Introducing Zie

I am a big fan of clear, fluent language, and a recurring enemy of clarity and fluency in English is the lack of a widely-recognized gender-neutral pronoun.  I use a lot of theoretical examples here on Chimaera, and so this trips me up constantly.

All of the most common options are plagued with problems.  The old-school universal “he:” Clearly unacceptable.  “They” used as a singular: Grammatically incorrect.  “He or she:” clumsy.  “S/he:” Still clumsy and with no obvious accusative case.  Alternate “he” and “she:” Confusing and only possible if you have a large number of examples.  Just trying to phrase all generic examples without pronouns: Give me a break!

Enter the gender-neutral pronoun “zie.”  Zie is only one of a dozen or so pronouns that have been invented over the past century and, while it rolls off the tongue more easily than “thon” or “co,” I don’t think it’s particularly superior or inferior to any of the other offerings.  However, it is unique, from my perspective, in being a pronoun that I’ve actually heard people use in contexts other than theoretical discussions of grammar.  Therefore, I’m going to start using it here and on the rest of my blogs.

“Zie” is nominative.  “Zir” is accusative, genitive, and dative.  “Zirself” is reflexive.  Got it?  Good!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Introducing Zie

  1. LBT

    Actually, I would argue that singular they IS grammatically correct. It’s been used in the King James Bible, so it has plenty of historical precedent. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003572.html Though of course, gender-neutral unambiguously singular pronouns ARE useful. (‘They’ also allows me to mention my plural friends without erasing them!)

    • katz

      Interesting, I didn’t know that about the KJV. Still pushes my grammar buttons, though.

      Of course “they” is correct for referring to plurals, because you’re talking about more than one person.

      • LBT

        Yeah, it’s definitely a matter of personal taste. I use gender-neutral singulars on request, and ‘they’ for people I don’t know, thereby covering my gender and numerical bases! It makes me feel like a language spy.

        –Sneak/Rogan

  2. M

    Interesting discussion. A gender neutral pronoun certainly would be a helpful addition to the English language. Using other constructions is awkward at best and grating at worst. I keep varying what I do, as I haven’t found a comfortable solution. I think I am in agreement with LBT, in that I use different approaches with different audiences.

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