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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Stop making fun of zose new pronouns

Making fun of xe, xem, and xyr will only make zem a permanent part of ze language

C onservatives are having lots of fun ridiculing txese new pronouns xe, xir, xem and xoze. Activists want to bake xendir equality into txe language by replacing any occurrence of he by xe wxetxer it makes sense to do so or not. Then they'll change mandate to persondate, her with hir, and so on. So if we ridicule it to death, it'll prevent anybody from ever using xem for fear of sounding ridixulous, stupid, and snoxflakey, right?

As if. It's the fourth stage of acceptance: you repeat the word over and over to yourself, and eventually the brain gets used to it. It's much the same way as when a loved one dies. People say “I can't believe Bruce, my iPod, is really broken!” over and over. The mind is like a river, taking the deepest path. Reiterating the fact deepens the path, strengthens those synapses, and the next thing you know you're reflexively saying ‘firefighter’ instead of ‘fireman,’ or ‘Mizz Smith’ instead of ‘Mrs Smith,’ because it no longer sounds weird.

‘Snowflakes’ is a brilliant conceptualization because it conjures up a concrete image in the mind.

Take ‘chairperson.’ It's hard to imagine now how weird that word sounded when it first came out. But thanks to the power of ridicule, it's now in all the dictionaries, and the brain censors itself whenever you dare to think ‘chairman.’

It's also why the more outrageous the lie the easier it is to accept. To be truly effective, a lie has to be so crazy that people discuss it among themselves. Slowly, inexorably, it wears a path among those neurons in your brain until it becomes, literally, a physical part of you.

Already conservatives are using the word ‘gender’ when they mean ‘sex.’ If you really, truly want to discourage the corruption of language by politics, you have to create an immediate association with something that people already feel is ridiculous, like snowflakes or liberals. But this tactic only works if others believe as you do.

Just yesterday I ran across an article making fun of Bill Nye, the fake science guy whose mother dresses him funny. The author used this technique skilfully: ‘angry nerd’ and ‘Bill Nye the pious guy‘ are both very effective.

‘Red scare’ is another good example. People don't like the idea of being taken in by a phony scare, so juxtaposing those two words is intended to create a conditioned association between the object—anticommunism—and something people dislike. A positive example is ‘Make America Great Again.’ Notice how the two words—‘America’ and ‘great’—are juxtaposed. Whoever came up with this expression was an advertising genius.

What's wrong with using xe, zir, and zose?

Why not just give in and use the new pronouns just to make the activists happy? There are several reasons.

  1. If we accept xe and xir, every different ‘gender’ will demand their own. The number of new pronouns will increase without bound.
  2. Activists are trying to force people to use them. Some places have even passed laws mandating them. That's not how English is supposed to work, and it tramples on our freedom.
  3. Already some people say ‘their pronoun’ is such-and-such and demand that everyone else use it. Besides being obnoxious, it makes communication difficult.
  4. Once the activists succeed in changing the language, they'll want to keep changing it in many other ways.
  5. They're doing it because they think English is ‘sexist,’ which is untrue. To give in would be to accept a lie.

But we don't need a reason: whenever somebody tries to force you to do something, you should resist. Give the bully your lunch money today, and he'll be back tomorrow (which is why we're facing this now).

I mean this as a general principle. The next blogger who tells me to “read the whole thing” gets socked right between the pixels.

My preference is to do away with he and she and their derivatives altogether and just call everyone it. It'll make things so much easier when those sexbots finally get here.

Some concepts are invented solely to trick us into thinking they represent a real thing, and thereby make us more genderly fluidical, more transphilic, and so on. These words don't represent any objectively real phenomena. But language creates reality. By creating the word, we create the thing itself. The ancients who said “In the beginning was the word” were making an excellent point.

That said, languages evolve to become more simplified over time. Gender in English is already vestigial. One of the world's oldest languages, Chinese, has mostly done away with gender, number, and tense altogether.

Conversely, in Minnan ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ are three-syllable words that are pronounced almost identically except for which syllable gets stressed. Minnan has six tones, like Cantonese*, but they change in an incredibly complex way depending on their position in the sentence, whether the word is being used as a subject or an object, and (it seems) the day of the week. As a small regional language, it's under little pressure to simplify, and it retains much of its old complexity.

Languages get simplified for the same reason the brain defines truth as the energetically cheapest representation: it makes thinking easier. If the brain defines truth that way, that is what's true for us regardless of what the universe thinks.

As far as ‘xir’ goes, there's a real need to simplify that part of the language and make it more logically consistent. The only good alternative is singular ‘they’ and ‘them.’ Use them a few thousand times and it'll sound correct. Be a language purist, and we'll end up with xir. Those are our choices.

To paraphrase the old commercial: the mind is a terrible thing. We complain about computer software being riddled with bugs and security flaws, but the biggest security flaws are the ones in our own biology.

Oh what the xell. Go ahead and make fun of the bas-- I mean people of undocupersonted parentage.

* As I was taught it, Cantonese had nine, and one was iffy, so it was really eight, but apparently they threw out a couple more.

feb 04 2018, 6:39 am. text box added feb 04, 4:11 pm. last edited feb 09, 4:14 am.

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