Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sheeeheeiit, man!

Looks like academia is "recommending" a further cleansing of the language.  Donna Braquet, the University of Tennessee's Pride Center Director,   requested that teachers, rather than calling roll, will instead ask each student to provide the name and pronoun he or she -- or ze -- wishes to be referred by. She says it relieves a burden for people expressing different genders or identities.

"Braquet said if students and faculty cannot use pronouns such as ze, hir, hirs, xe, xem or xyr, they can also politely ask."

Thanks, Donna.  We're glad that the umpteenth Center for Whatever is earning its keep.  

What the culture barons of academia haven't noticed is that amongst the unwashed, a gender neutral pronoun has already evolved: "they". Nobody wanted to keep flogging the unwieldy "he or she" qualifier, so in conversation, most folks use "they", somewhat in the way that the French have a gender/number-free pronoun: "on". Unfortunately, our Jacobin betters prefer to prescribe rather than describe. But that's the point, they like to make regal pronouncements.

This is no different than the Montagnards who wanted to start the world all over with a new calender, "Thermidor", "Fructidor", and all that. 

Dr. Johnson found such prescriptive attempts to be in vain

"When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, and clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.
With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtile for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength. The French language has visibly changed under the inspection of the academy; the stile of Amelot's translation of Father Paul is observed, by Le Courayer to be un peu passé; and no Italian will maintain that the diction of any modern writer is not perceptibly different from that of Boccace, Machiavel, or Caro."
-Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language"

Johnson scoffs at the idea that it is in the power of the academy to render the language in its image, whether to freeze it in time or render the tongue of the commoners to its tastes and preoccupations. Whatever changes happen to American English will not be due to some nanny busybody.

Suggestion to Donna: We could try another gender-inclusive word: "OK, class, repeat after me.  'SheeHeeIt'!"

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