A new, old letter: spellings and the pronoun wars, part ∞

« previous post | next post »

Thæ're serious:

Why There's A Campaign To Re-Introduce A Historic Letter Back Into The Alphabet

It all stems from Old English

By Kate Nicholson, HuffPost (9/6/23)


A new campaign hopes to make day-to-day life more gender-inclusive by reintroducing the ancient symbol Æ back into the alphabet.

Five global organisations, Divergenres, Aunt Nell, Gender X, Utopia and WongDoody, are working together to launch a campaign in London and New York called: “Let History Say Thæ Exist.”

People who don’t identify with male or female pronouns currently tend to use they/them to describe themselves – but this campaign suggests making it thæ/them instead.

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, this symbol is technically called an “ash” and makes a noise like the “a” in “fast”.

However, the campaign would pronounce the symbol like the “a” in “may” – so “thæ” is pronounced like “they”.

The A and E letters come from Latin script. When combined, it’s known as a ligature – and it is already a letter available on most computers with Google Fonts.

Although used regularly in Old English (400-1100 AD) – like that famous old epic, Beowulf – it’s fallen out of use in modern day, often replaced with just one of the letters or with the two separate letters.

For instance, ”æfter” has become “after,” ”æfre” which has become “ever” and “archæology” has become “archaeology”.

But it hasn’t fallen out of use altogether.

The character has been promoted to a letter in some languages and is still used in Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese languages today, although it has different pronunciations.

The article goes on goes on to ask why the reintroduction of the new, old letter could help the LGBTQ+ community.

By increasing representation in the written language, the group hopes this will become a universal option for use in languages where gendered language is the norm, like in English, French, Spanish and German.

According to Statista’s gender identity worldwide survey, 3% of people around the globe identify themselves as gender non-conforming.

Yet, the UK’s Gender Recognition Act 2004 means people can only change their birth certificate sex to male or female – not to non-binary, genderqueer or intersex.

The UK has faced particular scrutiny for its attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community recently, having slipped from 14th to 17th place of 49 European countries on the ILGA’s Rainbow Map and Index this year in part due to the growing anti-trans rhetoric across the country.

Non-binary British actors have also requested an awards category for those who don’t identify as male or female, while certain sports organisations have also stopped those who don’t identify with the gender binary from competing.

The campaign group claimed: “Since language came into existence, the gendered nature of words has rendered non-binary, genderqueer, and intersex individuals invisible in written form.”

It cites the inherent gender association with many nouns, like actor or actress in English, which it claims to have “perpetuated exclusion”.

The campaigners continued: “The Æ letter addresses this issue, specifically designed to provide gender-neutral options across multiple European languages, and brought to life in a way that positions it as an intrinsic part of the language people use daily.”

Charlie Josephine (thæ/he), who stars in the non-binary retelling of Joan of Arc, said: “Life as a non-binary person is constant mental gymnastics with linguistics. I wrestle with these man-made words that never quite fit. Some days it feels playful and cheeky and expansive. Some days I long for neatness, solid clarity, simplicity.“

Journalist and co-director of Aunt Nell and Attitude 101 Honours List 2022, Shivani Dave (thae/them), also said: ”Navigating the world comfortably, finally, with this identifying label I realised just how much I was having to navigate around gendered spaces and phrases.”

The author then asks, "Is this the first time language has been modified to recognise more genders?"

No – just recently, the words Latino or Latina started to be swapped out for a more gender-neutral word, Latinx, to refer to a person of Latin American descent.

But campaigners claimed this new letter avoids “dehumanising symbols commonly associated with offensive speech”, like * or @, which can sometimes be imposed in words in a bid to make them gender-neutral.

They mention Latinx.  I wondered how that is pronounced.  Would it be "lah-TINKS"?  Oh, following the link, I see it is supposed to be “La-teen-ex”.

Language Log has been at the forefront of the debates over gender-neutral "they", so I thought it only fitting that we address this latest installment in the ongoing efforts to create more user-friendly terminology for those who do not identify with traditional genders.


Selected readings

[Thanks to Mark Swofford]


  1. Matthew E said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 11:10 am

    I don't object to the new letter or a new set of pronouns or anything.

    But it really doesn't matter. On the one hand, people can, should, and will be who they want to be whether there's a good fit in the pronouns or not; on the other hand, those who oppose us aren't doing it because of the pronouns. They're doing it because of hate and power.

