Cousin It moved into my brain today when I read Jay Nordlinger’s extended rumination on pronoun insanity at America’s institutions of “higher” education. (And why, precisely, are we sending our children to be indoctrina… er, “educated” at places in which everyone is quite obviously too high to function normally?) You remember Cousin It, don’t you? A part of the extended Addams Family, Cousin It was a chattering, gender indeterminate mound of hair.
After Nordlinger explains the newest Leftist lunacy, with its savage attack on traditional pronouns, you too will find that Cousin It has taken residence behind your frontal lobe:
Recently, Donna Braquet, the director of the Pride Center at the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, wrote the following on the university’s website: “With the new semester beginning and an influx of new students on campus, it is important to participate in making our campus welcoming and inclusive for all. One way to do that is to use a student’s chosen name and their correct pronouns.”
Obviously, she thinks that “their” goes with “student” — which is very modern.
She had some advice for teachers. “In the first weeks of classes, instead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns. This ensures you are not singling out transgender or non-binary students.” She also recommended that, at events where name tags are used, pronouns be printed beside names.
What are the optional pronouns, by the way? “There are dozens,” Braquet explained. These include “ze/hir/hirs,” “ze/zir/zirs,” and “xe/xem/xyr.” “These may sound a little funny at first,” said Braquet, “but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.”
What are PGPs, you ask? They’re “preferred gender pronouns.” I’ll let Cornell College, in Mount Vernon, Iowa, elaborate:
A preferred gender pronoun is a consciously chosen set of pronouns that allow a person to accurately represent their gender identity in a way that is comfortable for them. For example, a trans* person may begin using a gender-neutral pronoun prior to transitioning, and a gendered pronoun afterwards, or an agender, bigender or third-gender person may choose to use a neutral or invented pronoun.
Maybe fogeys have said this for millennia, but it’s not merely that I don’t quite understand the culture, I don’t even understand the language. That asterisk after “trans,” incidentally, does not lead to a footnote. That’s the way the word is spelled.
More from Cornell College: “Recognizing and accepting alternative gender pronouns helps gender-non-conforming people feel more comfortable with their gender identities and highlights the problems created by our cultureʼs strict gender binary.”
“Strict gender binary”? I have a feeling that this means men and women. I also have the feeling that it’s not strict enough.
Cornell has some recommendations for “normalizing” the exchange of PGPs. In other words, you give yours, I give mine. This ought to be normalized.
You can do this by “introducing yourself with your pronouns: ‘Hi my name is Dave, Iʼm a visiting professor, and my pronouns are he/him/his.” Then Dave is to “ask students to include their personal pronouns when introducing themselves as well.”
Here is advice for Dave and other professors: “When choosing readings for class try to include articles or examples that use gender neutral language or that feature gender-neutral or gender-ambiguous people.”
Sorry, my dear friends among the consciousness raising warriors on the Left, but it’s just too much to ask of me (a) to remember all those new pronouns (I always was bad at learning new languages) and (b) to know on any given day what pronoun a specific person felt applied upon awakening (and yes, you, the speaker, are supposed to know).
The pronoun warriors, perhaps aware that there are stubborn and evil people around who are unwilling to get with the gender fluid movement (call me “Exhibit A”), have also suggested doing away with pronouns entirely:
They are hipper at Harvard, for example. And the University of Vermont, and Ohio University, and many other institutions of higher ed. When registering, students may indicate their PGPs, as well as other information. They can also say “no pronouns” or “name only.” So, if your name is Mike, and people refer to your room, they should not say “his room” (or “her room”), they should say “Mike’s room.” No pronouns. Name only.
So imagine yourself in this Brave New World, talking to someone about your mutual friend, Pat. Normally, if Pat were short for Patricia, you would say “So I saw Pat the other day. She’s looking really good. In fact, I told her that she should think about applying for a modeling gig.” Alternatively, if Pat were short for Patrick, you’d say “So I saw Pat the other day. He’s looking really good. In fact, I told him that he should think about applying for a modeling gig.” It’s very simple, really, creating a straightforward, easy to understand little paragraph.
In our brave new world of pronouns, though, if Pat hasn’t seen fit to share a gender identity with you, you end up with two choices. Sentence A is “”So I saw Pat the other day. Ze’s looking really good. In fact, I told hir that ze should think about applying for a modeling gig.” Honestly? I would recite that sentence only if I were drunk and only because I was drunk. It does, after all, have the bizarre, slurring cadence of a low rent Foster Brooks routine.
Alternatively, you can abandon pronouns entirely: “So I saw Pat the other day. Pat’s looking really good. In fact, I told Pat that Pat should think about applying for a modeling gig.” I feel my inner two-year old coming out when I speak that way. I am also rapidly sick of the ubiquitous Pat, whose name refuses to leave my sentences alone.
Of course, by the time I’ve finished that leaden sentence, I’m also wondering why Pat is so much more important than I am. Perhaps to offset Pat’s unsettling prominence, I should refer to myself in the third person: “So Bookworm saw Pat the other day. Pat is looking really good. In fact, Bookworm told Pat that Pat should think about applying for a modeling gig.”
Or perhaps, in the interest of further aggrandizing myself given Pat’s insufferable pronoun abeyance, I should switch to the “royal we”: “So we saw Pat the other day. Pat is looking really good. In fact, we told Pat that Pat should think about applying for a modeling gig.” (By the time I finished writing that despicable sentence, I actually threw up a little in my mouth . . . or do I mean that we actually threw up a little in our mouth?)
Obviously, all these linguistic nuances, and the inferences that they create, are very complex. That’s where my suggested alternative comes in. If the person about whom you spoke is not manifestly a heteronormative “him” or “her,” fall back on the English language’s ready-made third choice: It. No pain, no strain, no muss, no fuss, no assumptions, no regressions, no drunken slurrings. Suddenly, it’s all so very simple: “So I saw Pat the other day. It’s looking really good. In fact, I told it that it should think about applying for a modeling gig.”
And lest anybody think that, when I use “it” I’m being insulting, the contrary is true. My favorite living being in the whole world is my neutered little mutt. Considering how highly I think if it, how could I think any less of another mammal to whom I apply that appellation — keeping in mind, of course, that per a recent New York Times op-ed, we’re all mammals now. Or, as JFK would have said, “Wir sind ein Mammaler.”
And speaking of Pat, I can’t resist leaving you with the rather prescient “Pat” from SNL, courtesy of Julia Sweeney’s fertile brain:
UPDATE: I put up a coda to this post here.