Misgender

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Dr. Goodword
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Misgender

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed May 13, 2020 8:20 pm

• misgender •


Pronunciation: mis-gen-dêr • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To refer to someone using words associated with a gender that the person does not identify with, especially transgender people, i.e. referring to a transgender biological female as "she" or "ma'am".

Notes: The recognition of the social problem of transgender by some if not a majority of people brings with it language problems, especially with forms of address. Today's word addresses this issue. This word is so young, it hasn't had time to propagate a lexical family, so we have to use the present participle, misgendering, as an adjective and noun. It is akin to cisgender "related to biological sex".

In Play: Misgendering mostly offends transgendered people: "Since Henrietta's transition, she has suffered much from intentional and unintentional misgendering." But we are beginning to learn how to fight misgendering: "At Ethical Society meetings our name tags identify the pronoun (he or she) we wish to be addressed as, so as to avoid misgendering."

Word History: Today's Good Word comprises the prefix mis- "wrong(ly)" + gender. It is a new word that first appeared in print in 1989 in the sense expressed above, so it probably arose in the 1980s. It is usually attached to verbs but, in this case, it attaches to a noun to make it a verb. English borrowed Old French gendre twice: once with the D, resulting in gender and later, in Middle French, without it, resulting in genre. The French word derived from Latin genus, generis "kind, species". Latin inherited its word from PIE genê-/gonê- "give birth to, beget", a word whose remnants we see in English kin and king. We find it without its vowel in Latin pregnan(t)s "pregnant (pre-birthing)" and with it in Greek genesis "birth, beginning". That is it in generation, too, borrowed from Latin.
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call_copse
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Re: Misgender

Postby call_copse » Thu May 14, 2020 6:44 am

A good word indeed.

My cousin has often been misgendered by our family. She is a strapping 6'4" smelly, hairy person, born a man, who has become a woman officially. It's hard to actually get the name right when you knew them as something else for many years despite your best intentions! :D She lets us off though.

An associated word is deadnaming, i.e. using their original name, considered offensive in that community.
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Re: Misgender

Postby damoge » Thu May 14, 2020 11:42 am

You left out one pronoun. There are people who prefer to use "they" in reference to themselves to avoid the he/she system altogether. It is hard to use "they is" or even "they are" but eventually I suppose we CAN get used to most anything, if we try.
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Re: Misgender

Postby David Myer » Mon May 18, 2020 12:38 am

Yes Debbie, we could try to get used to it - and it is certainly now accepted by the lexical powers. But in this case, I think we should continue to rail against it. This grotesque effort in our major 'quality' newspaper the other day:

A well child will not starve themselves.

Yes, an appalling construction. And we can't say 'themself'. What on earth is wrong, while we dream up a whole new word, with 'itself'?

Sure, 'it' is generally used for inanimate objects, but it is and has been widely used where gender is irrelevant or unknown. There is nothing wrong with 'the dog buried itself in the sand'. Why on earth not the same for a human child? Indeed, if we are on the beach and a naked child buries itself, is it appropriate to demonstrate that you have noticed that it was a boy, by referring to 'him' rather than 'it'?

I shall fight this one all the way. I will of course die trying.

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Re: Misgender

Postby bnjtokyo » Mon May 18, 2020 6:17 am

Mr Myer, I rather agree with you. It is possible to address the underlying issue without such strained language. Your example could have been written "Children who are well will not starve themselves." We can refer to an individual by name or title or role.
"John said this" "The previous speaker said that" "The store clerk said 'Yes, there are no bananas.'" The same can be done in direct address too: "Officer, would you like to see my driver's license?"

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Re: Misgender

Postby David Myer » Mon May 18, 2020 8:03 am

Yes, bnjtokyo, there are good workarounds for most of the situations where a gender-specific pronoun would otherwise be used. But wouldn't it be nice to have a singular pronoun that covers all genders and preferences and identities - just as we do have a plural pronoun?
I, me, my
He, him, his
She, her, her
It, it and its
They, them and their

And now, what three words for singular non-gender-specific?

Ne, nim and ner?

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Re: Misgender

Postby damoge » Mon May 18, 2020 10:41 am

Why don't we drop all of "he" and "she" and everyone and everything be IT?


TAG! your turn.
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Re: Misgender

Postby call_copse » Mon May 18, 2020 3:12 pm

I'm going to say that I don't have any particular beef with the singular they - it may be mildly clumsy, but life's a bit short for such my concern to be truly aroused by such. The American Dialect Society even crowned it their word of the decade.

https://www.dw.com/en/singular-they-cro ... a-51884397

Some virtual communities use Spivak pronouns, I understand. I am happy for people to use their chosen epicene possessives, but find these less toothsome than the singular they, to be honest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spivak_pronoun
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Re: Misgender

Postby David Myer » Mon May 18, 2020 7:43 pm

I'm happy with 'it'.

