As you may have noticed it isn’t often I agree with language directives issued by government. I find myself increasingly bemused by the utterances of our elected representatives: district councils, Holyrood, Westminster, whoever.
Please believe me, I won’t be making a habit of this. But, then again, I tell myself it is close-minded to be resistant to all types of change.
Recently, like many people I have been baffled by the way pronouns have become a battleground. It is dangerous, at times, to “risk” using pronouns like he/her, she/him.
I agree, therefore, that finding a way out of this mess can only be a good thing. I certainly would not wish to use an incorrect pronoun
Leaving gender-specific pronouns out of all government, NHS and educational language, which is to become the law from January 1, is big step. Just a few years ago I don’t think I would have agreed with such a move. But I find that I now concede it is the only logical step.
Furthermore, The Courier’s decision to follow suit is, again, the right thing to do. Because that way the paper will remain consistent with the likes of the BBC and with how schools and hospitals issue written (or spoken) communications.
Of the three alternative pronouns offered by the government – om, um, and em (instead of him or her) and po, pan, or peh (instead of he or she) – you would probably be surprised at how much discussion went into deciding which ones The Courier should use.
Obviously, because we are based in Dundee, “em” is the best option instead of him/her. Phrases like “Em awa fur meh tea” are already heard in the town so there will be only minor changes for us in spoken communication.
Less simple was the choice to replace he/she; and this was chewed over at length in The Courier. But we decided, that, of the available options, “peh” will be our replacement pronoun for he/she: “peh wants some tea”.
So, from now on I will stop using outdated pronouns myself.
Directly as a result of this, I will be referring to myself as em or peh, and will ask that, if you ever write to me or meet me, you refer to me in this fashion.
Another thing to watch for is that we’ll probably take time to become comfortable with these unfamiliar pronouns. Whereas, for instance, I might formerly have written: “She’s wanting him”, I will now write: “Em wanting peh”.
You will agree, I’m sure, that this non-inflammatory and yet grammatically correct use of language is required in the modern world.
Word of the week
A secret or disguised way of writing. EG: “A cipher could be contained in the initial letters of the paragraphs of an article, column, or story, if only we thought to look for such a thing.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org