk of the sea as male, but for the sailor or the fisherman the sea is female. Nowadays in Spain it is only polite to refer to todos y todas in the same sentence or if you speak internet tod@s.