Wednesday 5 July 2017

The only problem I will ever have with singular they pronouns

To be clear, this is an admission of personal failing and something I'm trying to correct, I just think there's something mildly interesting (very mildly, white-person-spicy-mildly) to be said about this as I think about language and how my brain interacts with it.

Point one: I have never had any problem, philosophical or practical, with the individual they or them. Nothing. I can say it, I can think it, I can write it and it doesn't feel strange to me. Long before I was aware this was a way of defining gender I was using the individual the way we all, no matter how vehemently people deny it, all use the individual they: to refer to an unknown person the details of whose identity are unknown to us.

So I used it in one context, easy enough to port it over to another.

Then I read an article about Missy and, for pretty obvious reasons, discussions of the larger character of the Master were couched in terms of the they pronoun. Simple enough.

Then I saw it. The problem. The stumbling block. The social terror of embarrassment yet to come.


I can't say it. I want to say it but I can't. The tongue just defaults to “themselves”, an obvious and socially embarrassing plural.

So, yes, folks, here it is. I have discovered that there is a side of retraining oneself (see, I can even say that but “themself” is beyond me? Good grief!) to use language differently.

Will I, though?

Of course I bloody will, don't be stupid. The idea that inconsequential personal inconvenience is going to stop me from trying to make someone feel socially welcome is inconceivable. I know it isn't to some people and that's a constant thorn in my side and my newsfeed but I'll bloody try. I'll screw up and it will be mortifying but I'll try.

If I didn't try I'd be a dick. 

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