  2. Thomas Hutcheson said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 11:21 am

    What abut thorn? Time to shake off the Norman yoke and let English be English!

  3. Rodger C said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 11:26 am

    this symbol is technically called an “ash” and makes a noise like the “a” in “fast”

    The "a" in whose "fast"? Mine, certainly, but not that of a good many anglophones.

    And I love the seeming implication that “archæology” was used before 1100.

    As for "Latinx," what I've heard on NPR is "Latin" plus "ex."

  4. Chris Button said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 11:38 am

    I've only ever heard "Latinx" by people speaking English. How does it work when speaking Spanish or Portuguese?

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 11:44 am

    "reintroducing the ancient symbol Æ back into the alphabet" — for some of us, the letter never left. I routinely write palæography, encyclopædia, archæology, etc., and have done ever since I was old enough to value the elegance thereof.

  6. Terry K. said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 2:06 pm

    Latinx in Spanish is pronounced /laˈtine/, that is, like latine. It also is more commonly spelled that way in Spanish, as I understand it. (I don't have actual experience with these terms in a Spanish language context.)

  7. Coby said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 2:27 pm

    Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Elon Musk:

    In 2018, Musk and Canadian musician Grimes revealed that they were dating.[468] Grimes gave birth to their son in May 2020.[469][470] According to Musk and Grimes, his name was "X Æ A-12" (/ɛks æʃ eɪ ˈtwɛlv/); however, the name would have violated California regulations as it contained characters that are not in the modern English alphabet,[471][472] and was then changed to "X Æ A-Xii". This drew more confusion, as Æ is not a letter in the modern English alphabet.[473] The child was eventually named X AE A-XII Musk, with "X" as a first name, "AE A-XII" as a middle name, and "Musk" as surname.[474]

    I wonder who might be behind the drive to restore Æ.

    I think the pronunciation of AE like "long A" is Scottish.

  8. Bloix said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 2:52 pm

    "Latinx in Spanish is pronounced /laˈtine/, that is, like latine."
    I don't think so. I think it's pronounced "No existe tal palabra."

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 3:10 pm

    Is "thæ" already out there? Modulo the ligature, it's apparently extant in Scots and Irish, with rather different meanings. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/thae

    In a language like Spanish, where pairs like masculine ROOT-o and feminine ROOT-a are ubiquitous, it makes sense to propose an alternative final vowel if you want to sidestep that binary distinction. Hence, ROOT-@ (reinterpreted as a blend/combo of a & o) or ROOT-e (a neutral "third way" alternative), or even (albeit primarily for activists seeking funding and adulation from non-Hispanophone sources) ROOT-x. But since English is not a language where gender distinctions are ubiquitously marked by a predictable alternation of final vowels, a similar solution makes no sense. If and only if pairs of words ending -a and -e respectively were ubiquitously and predictably gender-marked would substituting an -æ alternative be a plausible way to symbolically transcend that dichotomy.

  10. Seth said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 4:05 pm

    The link for "campaign" goes to some sort of online shop, which isn't very informative. I found a better upstream source:


    Maybe I'm too skeptical, but something about the above feels "off" to me. Hoax? PR Stunt?
    It's a big wide world, and some of the strangest views have sincere advocates.
    But I wonder if someone conned a few signatories to join their prank campaign.

  11. Jonathan Smith said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 4:20 pm

    What is upstream of the Huffpost story tho… the 'campaign' etc links don't go anywhere relevant it seems… without context for the weird quotes ("provide gender-neutral options across multiple European languages", etc.) nothing much can/should be said…

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 4:25 pm

    @Seth: it may be natural to wonder, but of course "strange" or novel ideas should ideally be judged on their merits, and a demonstration that the particular idea's advocates are subjectively sincere rather than cynical participants in a performance-art hoax (or dupes of such performers) does not by itself tend to establish that the idea actually has merit. This, I should note, is focused on the idea as a proposal for general adaptation – subjective sincerity or its absence is perhaps more relevant in assessing whether some usage that is merely a personal idiosyncrasy ought to be humored or not.

  13. Jim Breen said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 4:43 pm

    > it is already a letter available on most computers with Google Fonts.

    That statement neatly demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of character codes (and fonts.)

