Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Who Are You Again?

 by Janis Patterson

As someone once said, it’s always something.
After decades - centuries - of respecting proper grammar, pronouns, tense, sentence structure, conjugations and all the other bits of pieces that comprise language and forms so much of communication, writers are being asked to learn a totally new - and distressingly flexible - set of personal pronouns.
Now there are people who are intent on messing up the concept of language. In a politically correct move some who believe they are more than one gender are not only using different pronouns for themselves, they expect others to use them as well. Some use ‘they’ referring to their singular selves. Some make up pronouns. Some commit even more unforgivable grammatical mayhem. One person interviewed calls itself ‘It.’
Whatever my personal feelings about these people are people have a right to live their lives as they see fit, as long as it’s legal. They can call themselves what they want to when they’re among their intimates, but who on earth would agree that they should be allowed to change the shape of the language?
Language is communication. Language conveys ideas and feelings and information and all kinds of things, but the basis of language is understanding. Both parties - the one speaking and the one listening - have to have a common ground, not only a knowledge of what the words they speak mean, but a certainty that they both know the same meanings.
For example, there are many languages in this world, and in each language there are many examples of beautiful writing. But - unless you speak that language, those writings are nothing to you. Someone could be reciting the most exquisite words in the world, but if you don’t know what they mean you hear nothing but polysyllabic babble. There is no common point of reference.
Now that might be something of an overdrawn example, but the principle is true. Language is shared communication.
Say someone wants itself to be referred to using ‘tym’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she,’ as in “Tym is my friend.” Or someone refers to itself as ‘they’ rather than ‘I,’ as in “they want to go to the mall” meaning that the speaker wants to go to the mall. Unless you are personally acquainted with this person, or know of its preferences, you won’t know what they’re talking about.
Language has rules. For example, ‘they’ is plural - not singular. ‘Tym’ is a made-up word, signifying nothing.
We are writers. Our job is to communicate, to share ideas and situations and information. If people don’t understand what we’re saying, we are not doing our job. And it will lose us readers. Another possible pitfall is that writing is forever, and the words that are currently trendy may be totally incomprehensible in a decade. Or less. Yes, language changes and mutates, but it is a natural process, not a fiat declared by a tiny minority, a minority that can’t even agree on which of their new words are right.
Again, people have the right to refer to themselves as they wish. They do not have the right to demand that others use those same words. There is no standardization to these new manufactured words/meanings, and the definitions are too fluid to last.
Call yourself what you want, but don’t mess with the language. Posterity - and those who believe in clear communication - won’t thank you if you do.

6 comments:

Morgan Mandel said...

Yes, I believe in live and let live. However, I completely agree with you about what's been forcibly going on lately. I'm tired of people telling me I have to talk and think the same way as them. Freedom of speech, among other rights, lately have all gone out the window.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Like Morgan, I believe in freedom of speech, but it cuts two ways.
Rules of grammar are standardized for a reason.

maryhagenauthorrommance.com said...

When I read a book, I don't want to spend time deciding if the writer meant I when using they.

authorlindathorne said...

Interesting post. This was totally different. I'm not sure I have an opinion one way or another as there's so many factors, but I enjoyed reading this.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

A great post! And I totally agree!

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