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A fox in the henhouse

31
Mar
2015
 

By Miranda

Sweden is adding a gender-neutral pronoun 'hen' to 'its dictionaries. The word's been around for a while and addresses the same issues in Swedish as we face in English when we find we have to put 'she/he or 'he/she' into a sentence, e.g. "If your child is playing sport at the school, she/he must wear the correct uniform". And, yes, one can reword the sentence to avoid the issue, "Any child playing sport must wear the correct uniform", or move it into the plural, "If children are playing sport at school, they must wear the correct uniform". The point is that, in many cases, the first sentence-form is the one that occurs naturally. 
In the past, of course, the pronoun 'he' was considered to include the female, a usage, according to the OED, now considered to be both dated and sexist. Agree.
This pronoun, hen, is to be used for the subject and the object, i.e. it can be used instead of 'she/he' or 'he/she' and instead of 'him/her' or 'her/him' (see how irritating it is to try to be even-handed using gender-specific pronouns...). The form chosen for the possessive, hens, would be used for 'his/her' or 'her/his'.
The use of the pronoun is not restricted to a sentence format in which one would HAVE to use 'his/her' etc., but is used in any sentence, surely the vast majority of them, in which the gender of the pronoun is irrelevant or requires no explication.
So, what can we achieve in English?
For myself, if we are going to have a gender-neutral pronoun, I can see advantages in having one form the the subject, he/she, and one for the object, her/him, as well as one for the possessive, her/his or his/her and, after writing this sentence, the sooner the better.
And though the word has made it to dictionaries of Swedish, it's still not used in official government documents.
What are your ideas for gender-neutral pronouns for our language?

1902 Responses to

A fox in the henhouse

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May 01, 2015 at 11:08 AM

Deep thinking interspersed with funnies and light hearted banter and a bit of nice chat - the blog is such a good place to be now

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May 01, 2015 at 11:10 AM

Not forgetting Ian's travels abroad taking us to distant places

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May 01, 2015 at 11:11 AM

Well, I should continue with house cleaning. I've cleaned the oven this morning and now need to work on our rec room. It's a mess! So I will bid you all adieu.

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jafa said:
May 01, 2015 at 11:11 AM

Hopefully BW will take us along too. :)) And you Jelly :))

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fir said:
May 01, 2015 at 11:12 AM

I don't know, Jafa...but I will let you know. LOL Agree with you, Jelly. :))

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fir said:
May 01, 2015 at 11:15 AM

....better than what, Jaf...?

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jafa said:
May 01, 2015 at 11:25 AM

I am always trying to improve myself. sSo better than me yesterday? :)) Gosh, it's 11.30am and I haven't showered yet. Into the shower and off shopping. Lovely morning :))

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fir said:
May 01, 2015 at 11:44 AM

Think I will call it a day. Enjoy the rest of yours... :)) G'Night

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nan_j said:
May 01, 2015 at 11:59 AM

It's a lovely day here and I'm off to do some gardening. G'night Fir, sweet dreams :)

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said:
May 01, 2015 at 12:17 PM

Been next door:)) The lady has a real crook back and nobody to help her at the moment so Conny and I slip over and make sure is OK or if she needs anything.

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said:
May 01, 2015 at 12:18 PM

Sweet dreams Luigi.:))

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said:
May 01, 2015 at 12:40 PM

nite fir . and bye jell . I had an apt . but cant get out , so made it for next week . that's lovely pete , looking out for your neighbour . hope she will be ok .we really have lots of water here. even driveway is flooded.