  14. Seth said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 5:11 pm

    @ Jonathan Smith – The creativemoment page is more upstream than the Huffpost, since it's clearer on details regarding the various organizations. It's not the original source, but there's less rewriting.

    @ J.W. Brewer – You're correct in the most abstract theory. But in practice, these issues involve a large amount of "standpoint epistemology", where non-members of groups are expected to defer at times to the statements of members of groups – i.e. what is "merits", and who gets to determine them? And that opens up a complex inquiry as to who is qualified to speak on behalf of the group. "Latinx" is a good illustration here, as only a very narrow segment at best of the putative benefited group seems to favor it. What a prankster/hoaxster is doing is in effect making a false statement, along the lines of "(Some) members of this marginalized group think this is a good idea. Thus, you should consider that in your evaluation of its merits". Often then they are poised to attack "Observe that you were so stupid and gullible as to consider this obviously completely absurd idea to have some merit as long as it was cloaked in the thinnest claim of being from a marginalized group. Thus, all contentious claims from such groups should be rejected as obviously completely absurd". In essence, I think it's worth noting bad faith argument, even if that's technically an ad hominem fallacy.

  15. Christopher J. Henrich said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 6:01 pm

    In sympathy with Bloix, I prefer "Latin" to the studied awkwardness of "Latinx".

  16. Jonathan Smith said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 6:22 pm

    thanks @Seth, your comment hadn't appeared when I was typing I guess — I had the exact same thought you did re motivations and thus was ignoring pending substantiation. The creativemoment page is more detailed but dated much later… all very internet (what isn't).

  17. Chas Belov said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 6:46 pm

    I pronounce the English word "Latinx" as "Latin-x" and the Spanish word latine as lah-tee-nay. If you don't like this word then don't use it, but it's a useful word and is likely to continue to grow in use.

    I've never used æ or Æ (outside of this post) but it's easy enough on my Mac keyboard (option-apostrophe or option-shift-apostrophe) once I looked it up. I believe it's clunky on Windows, however, which would likely be the biggest barrier to it's regular use.

    If we can handle ambiguously-singular-or-plural "you" – not to mention sheep and deer – we can handle ambiguously-singular-or-plural "they" and have been handling it perfectly well in English for several hundred years. We don't need to mess with typography (but I won't object to anyone wanting to try).

  18. Chas Belov said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 6:57 pm

    Also on Mac (and presumably iOS): hold the a key, then choose "æ" from the list of alternate characters that pops up.

  19. Chas Belov said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 7:06 pm

    Actually, the word I want us to fix is "we" which has been ambiguously inclusive vs. exclusive for hundreds of years but can lead to hurt feelings if misunderstood.

  20. Sarah said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 8:35 pm

    A more interesting and, I would think, felicitously Spanish alternative to Latinx is Latine. (I think there's another article on BBC but I can't find it readily.)


  21. martin schwartz said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 9:06 pm

    I can get æ easily on my MacBook Air keyboard, which is pretty standard, by depressing the alt/option key and simultaneously hitting ' (single quotation mark).
    Long ago I thought of a he/she pronoun–a phonetic intermediary
    with initial palatal as ie the German ich-sound, or better the
    initial of Mod. Greek words begining with XE, XI-, etc. whence I suggest the Eng."Xe" for 'he/she'–the X would go with the ambiguity of LatinX. I've also thought that Heb. hu (Arab. huwa)
    'he' and hī (Arab. hiya) 'she' could be neutrally mediated by hü
    (Arab. hüa). Speakers of Persian, who have only the genderless
    ū, could nevertheless express solidarity with their Arabic-speaking neighbors' degendered *hüa by changing Persian ū to ü.
    Of course, apart from problems of pronoun case, my suggestion would only work for skilled phonetician-linguists, not for civilians.
    @Charles Belov: Perhaps you (also) have in mind the Russian
    usage e.g. "We and Ivan walked to the museum", where English would say, e.g."Ivan and I …" or "I and Ivan" (I pass disdainfully over "Me and Ivan walked…"). Where I see an old Slavic feature here, my Russophone wife feels the Russian usage reflects collective modesty, noting that ja (ya)(= 'I.') is the last letter of the Russian alphabet.
    Martin Schwartz

  22. martin schwartz said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 9:09 pm

    Oops, I meant "Chas" and also "'I'".

