January 18, 2004

Es ars ein ens

I'm so happy for ars. I'm glad that es won the game. Es played ein chips well, and now the gold chip is ens.

Hmm. Blech. Not so hot, but maybe it sounds reasonable… I'm trying to think of good ways to make gender-neutral pronouns in English, instead of using they or whatever, which people don't like because it's plural rather than singular. This was all induced by seeing who won on Celebrity Poker Showdown, by the way.

Sie and hir are popular choices, but I dislike them with a vengeance. In addition to sounding too much like the English she and her, sie can be feminine in German. While it actually has several meanings in German–they, and you when capitalized Sie is for addressing adults–it also really does mean she. Hir I don't like because it can end up being pronounced exactly like her, plus it can be hard to distinguish in print (though that's probably just because I haven't seen it enough).

So many options that people have proposed are too indistinct for me. I kind of like the Spivak pronouns, but the words there and proposed elsewhere are hard to distinguish from he, she, him, her, his, and hers.

My idea for he and she (which I'm sure others have proposed, but I haven't bothered hunting too much to find out) is to basically flip the sounds of the pronouns around backwards. He and she become es, which also happens to be the gender-neutral he/she pronoun in German.

The next word I came up with that I liked at all was ars. I'm not sure where that came from, exactly. I think it was using the ‘r’ and ‘s’ from his and her, and then picking a different vowel to go in there to make it sound distinct. I eventually noticed that this could be confused with ours, so I moved it to replace him and her instead. I do like the fact that it sounds like ours, though, since it brings a sense of unity—but I wouldn't want the words to get confused when people are speaking.

I was thinking of trying to take some other pronouns from German, but they don't really fit too well in English, IMHO. However, I think using some translations of one might be appropriate for something, since that is a popular option for replacing the singular they. In German, one is ein. In Norwegian, it's en. At first, I thought I'd use en for something like his and her, but I just felt in needed an ‘s’ sound at the end and made ens. However, this became problematic when doing posessive things like his and hers, since there's already an ‘s’ there (not that it prevents us from using his in both places).

So, I tried doing en for his/her and ens for his/hers, but it just didn't seem to sound right to me. En was just too short of a sound, I thought. Therefore, I decided to try the German ein in place of en, but I kept ens because I have a prejudice for pronouns that are three letters or shorter, plus I'd like that Norwegian word in there ;-)

Still, I guess I'm open to options. I really like es and ars, though I haven't really decided on what to use for the other cases. Here's a summary of sorts, in no real order:

he/shehim/herhis/herhis/hers
esarsen(s)ens
esarsein(s)ens
esarsein(s)eins

Any opinions?

Posted by mike at January 18, 2004 06:38 PM | Self , TV | TrackBack
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