They Is, They Are

This post from Anthony Lee Collins reminded me of a post that I’ve been wanting to write for a while, even though the gender/sex part of using the singular “they” did not arise until the last couple seconds of the video.

A few weeks ago at work, a couple of editors in my department put together a presentation about the new trends in gender and language and how these are affecting our editing. I was kind of reluctant to hear about the butchering of our language and terms like “ze” and “zir” used as substitutes for the pronouns “he” and “him,” but the good thing about all this is that it shows that the English language is still alive and well. The bad thing is that this can get downright confusing when you have two (or more) different people who want to be called by two (or more) different sets of pronouns.

Apparently, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are all leaning toward using “their” instead of the awkward “his or her” or instead of using just “his” to cover all of humankind (because that’s *gasp* sexist!). Personally, I prefer “they” and “their” to any of the other oddball pronouns that are starting to be used (e.g., ze and zir, ze and hir, xe, ve, ne). But where it starts to get even more awkward is the singular “they.” When referring to a person who identifies as neither male nor female, it may eventually be appropriate and grammatically correct to say, “They is going to the store.” or “They loves cats.” It may be a long time coming before the singular “they” is widely used, and it’ll definitely take some getting used to, but thankfully, there are still some other ways to remove the dreaded “his” and “her” pronouns without having to use a new and potentially awkward and unrecognized term.

Guess I Must Be a Jerk

This “scientific” study says that ending text messages with a period makes you look like a jerk.

I’m kind of a noob when it comes to texting. I type 90+ words per minute, but I text at about 1 word per minute because it takes forever for me to peck at the keys on the screen. Because I spend so much effort typing out a single text message, I like to make sure it’s grammatically correct. I also like to be that annoying person who makes a point of using proper grammar and punctuation in texts just because no one else bothers to. So I guess I am a jerk. 🙂

However, I do agree that ending a very short message with a period seems cold. Like if you say “Thanks.”, it might come off as terse or sarcastic. That’s why I normally use an exclamation point with “Thanks” or similar kinds of words. Most people would probably use “thx” and not even bother with the period, which seems less rude for some reason.

If you really don’t want to be misconstrued via text, just call the person. Or better yet, talk to them face to face if you can. Then you don’t necessarily have to worry about all that pesky punctuation.

Planning and Plotting

It’s often amusing to read the signs in front of local churches. Some of them warn you of hellfire and brimstone, and others have more of a sense of humor. Few make you think really hard, but this one intrigued me: “God plans; Satan plots.” (Well, the actual sign read “God plans, Satan plot,” but some things are more important than subject-verb agreement.)

When I think of plotting, I tend to think about an evil mastermind rubbing his hands together as he plans world destruction, but with planning, I think of writing out my daily to-do list in my planner at work, hoping that my day doesn’t get derailed by out-of-the-blue assignments yet again. So that inspired me to look up the definitions of the two words:

plan (v.): to arrange the parts of; to devise or project the realization or achievement of

plot (v.): to plan or contrive esp. secretly; to invent or devise the plot of (a literary work)

We do tend to think of God as having the perfect plan: for us to achieve the goal of heaven and be with him for eternity, and we do think of Satan as secretly plotting to catch us off guard. The church was spot on.

That also led me to think of writing. To make stories interesting, writers have to both plan and plot. We don’t want our characters to achieve their goals instantly, or else there wouldn’t be a story. So we contrive to make their lives miserable and get them far from their end goal, but we are also planning so that the “good guys” come out on top. So when they say that worldbuilding and writing is like playing God, they’re not far off the mark. I guess “playing God” sounds better than “playing Satan.” 🙂