  23. Chris Button said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 9:36 pm

    Latinx in Spanish is pronounced /laˈtine/, that is, like latine

    That figures. I suppose logically it would be “latinequis” though.

  24. Chas Belov said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 9:40 pm

    @martin schwartz: I answer to both Charles and Chas. As for Russian, despite having a Russian surname, I don't know any Russian beyond "spasebo" and "dos vadanya" (which I like to follow with "tres vadanya") and I probably got both of those wrong (and forget what the second one means).

  25. Chas Belov said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 9:43 pm

    I was thinking more in terms of "We're having steak" (including you) vs. "We're having steak" (and you're on your own).

  26. Colin Watson said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 1:25 am

    @martin schwartz: Hebrew doesn't have a vowel that might plausibly be represented as ü, though, and a usable system requires more than just the bare third-person pronoun. The Nonbinary Hebrew Project proposes הֶא ("he") as the third-person pronoun instead, with accompanying additions to pronominal suffixes and so on: https://www.nonbinaryhebrew.com/grammar-systematics

  27. maidhc said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 2:05 am

    It cites the inherent gender association with many nouns, like actor or actress in English, which it claims to have “perpetuated exclusion”.

    I see increasingly the use of "actor" for both men and women, and, presumably, those who identify themselves as neither.

    A hundred years ago there were words like "poetess" and "aviatrix", but they have mostly fallen out of use. We have generally come up with substitutes for words that ended in "-man", like "postman" to "letter carrier", etc. Singular "they" has become respectable.

    We are lucky in English that we got rid of grammatical gender centuries ago. So really we are in reasonable shape as far as being gender-inclusive. I don't think adding a new letter is really going to do anything for us.

    Actually I'm in favour of adding new letters or diacritics for the purpose of reducing ambiguities in English spelling. Bringing back edh and thorn would be helpful, although it might be better to have a solution that deals with the two kinds of "ch" as well. But that's another question entirely.

    Languages like German and Spanish have more of a structural problem with gender-inclusiveness. But I leave it to the speakers of those languages to deal with it. I know a number of people who are L1 Spanish speakers, and I hear others speaking on the radio, but I've never heard any of them say "Latinx". The only people I've ever heard use that term are obviously L1 Anglophones.

    Chas Belov: You have a good point about inclusive vs. exclusive "we". How about introducing "we-all" (on the model of "y'all")?

  28. maidhc said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 2:11 am

    Sorry about the misplaced tag.

    The Australians have a good system, calling postmen "posties" and garbagemen "garbos". The rest of us could learn from them.

  29. martin schwartz said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 2:25 am

    @Colin Watson: Yes, I know, no ü in Hebrew nor Arabic, nor
    Arabo-Persic script.. But one can put an umlaut mark on the ir vav/wāw/vāv. Oops, I was and am joking, a funny habit of mine, and sometimes I don't give enough of a signal of that so that everyone would understand. I have not yet taken to smiling emoticons (emotica) and sunnily grinning emojis.
    Martin Schwartz,

  30. rosie said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 2:33 am

    @Seth "non-members of groups are expected to defer at times to the statements of members of groups". That might sometimes happen. But in the situation here, the in-group is men and women, and the non-members are non-binary people, who have long been expected to defer to the prevailing view that everyone must be either male or female and thus have either "he" or "she" as their pronoun. A suggestion of some other word as a third option provides these non-members of the in-group with a means to *not* defer.

  31. Mark S. said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 3:10 am

    @Chas Belov:
    "Actually, the word I want us to fix is 'we' which has been ambiguously inclusive vs. exclusive for hundreds of years but can lead to hurt feelings if misunderstood."

    Mandarin — at least some types of Mandarin — has an inclusive "we" (zánmen/咱們/咱们), via Altaic languages. But most of the time people use "wǒmen" (我們/我们), which in most instances has the same ambiguity as English's "we."

  32. David Marjanović said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 3:36 am

    They mention Latinx. I wondered how that is pronounced. Would it be "lah-TINKS"? Oh, following the link, I see it is supposed to be “La-teen-ex”.

    As Chris Button guessed, it's also supposed to be "lah-tee-NECK-is", i.e. latin- followed by the Spanish name of the letter X, equis. There's something in it for everyone!

