Dictionary

As many of those reading my “rants and raves” know, I try my best to write comical things on my blog – things that will make us smile and hopefully laugh. Anything to start our day off on a positive versus negative note. 

Now as I understand it, the singular “they” is a pronoun used to refer to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary, (the folks at Merriam-Webster.com dictionary declared the word “they” as the word for 2019). The gender- neutral pronoun is used in place of “he or she”. At the same time the word “they” was added, the word “themself“ was added as well.

With that thought in mind I decided to put together a little piece ‘spoofing’ (not sure that is a word, but hey – go with it for the moment) what this decision may have meant back in the day when say Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” was written and subsequently published. In my humble opinion, what follows is my interpretation as to how Harper Lee’s first paragraph might have read were the words “he or she” replaced with the singular “they or themself.”  

First paragraph from the book as originally written:

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.

Same first paragraph from the book but now using the singular “they” (The gender- neutral pronoun used in place of “he or she”) or “themself.” Although as you read the following paragraph, you might, like me, ask yourselves – how do I handle the words “his” or “her” as that too must be addressed now that we have chosen to use “they” in place of “he” or “she”. 

When they was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got themself’s arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, they was seldom self-conscious about themself’s injury. They’s left arm was somewhat shorter than they’s right; when they stood or walked, the back of they’s hand was at right angles to they’s body, they’s thumb parallel to they’s thigh. They couldn’t have cared less, so long as they could pass and punt.

I tried different versions of this bouncing back and forth between “they” and “themself” and well, to be quite frank, neither one made sense to me once the paragraph was done. As Merriam-Webster writes, “English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.” While that may be true, I for one am not sure the word “they” or “themself” for that matter serves the purpose intended for. Personally, I myself would find it difficult to read books written using the word “they” and/or “themself” as outlined above. But, hey, to each their own!

Okay, done ranting and raving for today.

Until next time!

One thought on “What’s in a Word?

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