Pronouns grab the social spotlight.

The old languages – at least the ones I know – don’t have gender. They don’t have gendered pronouns. There’s no “he” and “she.” A human being is a human being. Gloria Steinem

 

A sagacious grammarian I once knew, in a moment of classroom levity, quipped, “Pronouns are people too.”

They may not take on flesh and bone, but they’ve captured a slice of the social spectrum. They’ve become a segment our flailing culture now grapples with.

We didn’t struggle with pronouns growing up. They were simple to learn and use:

pronouns1

Notice the labels for third person pronouns. They were either masculine or feminine. Couldn’t be both. Had to be one or the other.

But in today’s spiraling, amoral cultural quagmire, using pronouns has become subject to new rules for their use and the whole process createss a grammatical nightmare.

For instance, what pronoun do we use to address or speak of a young man who looks like a guy but has girl parts? What pronoun do we use to address or talk about a boy who looks like a boy and has boy parts but says he wants to be a girl? Do we say, “It’s him.” Or “It’s her.” Do we say, “He’s a friend of mine.”? Or “She’s a friend of mine”? Folks who belong to the LGBT movement have to go to the bathroom like the rest of us. What pronoun might we tack on the door of the restroom to prevent discriminating gainst them? Or to give them privacy.  And as far as I know about English, there’s not a pronoun to substitute for one.

Can you see the dilemma for poor little pronouns? All they want to do is stand in for someone to make it easier to communicate.

The biggest conundrum will be in our English classes.  Can you imagine the dilemma seventh grade English teachers. I don’t envy their job trying to teach which pronouns go with whice person, place or thing? Shakespeare would be rolling in his grave.

1Table of pronouns courtesy of Grammar.com

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