Anybody else out there who simultaneously gives into the vernacular and laments the passing of subject-pronoun agreement?
With 16 years of Catholic education (I rarely lose a “No, I had more years of the nuns” bet), I developed a fairly serious purist attitude toward grammar, sentence structure and spelling pretty early on.
But that was in the days when we didn’t know political correctness from Lenny Bruce. It was even before the Women’s Movement — I didn’t actually burn my bra, but did stop wearing one. That turned out to be a mistake, by the way.
In those days, any “general” person you might refer to required only one set of pronouns — he, him, his. We had a sort of Gentlemen’s (oops) Agreement that the masculine pronouns referred not a specific person but to humankind.
Later, as we became aware, we became inclusive and verbose in one stroke — he or she, him or her, his or hers.
That was followed by enlightenment — she or he, her or him, hers or his.
Moshe Feldenkrais, who had a somewhat jaundiced view of what words have done to our brains, summed it up in 4 syllables: he-she-it-sh1t.
Here in the new millennium, it seems we’re all just lazy, or maybe we’re saving the planet and we don’t want to waste the pixels. In any case, we seem to have adopted they, them, their and theirs as replacements for all the previous combinations.
And it’s not just sloppiness — the scary thing is that I take the time to think about it and do it intentionally. And after doing this for several months, I’m finding that I just don’t care that much any more about the fact that all my teachers are turning in their graves. My mom, too, come to think of it.
Is this how all the big shifts in language occur? People just keep saying “incorrect” things until people like me stop resisting and join them, or get tired of the struggle and just die having fought the “good” fight?
And am I okay with it because I just am, or because my brain is shifting as I get older and what used to be important is falling into place somewhere way below “people” and “connection” and “relationships” and all the other things that seem to be a lot less clearly black or white?