    What abut thorn? Time to shake off the Norman yoke and let English be English!

    That's not the Norman yoke, that's buying your type for printing from the Netherlands instead of pouring your own.

    "reintroducing the ancient symbol Æ back into the alphabet" — for some of us, the letter never left. I routinely write palæography, encyclopædia, archæology, etc., and have done ever since I was old enough to value the elegance thereof.

    That's really just you, though. I've published in a palæontology journal owned by Oxford University Press; it has an unbelievably detailed style guide, but no æ whatsoever. In fact it's called Papers in Palaeontology with ae in two letters.

    the Russian usage e.g. "We and Ivan walked to the museum"

    Not "and", but "with": мы с Иваном.

    (I love it.)

    "spasebo" and "dos vadanya"

    spasibo спасибо: "thanks", historically from спаси Бог "(may) God save [you]"
    do svidaniya до свидания: "bye" (polite), literally "to the seeing", very similar to German auf Wiedersehen ("onto again-seeing").
    Unstressed vowels are strongly reduced, much like in English. In particular, the i of -iya almost never surfaces as a vowel, it just modifies the preceding consonant (in this case to something close to a Spanish ñ).

    "tres vadanya"

    I love it.

  33. Peter Taylor said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 4:28 am

    But campaigners claimed this new letter avoids “dehumanising symbols commonly associated with offensive speech”, like * or @

    I am astonished by the suggestion that @ is a "dehumanising symbol commonly associated with offensive speech". Here in Spain I can only recall seeing it used for and associated with deliberate inclusion. Is this a trans-Atlantic difference, or is the reason that that part's outside the quotation marks because the symbols actually referred to by the campaigners were others and the write-up is confused?

  34. Michael Watts said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 4:30 am

    although it might be better to have a solution that deals with the two kinds of "ch" as well

    What are the two kinds of "ch"?

  35. John Swindle said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 4:45 am

    Thæ/them is no more inclusive than they/them, so what's the point? To distinguish singular "thæ" from plural "they"? But no need to distinguish singular "them" from plural "them"?

    Historically, "thou," "thee," "ye," and "you" all collapsed into "you." Maybe "he," "she," and "they" will all collapse into "they." Maybe "him," "her," and "them" will all collapse into "them." Or maybe not. Or maybe only partially, as indeed has already occurred. I can't see how any of these possibilities would be likely to drive orthographic change.

  36. Philip Taylor said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 5:04 am

    "What are the two kinds of "ch"?" — as epitomised by the phrase "Christ Church" (/k/ v. / tʃ/).

  37. Michael Watts said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 6:15 am

    But not "machine"?

    Neither difference would matter anyway – all three sounds are already distinguished in the spelling of English. There would be no reason to introduce new letters to disambiguate anything (as advocated in the comment I quoted); if you believe that "the two kinds of 'ch'" are /tʃ/ and /k/, it's sufficient to just respell the words you want to disambiguate using the existing letters.

  38. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 6:48 am

    The digraph "ch" in English is also sometimes pronounced /ʃ/ in loanwords of actual-or-perceived French origin (or sometimes other foreign origins) and, by some but not all speakers, /x/ in words like "loch" or "Bach." In Old English, "Christ" was spelled "Crist," the scribes of the day not being so show-offy as to want to signal that etymologically the ultimate Greek etymon began with a chi rather than a kappa. I expect that 99%+ (meaning if there's an exception it doesn't immediately come to mind) of English words where spelling "ch" = sound /k/ likewise derive ultimately from a Gk. etymon with a chi.

  39. Jerry Packard said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 9:44 am

    In case anyone cares about the representations of some of these in IPA, I provide the following (pronunciations are mine – a speaker of Western Massachusetts/Upper NY state American English).

    æ – near-open front unrounded vowel – ‘cat’
    a – open front unrounded vowel – ‘cod’
    ɑ – low back unrounded vowel – ‘cawed’
    ɔ – low-mid back rounded vowel – ‘caught’

  40. Wanda said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 11:13 am

    My student, who is a native Spanish speaker, says that "Latine" flows off the tongue much more smoothly for a native Spanish speaker than "Latinx." I predict that academic usage will follow in 10 years or so.

  41. DaveK said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 11:17 am

    My sister-in-law, who’s fluent in Spanish, told me that she’s occasionally seen “latin@“ (blending “a” and “o” ) as a solution to the gender problem on Spanish-language websites. No way to pronounce it but apparently vocal communication is so last-century.

