He, She or...Ze?

Jan 8, 2014

Most people speaking the English language as recently at 1980 had no notion of what lay in store for the daily vernacular.  With the digital age came swarms of neologisms: bytes, bauds, dongles, exbibytes, favicons, greps, memes….whole herds and flocks of new words and usages thundering into our peaceful linguascape.

Stay tuned.  There are more on the way.  And the driver this time is not digital but sexual.  The latest changelings are pronouns.

From the Associated Press: Nov. 30, 2013 (and picked up by newspapers around the world):

“Preferred” Pronouns Gain Traction at US Colleges

The story reports that on some high school and college campuses—and in political and social media circles—students who do not want to be described by their birth gender—a “he” or a “she”—are demanding and in some cases getting linguistic recognition.   The AP reports that it has become an accepted back-to-school practice for some professors, advisors and others to invite transgender students to state their preferred gender pronouns—PGPs for short.  They’re encouraged, says the AP, to use such newly formed pronouns as “ze,” sie,” “e,” “ou” and “ve.”  Students at the University of Vermont can elect to be called she, he or ze on class rosters.  Hampshire College lists the preferred gender pronouns of its tour guides on the school web site.  

Closer to home, community and technical colleges in Washington state encourage new registrants to list their preferred gender identity but do not provide altered pronouns.  WSU does make some transgender accommodation in housing but has not altered the language.  The issue, though, is under review.