kaigou: (1 Izumi)
[personal profile] kaigou
I remember awhile back, someone on a blog indicating the preference for "ou" as pronoun (rather than zie, s/he, etc). That one was completely new to me, and there was no indication of how you'd possess-ify it ("our" seemed like recipe for trouble, so "ous" maybe?). Then I came across this, the other day:
In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal English epicene pronoun, singular "ou": "'Ou will' expresses either he will, she will, or it will." Marshall traces "ou" to Middle English epicene "a", used by the 14th century English writer John of Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of "a" for he, she, it, they, and even I. This "a" is a reduced form of the Anglo-Saxon he = "he" and heo = "she"
—Dennis Baron, Grammar and Gender

That's pretty cool. Obsolete now to all but linguists, but pretty cool. Still not sure how you'd possess-ify it.

The same wiki entry found me this, which is also very cool, and makes more sense in terms of how you'd possess-ify it (probably similar to the possessive form of "it", I'm thinking). It's also a form that came closest to some kind of broad usage/acceptance, seeing how it made it into the dictionary:
According to Dennis Baron, the neologism that received the greatest partial mainstream acceptance was Charles Crozat Converse's 1884 proposal of thon, a contraction of "that one" (other sources date its coinage to 1858 or 1859): "Thon was picked up by Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary in 1898, and was listed there as recently as 1964. It was also included in Webster's Second New International Dictionary, though it is absent from the first and third, and it still has its supporters today."

Though of the ones mentioned (in English or elsewhere), I think I rather like the method of just dropping the "sh" or "h" and making it 'e. (I guess possessive would be 'ir.) But maybe that's because I'm used to certain accents in which the "h" of "he" is dropped to the point that 'e is pretty much what's already said, in everyday speech.

But that leads me back to my previous thoughts, and the fact that although I'm sure it wasn't intentional, the reply that it's okay to use "they" as gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun felt slightly like derailing. Because the point wasn't really what we can use in speech, or in colloquial, but in fiction. And in the narrative of fiction, unless it's first-person or the narrative is strongly colloquial, I'd be hard-pressed to think of any published fiction where the copyeditor would let you get away with what is really mangled grammar in terms of pronoun+verb construction. In dialogue? Certainly. In narrative, I doubt it, which is why the very few works I've read that attempt gender-neutral pronouns felt a) really awkward, because it drew a lot of attention to the narrative voice itself and made it obtrusive, and b) weren't published by major houses, who give me the impression of being much more conservative on these things.

[There's also a bit in the wiki entry for generic antecedents, which lists various constructions and a critique of each. I guess it's no surprise to anyone that I personally would rather take the time to rephrase a given sentence to use "they" without it reading awkwardly, if at all possible. Then again, I know so many crossplayers (cosplaying the gender you're not) that I've learned the knack of how to speak about a third person without ever using a pronoun -- because some people have preferences about whether they get male pronouns when cosplaying a male character, or prefer female pronouns regardless, or whatever. And since I can never remember who wants which, I've gotten fairly decent at avoiding pronouns altogether. Which is one way to avoid this whole discussion, I suppose!]

All that said, the notion of using "that one" as a pronoun-substitute might work, in the narrative. Although I'm guessing the rest of the narrative voice might have to flex, a little, towards a greater formality, to make the inserted formality of "one" less obtrusive. Hmmm.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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