  42. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 11:44 am

    @Jerry Packard: Without getting into the IPA notation, I am surprised that you have a different vowel in "cawed" than "caught." My own idiolect lacks the cot/caught merger and likewise lacks a cod/cawed merger, but as best as I can tell my cawed and caught vowels are identical, just as my cod and caught ones are. Maybe a subtle length difference (a smidgen longer before the /d/ than before the /t/)?

  43. Jerry Packard said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 12:29 pm

    @J.W. Brewer
    Yes, truth be told, I also don’t have those distinctions in my native dialect, but I can produce them distinctively, and do so in formal contexts (lectures, etc.). My native vowels are also heavily nasalized (but not distinctively), like when I’m talking with my brothers and sisters.

  44. Haamu said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 1:19 pm

    @Seth — Would love to read your "better upstream source," but your link no longer works (at least for me). I was hoping to learn why "thæ" is preferable to simply "thae" — i.e., why the solution needs to be hyperprescriptive, going beyond spelling to typography. I can only surmise that the ligature is supposed to symbolically represent the combination of multiple aspects in a single identity. That's clever, but probably a little bit too clever to catch on.

    @Peter Taylor —

    I am astonished by the suggestion that @ is a "dehumanising symbol commonly associated with offensive speech".

    Here again, without access to sources, I can only surmise, but I think this is a reference to the concept of a "grawlix" (or what Ben Zimmer has called here an "obscenicon." In other words, if "$%!*@!" represents a socially unacceptable word, then "Latin@" might carry a tinge of that as well for some readers.

    One advantage of "Latine" and simple "they" is that they understand that cleverness is not the goal. I think that's why they're less annoying and have a better chance of success in the long run.

  45. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 3:20 pm

    @ Haamu: But is "cleverness" NOT the goal?

  46. Seth said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 3:42 pm

    @Haamu – It looks like the page is gone from that site! I think I was able to archive it from the Google cache. Does this archive URL work for you?


  47. Haamu said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 4:27 pm

    @Jarek Weckwerth — The goal is a truly inclusive society. Some miss that, while others see it but think cleverness is a worthwhile expedient. I think they're mistaken.

  48. nat said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 4:49 pm

    Oh, I appreciate Marjanović's explanation of "latinequis". I read it as a a garbled Latin language at first: "Quis latine" or something. "Who is in latin"?

  49. Haamu said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 5:16 pm

    @Seth — Thanks for going to that effort. Unfortunately, that page doesn't really clear much up.

    Will new words or spellings beyond "thæ" (in English, and presumably other pronouns in other languages) be introduced or promoted? Is "thæ" a prescriptive spelling or merely an alternative? Are we being invited to sprinkle "æ" throughout our writing as a marker of an inclusive mindset?

    I guess we'll have to wait for the publication of their "posterzine" later this month to find out.

    I'll hazard that "Bae" and "Bæ" will emerge as subtly different terms of endearment.

  50. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 5:42 pm

    @Haamu: perhaps not everyone agrees with you as to what the goal actually is? But on further reflection consider two different styles of proposed innovations in (for example) ways to refer to members of historically marginal and/or marginalized groups. Style One has mass adaptation by Normal People of good will as its goal, which means the innovation ought to be low-cost to adapt by those politically/philosophically open to it and/or just interested in "being polite." It won't be hard to remember or pronounce or spell and if it has some sort of logic to it it will be simple and transparent. It definitely will not require you to get a new font for your typewriter or mainstream word processing software. Style Two inverts that and makes adaptation high(er)-cost in one or more relevant ways. Because adaptation is costly, it makes adaptation a sign of comparatively high commitment to the cause, whatever the cause may be, and also means that those who have successfully adapted the innovation now have valuable (in certain circles) Cultural Capital ™ to display. Think of it as sort of akin to the economists' notion of a "Veblen good" where contrary to the usual pattern increased price leads to increased demand. Both of these styles reflect coherent strategies, and which strategy is to be preferred must be determined by extra-linguistic criteria.