I think it is perfectly fair to say that life's too short to argue on this one. There certainly are more pressing issues for us to worry about.
Indeed, semantics is probably of little consequence in the broad scheme of things.

But we are all here only because semantics is interesting to us.

As for the word of the decade, well, yes I was aware of its official endorsement. It's just that I don't think it is a worthy winner! Meme is a much worthier word. It is a simple word, not easily confused with others, and adds depth to the language by actually describing something that is new and otherwise un-named. They, on the other hand, is a word that already existed and had a clear and precise meaning. It is now being used with an additional new meaning that simply causes ugliness, confusion and difficulty. "When a person does something, they is..." Not clever, is it? So when a person does something, they are... So now we have to corrupt the meaning of 'are' as well. Yes, I know that 'you' can be singular or plural and is either way followed by 'are'. But we all know the difficulties that that causes people trying to learn English. Let's not make it even more difficult! And none of it resolves the 'a well child never starves themselves'.

OK, here is my prediction: In ten years time the use of 'they' to avoid gender allocation will have died. The word of the decade will be moribund.

And now to weightier issues like the news and Covid.

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Re: Misgender

Postby David Myer » Mon May 18, 2020 8:04 pm

Sorry, Iain. I omitted a response to your Spivak comment. As an amateur in this field, I had not come across Spivak or the other attempts. I followed your link and all very interesting. Gratifying to think that greater and more learned minds than mine have wrestled with this problem too. Why has none ever caught on?

Of all the options in your link, I think Elverson's is the sweetest. McKay's is the simplest and so an attractive option, but does have the problem that so many English speakers drop the h in he and so there might be confusion as to whether or not the speaker is being male gender specific, or being gender neutral and politically correct.

All good fun.

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Re: Misgender

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue May 19, 2020 9:01 am

Actually, they as a neutral pronoun has been in use for hundreds of years; it isn't recent. Also, multifunctionality is commonplace in languages. The suffix -ing can create nouns, adjectives, and verbs: "My singing disturbed her", "the singing bird", "The bird was singing". So, in the generic usage, they is singular and so is are, just as fish is both singular and plural and worker is both masculine and feminine (although this distinction is probably already archaic in English).

Nowhere does multifunctionality bother English speakers, so why should singular they are alongside plural they are. We say "They told me at the post office...." when only one person told you without blinking an eye (or should I say, "flicking a tongue").
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Re: Misgender

Postby call_copse » Tue May 19, 2020 1:45 pm

A fairly satisfactory justification, Dr G, certainly good enough for me :)

Are you trying to say I'm a professional David? :D My expertise is more ... just online stuff TBH but I'm certainly interested in practical language usage. I think the Spivak pronouns are interesting, at least, and I agree with your choice, even if I'm not expecting to hear local tradesmen using them.

Life would be simpler without many of the convoluted elements English has taken on, but perhaps less rich?
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Re: Misgender

Postby David Myer » Tue May 19, 2020 10:49 pm

Many thanks for the follow up on this, Dr G. I certainly accept that many words have more than one meaning or use. But I do think we should minimise the double meanings to avoid ambiguity in communication. However, I will shut up now about 'they are' being a singular. Fine. Well, not fine, but accepted nonetheless.

So should the newspaper have said: "No child will deliberately starve themself"? 'Themselves' is surely wrong?

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Re: Misgender

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue May 26, 2020 2:22 am

Dare I join this fray? I am glad I am in the hinterlands and don't have to think much about these things. Here we use "he" as it has always been used. It can be used in the masculine sense and the gender inclusive sense here. It's no biggie. When I discuss things with people out of the hinterlands I say she/he for gender inclusiveness. i refuse to burden the word "they" with something it doesn't mean. They have done gone and messed up Holy Scripture with the "they" thing. I can always retreat to the KJV. If the KJV was good enough for Peter and Paul, it's good enough for me. Actually I have a whole shelf of Bibles in many versions. I refuse to discuss transgender subjects.
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Re: Misgender

Postby call_copse » Tue May 26, 2020 3:27 am

I was interested in this quora link that attributes the preference against the singular they to one Bishop Lowth. Warning, colourful language.

https://www.quora.com/Why-do-people-use ... &srid=df4v

It seems to support your assertion above, Dr Goodword. I wonder how much influence this Bishop really had in changing the language? Still, hardly the greatest evil religion has visited upon us I guess.
Iain


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