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5. Getting More Technical: Standards For the Big Three


5.1. Declension of Conventional Personal Pronouns

Subject Object Possessive
Reflexive Number Notes
I me my mine myself singular neutral
we us our ours ourselves plural neutral
you you your yours yourself singular neutral
thou thee thy thine thyself singular neutral
you you your yours yourselves plural neutral
ye you - - - plural (or singular) neutral
he him his his himself
singular masculine
she her her hers herself singular feminine
it it its its itself singular neuter
they them their theirs themselves
plural neutral

whom who

whose whose - singular or plural neutral
whoever whosoever whomever whomsoever whosever whosever - singular or plural neutral

As noted earlier, it makes more sense to have "his self" and "their selves" instead of "him self" and "them selves", but these are not in common usage.  

5.2. Declension of the Major Gender-Neutral Pronouns

I only consider the "sie", "zie", and "ey" sets to be serious contenders, since i've never seen any groups of people using anything else. Some vote for "per", but I believe its use is limited to small groups or individuals. I've never heard of it in use on the net.

I propose the following as the standards, and recommend that all other alternative GNPs or declensions be allowed to sink into the dust of time:

Subject Object Possessive
Reflexive Number Notes
sie hir hir hirs hirself singular neutral
zie zir zir zirs zirself singular neutral
ey em eir eirs eirself singular neutral
they them their theirs themself
SINGULAR neutral

The first two sets come naturally, and some people on the net already use them that way. The last set has some variation, with "ey" sometimes being replaced by "e". I object to "e" for three reasons: first, it breaks the rule of "chop off the 'th' from the plural to get the singular"; secondly, single-letter words can get lost in the flow of text and thus some people would want to capitalize it like "I" usually is, while others would object to it — no sense in creating that debate; and third, people would likely tend to pronounce the bare "e" to rhyme with "he", giving it a taint of gender. "Ey" is superior. Another area of debate in the third set is whether or not to use "eirself" or "emself". I prefer "eirself" for two reasons: it's more logically sound, being the possessive form applied to "self", and "emself" is very close in pronunciation to "himself". However, "emself" sounds a little nicer to me, more homey, so i could easily reverse on it. Since the reflexive form isn't often used, possible confusion in adoptees on this point isn't too significant.


5.3. A Single Standard?

Some people have argued for the creation of a standard, with most everyone agreeing to use only one of the sets. There's a couple reasons why this would be good.

If one actively advocates the adoption of GNPs (for political / feminist or other reasons), one might appear to have more credibility if backed by some consensus. Divided we fall and all that. Even if one doesn't care about advocacy, having a standard means that more people are likely to understand what one is saying when one uses GNPs: the general populace will have less pronouns to juggle and deal with, and the chosen standard will be capable of greater name recognition without competition from other pronoun sets.

One problem with the idea of choosing a standard pronoun set is the fact that many people have already adopted different sets, and they might be as reluctant to change as most people are reluctant to adopt GNPs in the first place. This would be especially true, i think, of people who use GNPs mainly out of personal inclination and not from some sociopolitical purpose. They might be resentful about having their writing style seemingly put up to a vote. But i don't think it a serious problem — i think most standards supporters on the net would be violently apposed to any form of coercion in the matter, and posts whining about others not adopting the Chosen Pronouns would probably go down in a flurry of flames. The more serious problem would be, i think, the simple fact that most current GNP users might be strongly attached to the ones they've been using, and might completely ignore any standard even if they were sympathetic to it. (I myself have become rather attached to ey eir and em, and don't think i could bring myself to use zie or zir, though i could probably manage sie and hir if i had to.) I'll pretend that it is possible to create a standard, and will hereby heavily lobby for my favorites. People can choose as they see fit: one sort of freedom is that of individual expression, another is that which comes with widespread comprehension due to a common, agreed upon language. The currently agreed upon language, which uses gendered pronouns, has been irritating people for centuries. And as the explosive growth of GNPs on the net has demonstrated, the time has come for an alternative standard.

Problems with "sie" and "hir":

Anyway, some of the above complaints seem to be validated by the fact that the alternative set "zie, zir" was felt to be needed. Spellingwise, this is a nicer set, since they all start with "z", and don't bear a strong resemblance to either the masculine or the feminine. And in pronunciation, there is no danger of mistaking them for other words. But speakers of English don't tend to like the letter "z". In the dictionary i have handy here, there are 57 pages of words that start with "e", 60 "h" pages, 170 "s" pages, and only 4.5 "z" pages. The system would have been much better if "f" or "l" had been used instead (though other problems would have erupted then). I personally really dislike the feeling that "zie" has in my mouth, and feel the need to soften the "z" to an "s" sound. Widespread adoption "zie" and "zir" therefore seem unlikely to me.

"Ey, eir, em" have the following problems:

None of those seem too serious to me. They have the following good points:

And so, i recommend "ey, eir, em" as the ultimate standard. If that turns out to not happen some how, then i would recommend "sie" and "hir" as second choices. I honestly don't think i could ever feel comfortable using "zie" and "zir", but if there's a strong net consensus in that direction i could hand my FAQ over to one of those users and spend the rest of my days in my own private land of ey eir and em. If no consensus of any sort is forthcoming, then i imagine that things will evolve as such things tend to do.

As for the standard pronunciation, my current feeling is to rhyme "sie" or "zie" with "see", "hir" or "zir" with "her", and the "ey, eir, em" with "they, their, them". I assume the zie/zir crowd already does that, but there might be disagreement from the sie/hir realm.

[This space reserved for properly-written pronunciation entries derived from FAQ: Summary of IPA ASCII transcription for English which some nice reader would like to contribute.] [ This space reserved for audio files that someone with a much nicer voice than mine would like to contribute ( send to disabled )]


5.4. Voting & Surveys

It seems like a good idea to have netizens vote on the proposed standards and other things, but the following issues should probably be discussed first:

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