Coming soon the pronoun ‘Ze’
Oxford University in England has managed to create a new word. In their effort to promote equality (their words, not mine) they are going to abolish the pronouns he and she. They will demand, instead, a nonsexual denotation for pronoun use, the word “ze.” This is apparently intended to diminish discrimination and prevent transgender students from being offended by the use of incorrect pronouns. Cambridge University is reportedly following suit.
Don’t ask who dreamed up that word or the thought process behind its implementation. It doesn’t make sense to me either. You might ask why it is a big deal since it is at a university a long way from here. First, because it is another sign of the decay of the usefulness of secondary education. Second, it seems that anything that starts in Europe eventually makes it way here.
In fact, it has already started here. University of Michigan, in an attempt to “foster inclusiveness,” announced in September 2016 that it would allow students to choose their own personal pronouns, which staff would be expected to use when talking to them. The choices were intended to be he, she, xe, or ze. The University of Tennessee is urging, but not yet requiring, incoming students to use gender-neutral xe or ze.
Workers at the University of Kansas libraries have begun handing out pin-on buttons that allow students to announce their preferred personal pronouns. They maintain that gender is in itself fluid and as such each person has the right to identify their own pronouns. Biology be darned.
This, ladies and gentlemen is what your child is learning in college. Is this really worth the five-figure annual tuition costs? How about the huge piles of student debt? I once thought that a college degree meant something. Now, if I were to hire someone, the last thing I would require is a degree. Can you imagine dealing with such nonsense in the workplace?
True, there are still some college degrees that mean something. Engineering, science, agriculture and the medical fields come to mind. Sadly, we have no way of knowing how much of this nonsense has filtered its way into those curricula either.
You don’t get your own “preferred” pronouns for the same reason that you don’t get your own preferred prepositions. It doesn’t work that way. These aren’t subjective terms. They are classes of words that exist to convey factual information, not feelings. If I intentionally call a biological man a she, I have conveyed something that isn’t true. Despite my intentions, all I’ve done is create more confusion and dishonesty.
Words have meanings. If you were to search for the word “he” in the dictionary, you would find that it is, by definition, a pronoun used to refer to a male human or animal. If you’re a male human or animal, that’s the pronoun that applies to you. You don’t own it. You can’t change it or reject it any more than you can change or reject gravity. It is what it is. You are what you are. Words mean what they mean. Your feelings do not have any bearing whatsoever on the meanings of words.
You can’t sit in a chair and then require everyone to vocally affirm that you are standing up because “up” is your favorite preposition. It doesn’t matter what preposition you prefer. You’re either sitting or standing. What I say about your relationship to the chair will depend entirely on the actual physical reality of the situation, not how you feel about it.
If I call a man a ze or a xe or a wu or a rabbit in a hat or a wookie, I’ve skipped right over lying and descended into utter nonsense. That I have done it at someone else’s demand doesn’t make it any less nonsensical. It’s like seeing a crazy man on the street shouting at a sign and running up to participate in the argument. The sign won’t suddenly start talking now that two people are trying to coax some words out of it. The reality is still the reality.
This is delusional. It’s childish. It’s pretentious. And it’s completely out of control. I am not morally or ethically required to speak nonsense or tell lies for anyone’s sake. On the contrary, my moral and ethical requirements are to do exactly the opposite. I’m supposed to tell the truth, regardless of how the truth makes you feel. It’s time to stop the idiocy before it is too late.
Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.