Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gender-neutral pronoun debate rocks Sweden
Sweden's tradition of gender equality has famously put more mums in the workplace while rising numbers of dads stay at home. Now advocates have a new frontier: they're pushing for a gender-neutral pronoun, "hen", to be added to "han" (he) and "hon" (she).

"There's almost nothing left to do in the field of gender equality, so people are suggesting increasingly strange ideas," said independent journalist Elise Claesson, partly amused and partly irritated by the debate.

The word "hen" was coined in the 1960s when the ubiquitous use of "han" (he) became politically incorrect. It was about "simplifying the language" and avoiding the clumsy "han/hon" (s/he) construction, said linguist Karin Milles.

Another linguist, Mikael Parkvall, is less convinced, however.

"The notion that language determines our way of thinking is very popular, but those of us who are specialists are pretty sceptical," he said.

"The link between language and thought is not very strong, and you don't become more gender equal by using a neutral pronoun," he added, citing Mandarin, the language of male-dominated China, as an example of a language that has such a pronoun.

Wallner said he believes "hen" will soon be as free of controversy as the 1970s decision to abolish the plural form for addressing strangers and instead use the more informal singular.


I am pleased to see that a lot of Swedes regard the whole thing as tedious.  Still, "Ms" as an alternative to "Mrs" and "Miss" seems to have caught on in the English-speaking world so you never know.

The last paragraph of the article above will be incomprehensible to people who speak English only but it is a huge step in European terms.  The polite plural is a feature of all European languages I thought -- but not in Sweden now.  Linguistic change is clearly possible but whether it achieves anything other than satisfying busybodies is the question.


Bird of Paradise said...

PC nonsese rears its silly head again

Anonymous said...

Danes also now uses the informal "you" in most situations, like Swedes. Norwegians too I think.

Anonymous said...

This has to be without a doubt the most asinine thing I have ever read.

It does not matter if you refer to a woman as her/han/blank/tree it still means SHE! So all you are doing is changing the word not the meaning so basically this means nothing!

This goes to show you where liberalism/political correctness takes you, and I agree, this is just tedious! AND STUPID!!!

Anonymous said...

"Political correctness is a far greater threat to our freedom and liberty than is terrorism..."

Go Away Bird said...

Annon 4:36 Political Correctness is just another form of SOCIALISM

Anonymous said...

Miss, Ms, and Mrs. are all abbreviations for Mistress. As in Mistress of the house, or Mistress of Master or Mister Jones. In the 1800s the deviation began between Miss and Mrs to differentiate between a Married and Unmarried woman. The Ms got popularity in during feminist corruption of society in which they came to the moronic conclusion that is must proscribe ownership. This Orwellian international effort to corrupt the languages to change society is sickening, and twisted. Removing His and Hers and other definitions is an effort to corrupt society and abscond natural logical definitions.

Anonymous said...

oh yes, the men have been neutered there long ago.

Kee Bird said...

Sweeden once tried to disband its military to appease the liberal pacifists pansies and gave full fledged rights to animals This nations going down the tubes fast

Anonymous said...

Distinguishing between legally married and unmarried women with the title Mrs and Miss, but not the same between men (as just Mr in either case) does show that women's status does or did depend on marriage, whereas men's
does not, and the reason is women's social inferiority to men in traditional society.

Anonymous said...

"It" seems appropriate to me. That's about as gender neutral as you can get.