Anyone who writes anything must occasionally come across shortcomings in their language. Doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post, a dissertation, or a letter home. Sometimes English just doesn’t cut it. When I write poetry, I frequently find things I want to describe – with an economy of words – only a word doesn’t exist. Usually this has to do with weather, type of cloud or certain condition of the light. So, I started creating my own new words. That was really enjoyable; but things don’t always go so smoothly.
It isn’t always the more exotic words that are lacking. Who hasn’t noticed the increasing use of “their” as a singular non-gender-specific pronoun? I’ve read articles where guardians of the language really take this particular usage to task. I have to admit that there are cases where I might join them, and descry the deterioration of the language, but this isn’t one of them. I fully support the use of the singularized “their” when the gender of the person in question is not known. Example: Anyone who writes anything must occasionally come across shortcomings in their language. Just this morning, I posted a blog comment about a cute little red fox kit. Since I didn’t know the gender of the animal, I was forced to stop and review my choices.
Traditionally, English has defaulted to the male. Maybe not as vigorously as, say, Spanish, but it’s still the preferred gender for those “when in doubt” grammatical situations. Even so, it’s not like we don’t have other choices. There’s “her” or “its” and of course “his/her.” I have used “s/he” on occasion, but that hybrid is harder to pull off with “his” and “her.” Anyway, I went with “his/her” this morning. I don’t normally consider myself politically feminist, but I found, to my surprise, that I just couldn’t go with the default male. You might ask why I didn’t use “its” and be done with it. Well, that baby fox was just too cute for an “its.” That’s the problem with “its" in certain cases. “Its” is okay when talking about things we are emotionally neutral about, but not adorable youngsters. Especially furry ones with pointy little faces.
So, I think we all need to stand together on this, put in our requests and have English to get back to us. We need our living, growing, changing language to come up with some solution to these gender difficulties.
To see photos of the sweet little fox, and all comments, click on the link to Nature Tales and Camera Trails in the blog list, and go to the Young Fox post (July 21/08).
The Cloud Messenger (Meghadūta) is a lyric poem by the respected Indian poet, Kālidāsa. The poem centers around a yaksa in exile. Longing for his beloved, waiting for him on a Himalayan mountain, he asks a cloud to take a message to her. The sights he tells the cloud it will see on its way make up most of the poem.
The idea of recording observations appeals to me. I thought The Cloud Messenger was the perfect title for a blog about the journey that we all make as we move through our days.
I'm a baby boomer who grew up dancing in the streets of Detroit during the classic Motown years, lived beside the Rocky Mountains for many years, now retired and living (and writing full time) in S. Ontario. I have one blog for rock 'n' roll oldies, and one for nature, poetry and life along the Lake.