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Crossing The Line On Personal Pronouns With Sophie

No, I’d never heard of her before either but then why would some gammon like me have heard of a cutting edge dance music maker? Some popular beat combo no doubt.

There is, however, a line in the story of her passing which grates:

Sophie’s team said that pronouns should not be used when describing the artist.

No, that’s not how it works.

This whole thing about personal pronouns is, as I’ve mentioned before, starting off on the wrong foot. It betrays a deep ignorance both of how language works and also freedom.

To start with, these declarations of which personal pronouns people use. Xir, she, he, they, whatever has come into lively little minds. The declarations are all entirely wrong on linguistic grounds. For no one does use any of those. Everyone uses “I” and “me”. That is how an English speaker refers to the one who is doing the speaking, the self.

The request about pronouns is in fact a request that other people use the desired ones to refer to that person doing the desiring. Which is where we intersect with freedom and liberty. This is that old negative and positive rights difference. Insisting that someone else perform in a particular manner is demanding a positive right – whether it’s pay for my education or use a particular word. Demanding positive rights is a breach of that freedom and liberty of other people not to give a damn.

We do agree, generally, that there are times when such positive rights can be demanded – it coincides with that swinging fist and nose existence example of Mill’s. Demanding that infectious you don’t go out and spread typhoid among the general public like Mary is indeed a restriction upon the freedom of another and yet we’re all fine with that.

Demanding we use a particular word doesn’t quite reach that standard of proof.

And that’s what’s wrong with that announcement from Sophie’s team. To request that pronouns not be used is just fine. We can all of us request any damn thing we want. Many of us will be polite enough to accede to many such requests. We do tend to substitute “interesting character that one” for the believed and obvious “crazed loon” when discussing Jezza for example. Just because making fun of confused and elderly gentlemen is something we reserve for election time.

But to go from request to demand – I read that “should not” as being “must not” and the caterwauling upon Twitter over the issue would seem to support that interpretation – is that step too far.

We get to decide what we call you.

You get to decide what you’d like to be called and maybe we’ll be polite and maybe we won’t. But in this clash of rights and liberties it’s our one to be anywhere from unobservant to hateful that wins, not your to determine our language.

You prefer certain pronouns? How nice. You demand them? Fuck off.

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Spike
Spike
3 months ago

We have no duty – not even to politeness or civility! – to play along with someone’s pretend game to the extent of speaking English wrong. In real English, the masculine is the default and implicitly incorporates the feminine – no hate implied. Dittos that language spoken by Latinos before they were muzzled and made [email protected] or Latinx. Sentences with “he or she” force the reader to halt to consider the assertion, “this person might be female, too” – rather than what you are trying to say. Sentences describing one as “she” force the reader to halt to consider what… Read more »

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
3 months ago

The upside is that it’s a good way to spot high-maintenance people that you probably don’t want to hire for work or invite out for dinner, unless you’re desperate.

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
3 months ago

Slight aside, but who picks a mononym of “Sophie”? Sting, Madonna, Bono are all rare enough that you know who someone is talking about, but there’s lots of Sophies around.

TD
TD
3 months ago
Reply to  Bloke on M4

It was her choice?

Perry de Havilland
3 months ago
Reply to  TD

Terrible marketing though, particularly in the age of search engines, unless the intention was actually “that bloke called Sophie”… that might have worked & been more memorable

DiscoveredJoys
DiscoveredJoys
3 months ago

Jordan Peterson came to fame because of pronouns. He said he was perfectly happy to be courteous face to face and use whatever pronoun that person wanted – but he refused to be compelled by the state to do so.

Craig Walenta
Craig Walenta
3 months ago

The generically gendered one died.

Rolls off the tongue.

Allah
Allah
3 months ago

Snigger:

Sophie’s team said that pronouns should not be used when describing the artist.

Among those paying tribute was Christine and the Queens, who said Sophie was “a stellar producer, a visionary, a reference. She rebelled against the narrow, normative society by being an absolute triumph, both as an artist and as a woman. I can’t believe she is gone. We need to honour and respect her memory and legacy. Cherish the pioneers.”

Spike
Spike
3 months ago
Reply to  Allah

Yikes! they used pronouns. Did the bridge-keeper cast them into the Gorge of Eternal Peril?

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