April 8, 2021

"A neopronoun can be a word a created to serve as pronoun without expressing gender, like 'ze' and 'zir.'"

"A neopronoun can also be a so-called 'noun-self pronoun,' in which a pre-existing word is drafted into use as a pronoun. Noun-self pronouns can refer to animals — so your pronouns can be 'bun/bunself' and 'kitten/kittenself.' Others refer to fantasy characters — 'vamp/vampself,' 'prin/cess/princesself,' 'fae/faer/faeself' — or even just common slang, like 'Innit/Innits/Innitself.'... For those unfamiliar with the culture surrounding neopronouns right now, it’s likely impossible to distinguish between what’s playful, what’s deeply meaningful and what’s people being mean.... 'I’m not going to call u kitty/kittyself or doll/dollself just bc u think its cool,' one TikToker wrote in a video caption. 'Pronouns are a form of identity not an aesthetic.' But what’s the difference between an aesthetic and an identity anyway?... [A] social media bio will often include a link to an identity résumé on Carrd, often with a pronoun usage guide. (One sample: 'Bug likes bugs.' 'Those things belong to Bug.' 'Bug wants to work by Bugself.')... The neopronoun community comprises mostly internet-native young people, and is agile when it comes to facing down criticism and mockery. Social media posts affirming the validity of neopronoun identities are a constant refrain: 'If you use neopronouns, you are extremely valid and I love you,' one person wrote on Twitter."

From "A Guide to Neopronouns/Are you a person, place or thing? We have good news" by Ezra Marcus (NYT). 

If you want to make a comment, you simply email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email. I note that the NYT article doesn't allow comments on this column, and it's not hard to figure out why. 

I can imagine what the comments would look like on this post if I were still allowing unmoderated comments. I think many would be the same things people have said repeatedly when the subject is transgender persons. My posts are always about something I haven't written about before, so I want comments that I haven't already seen on earlier posts. There's a specific subject here — creative pronouns. 

It's one thing to express yourself with statements about the idiosyncratic pronouns you prefer, but it's unkind to overburden other people with the need to remember and use such things. At some point, you go beyond expressing yourself and are controlling the expression of others. Are you having fun and also denying others the freedom to find it funny? 

The discussion in the NYT column is almost entirely focused on the feelings of the person who is declaring neopronouns. What about the people who are expected to do the work of incorporating neopronouns into their speech (and who, apparently, may suffer shunning if they mistake it for a joke or won't or can't adapt their speech to cater to special pronoun needs)? 

Grammar is already hard enough. Lots of people have trouble avoiding mistakes just trying to speak standard English.

FROM THE EMAIL: A guy named Guy writes: 

My name is my pronoun, always has been. Wouldn’t have it any other way. :)

When I was a boy, it would cause me some confusion when someone would yell, “Hey Guy!”, but mean somebody else.

Later I encountered the opposite: My girlfriend, who had very pretty long blonde hair, tried to get my attention from a hotel balcony. “Hey, Guy!” Every male on the floor below turned to her, looking like they were hoping she was calling to them. It gave us a good laugh, later.

AND: Geoff emails:
I think there's a larger problem with this whole preferred pronoun business. They're not pronouns! A pronoun is a generic word to point back to something with (usually) a known antecedent. These words are not generic. They are personalized. And a personalized word for something other than its actual name is a nickname, not a pronoun. Usage has changed pronouns before. Thou and thee are gone, for example. The increasing usage of they/their not as an affectation but as a simple dodge for avoiding specifying the gender of a singular antecedent suggests we may be in the process of rearranging our pronoun system again. But if you think you're "bug," your pronoun is not bug, it's it. That's the pronoun we use to avoid saying bug over and over again when talking about a bug. If your preferred pronoun only points to you, it's not a pronoun.

Yes, exactly. If we have to say "bug" or some such word, we could just as easily use your name every time. "Bug" doesn't work as a pronoun.