  51. David Morris said,

    September 12, 2023 @ 8:38 am

    "People who don’t identify with male or female pronouns currently tend to use they/them to [refer to] themselves"

    People who don't identify with male or female pronouns always use I/me/my/mine to refer to themselves, like everyone else does. What they do differently insist that everyone else uses they/them/their/theirs to refer to them, even when they are not there.

  52. Batchman said,

    September 12, 2023 @ 3:38 pm

    "Charlie Josephine (thæ/he)"
    What the hell does thæ/he mean? Does Charlie want to be a thæ or a he? is "he" supposed to be the accusative (objective) form? Like would I say about Charlie "thæ wants people to refer to he with the proper pronouns"???

    It's not just Charlie. I see this countless times. I get the notion that folks don't even have a grip on the concept of pronouns in general.

  53. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 12, 2023 @ 4:08 pm

    @ Chris Button: That's a very elegant and level-headed summary, thank you.

    @ David Morris: Good point. It's interesting to watch the developments in pro-drop languages where using any pronouns at all is not the usual thing to do. Even better are those languages that require gender marking on verbs. (Tangentially, a student of mine once did a mini-project for one of my courses looking at how those gendered verb forms vary as a function of conversation topic for non-binary people. Cool stuff!)

  54. Terry K. said,

    September 12, 2023 @ 5:45 pm

    People who don't identify with male or female pronouns always use I/me/my/mine to refer to themselves, like everyone else does. What they do differently insist that everyone else uses they/them/their/theirs to refer to them, even when they are not there.

    Better said, insist or request.


    When someone puts something like "they/she" or such as the pronouns (for others to use when speaking about them), that means they are okay with either of those. Possibly with preference for the first.

    Here's a link that talks about this:

  55. Chris Button said,

    September 12, 2023 @ 7:46 pm

    @ Jarek Weckwerth

    Thanks for the compliment, but I don't think you meant to refer to me!

  56. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    September 13, 2023 @ 4:30 am

    @ Chris Button: Be my guest :) but true, I was aiming for J. W. Brewer and missed…

  57. Chas Belov said,

    September 14, 2023 @ 12:27 am

    @maidhc: I'd be okay with "we-all" for inclusive we and "we" for exclusive we. We could even eventually wind up with "they-all" for plural third person and "they" for singular third person. I do find "you-all" useful and wish it would catch on to differentiate from the singular; I do sometimes use it when I want to be clear.

    @DaveK: I've seen both Latin@ (for Latino/Latina) and pin@y (for pinoy/pinay, Filipino/a). The shortcomings of both of those is that they don't cover people who don't identify as either male or female, which is what likely lead to Latinx and latine. Not sure what they could do for Filipino/a as pinxy wouldn't work very well.

    @David Marjanović: Latin-equis had occurred to me, but I feel that would be more Spanglish since it's attempting to shoehorn a Spanish pronunciation onto an English suffix. So I either use "Latin-eks" if speaking English or, if I ever had a reason to use "Latin[something]" in my barely existant Spanish, I would use "latine" (la-TEE-nay).

    not @: I was actually thinking about the Spanish -e suffix while on a walk today. ¿Would it apply to all gendered nouns and adjectives? ¿Would a non-gendered red cat be "gate roje" (GAH-tay ROE-hey) as opposed to "gato rojo" (male) or "gata roja" (female)? But there are already Spanish nouns ending in e which have a gender assigned. Chocolate is male and llave (key) is female. So their non-gendered version would only become visible if an adjective were applied, since adjectives in Spanish need to agree with the noun for gender.

    Not that I expect chocolate or keys to need non-gendered versions; just trying to work out the grammar here.

  58. Chas Belov said,

    September 14, 2023 @ 3:09 am

    Come to think of it, when I encountered Latin@ I pronounced it (in my head) as Lah-teen-oh-uh. Never tried to head-pronounce pin@y, but might use pino-ay or pinoy-ay.

  59. Philip Taylor said,

    September 14, 2023 @ 10:31 am

    For me, the modern, simplified, pronunciation of what was traditionally called "commercial at" (i.e., "at" = /æt/) would automatically manifest itself were I to seek to pronounce any word spelled with a commercial at. So "Latin@" = / ˈlæ·tɪn·æt/, "Pin@y" = / pɪn·æ·tiː/.

  60. amy said,

    September 16, 2023 @ 12:19 am

    I get the feeling that they are, as the expression goes, extracting the micturate.

RSS feed for comments on this post