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Personal Pronouns Aren't Just for English Class

By Richard B. Barger, ABC, APR

Originally Posted

Let’s talk about words substituting for other words: Pronouns aren’t just for English classes any more.
And for Prof. Nicholas Meriwether at Shawnee State University in south-central Ohio, pronouns are either highly important or very unimportant, depending on how you look at it.
Prof. Meriwether just won a $400,000 settlement with his employer, who had demanded that he use only approved language when referring to students – or, as the school would put it, for refusing to use a transgender student's "preferred" pronouns.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the uncooperative professor, and the administration nodded meekly in his direction and promised never to do such a bad thing again.
Here are two illustrations of the issue:
Gender-neutral pronouns

  • He/She -- Zie, Sie, Ey, Ve, Tey, E.

  • Him/Her -- Zim, Sie, Em, Ver, Ter, Em.

  • His/Her -- Zir, Hir, Eir, Vis, Tem, Eir.

  • His/Hers -- Zis, Hirs, Eirs, Vers, Ters, Eirs.

  • Himself/Herself -- Zieself, Hirself, Eirself, Verself, Terself, Emself.

Here is a differently constructed list

  • They, Them, Their.

  • Ze/Zie, Zir, Zirs.

  • Sie, Hir, Hirs.

  • E, Es, Em.

  • Xe, Xem, Xyr.

  • Tey, Ter, Tem.

  • Ey/Em/Eir.

  • Mx.

This issue and these word constructs are of some importance to certain transgender, agender, or nonbinary individuals and their supporters. Folks who feel strongly about this topic (I’ll use MY pronouns here and, really, everywhere), believe it a micro-aggression for someone to know their inclusive language preference, but to intentionally refuse to oblige them.
Of course, this argument can be turned on its head, too: I may find someone not respecting my preferences, someone (or some business) demanding that I change my language to use words and phrases that make me feel uncomfortable, constitutes a micro-aggression against me.
Why should the other person’s preferences be more important than, or outweigh, mine?
It’s sorta like my views on Christmas. Rather than trying to figure out if another person celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice or Rohatsu or nothing at all, I greet them with my tradition and encourage them to greet me with theirs. Problem solved.
The world used to be so simple.

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