The holiday weekend is still causing a lack of news — our kind of news — so we’re going to stray way off topic. We have been made aware that our writing is — in the opinion of some — insensitive regarding gender issues.
We almost never discuss such things — well, sometimes, as in Hambo and the Rainbow. But even there, although ol’ Hambo was in a frenzy, we said:
The only private life we’re interested in is our own, and we don’t care what other people do — as long as it’s done privately with consenting adults.
Anyway, we wouldn’t want our writing to offend anyone because of our indifference to such matters. As we have declared in the past — for example, in Renaming the Retard-o-Tron™ — your Curmudgeon is a non-judgmental, sensitive, compassionate, caring-sharing evolutionist, with ooey-gooey feelings and a touchy-feely attitude. We embrace diversity and practice togetherness. We care for the planet. We feel your pain. We are At One with all things. Our fondest hope is that we’ll all get along and everything will be nicey-nicey and fuzzy-wuzzy. That is our Curmudgeonly statement of principle, to which we courageously adhere — except when it might give offense.
So let’s talk about language and gender. Undoubtedly, hundreds — maybe thousands — of doctoral dissertations in social science have been devoted to this issue. Wikipedia has an extensive discussion of the matter — see Third-person pronoun.
Let us consider an everyday situation, such as the sentence: “The student knows what he should do.” Or this one: “Each student knows what is expected of him.” Although those words (“he” and “him”) traditionally have been used to indicate either gender when implied by the context, there are those who are offended by the masculine pronouns “he” and “him.” Nowadays such usage is denounced as sexist and discriminatory. Your Curmudgeon has no wish to offend, so we are mulling over some alternatives.
Fortunately, “they” is gender neutral for plural situations, so the problem is only with singular pronouns. Here are a few artificial words we’ve thinking about using to substitute for “he” and “him” in the foregoing example.
HOSOHOH: (pronounced ho-so-ho), initials for He or She or Him or Her
MOFOO: (pronounced moe-foo), initials for Male or Female or Other
MOFOEON: (pronounced moe-fo-ee-on), initials for Male or Female or Either or None
AGON: initials for Any Gender or None
AGSOPON: (pronounced ag-sop-on), initials for Any Gender, Singular or Plural or None
HAOS: (pronounced like chaos), initials for He and or She
HOSOB: initials for He or She or Both
HOSOBON: (pronounced hoss-o-bon), initials for He or She or Both or Neither
It is obvious to us that the use of any of those constructs would be bizarre, yet that seems to be what sensitivity requires. Or are we getting carried away here? Your advice will be appreciated.
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