Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Creative Writing

The quote which you will see shortly is from Cross Roads - Creative Writing Exercises in Four Genres by Daine Thiel.

Meet Diane Thiel, an Associate Professor of English at the University of New Mexico.

Preface to the Instructor

As teachers of creative writing,..... We must spark each student's creativity and help him or her develop the skills...give each student the means to express his or her ideas effectively. The teacher of creative writing faces ... the needs of his or her students.

Glaringly absent in the English language are gender neutral third person singular nouns, hence Professor Thiel's repeated usage of the phrase "him or her" which aims to be inclusive of both genders.

I have seen other workarounds to overcome this particular linguistic dilemma. Occasionally people use "they" even though it is plural as in How to tell someone they have bad breath, which is a name of a website that one can use to anonymously and discreetly inform his or her friend that his or her breath smells like an exploded septic tank by sending a "BadBreathOGram" to him or her.

Of course it is grammatically incorrect to use "someone" in conjunction with "they" in such manner because the former is singular and the latter plural.

What I find quite ironic is that most English nouns are gender neutral while none of the third person singular pronouns are. I am aware of a few feminine nouns such as "ship" even though I will not be calling a woman a ship anytime soon. So why are narrative attempts from a gender neutral third person perspective always doomed to awkward or grammatically butchered clauses? Isn't it about time for us to come up with gender neutral third person singular pronouns for future generations of English speakers?

My suggestion - Hoh, which is an acronym for "him or her." So the name for the website becomes "How to Tell Someone that Hoh has Bad Breath."

Don't you knock it unless you have an idea of your own.


Okay, so I am taking a course in Creative Writing at a city college in the area, and the class text is the aforementioned book by Diane Thiel. Let's have a look at her again.

She lives and works in New Mexico.

I take it that the residents of New Mexico call themselves "New Mexicans." If you were a person of Mexican descent, would you feel a sense of camaraderie with New Mexicans regardless of their national origin?

I have always wanted to ask a Mexican person that question.

Speaking for myself, if you called yourself a "New Korean," I could tell you that you and I would become the best of friends instantly regardless of how you felt about it.

Just imagine the endless possibilities for profoundly lame pickup lines to impress blonde New Korean girls. A few autrocious ones are going through my head for which I deserve to get flogged in public as we speak. Truuust me. You don't wanna know.

I am so sorry about the lack of focus in this entry. Chuck it up to my feeble attempt to write creatively.


At February 14, 2006 10:45 PM, Blogger Granny said...

I have even begged on my blog for someone to come up with a gender neutral singular pronoun (in English).

The closest anyone came was Irish.

Re Cheney and your comment about Jay Leno on isamericaburning. My bedroom t.v. up and died. It may be a blessing.

At February 15, 2006 10:39 AM, Blogger Gary Means said...

When I was tutoring a Ukrainian immigrant in ESL, not a week would go by that he didn't say, "Crazy English!".

I may not move to New Korea, but I do eat at a Korean restaurant every few weeks. I may have to increase the frequency now that it's been "proven" that kimchee can cure avian flu. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4347443.stm

At February 15, 2006 11:14 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Gary, LOL!

Don't be surprised if you get a lot of "BadBreathOGram" from your friends after eating lots of Kimchi

At February 16, 2006 5:03 AM, Blogger The Gig said...

Hey "Dave Cho" thanks for your comment on my blog. Just give that Brotha Buck a little taste of his own medicine and he will just simply hate it. lol, lol, Looks like you have an interesting post here today. I will read it in it's entirety this evening when I get home from work.

At February 16, 2006 9:17 AM, Blogger Elevated said...

Uhh how does one pronounce Hoh? Is that like Ho?

Creative writing course?! Too kewl!!! Can't wait to see some of the fruits of your labor.

At February 16, 2006 9:50 AM, Blogger A thinker said...

Um, we have a singular pronoun in English. It's called "him". It worked perfectly fine until political correctness mania came along and it became no longer acceptable. Everybody realized it could refer to either gender. . .

Ah well. . .

Your post may suffer from lack of focus, but it did make me laugh.

At February 16, 2006 11:24 AM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

Man, I'd love to find the time to take a creative writing class. I sure wish I had a writing talent, or interest or something earlier in life. Now, about those gender...whatever nouns. Blah!

At February 16, 2006 12:36 PM, Anonymous Keisha cosand said...

Very imaginative:)

At February 17, 2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

Dave - I have this problem all the time, especially here at PTS because we have to be gender inclusive. It is really hard to do, especially on settling on what to call God. It is looked down upon (somewhat, dependng on the teacher) if you say "him" so you have a lot of weird language that happens, like "God's self."

At February 18, 2006 1:25 PM, Blogger grace said...

Actually you would need 3 new pronouns. One for him/her, one for he/she, and a possessive for his/hers.

One and one's could be used for both he/she and his/hers.

For him/her, I would suggest herm, just because I don't think it would be a good idea to go around referring to people as ho(h).

At February 18, 2006 1:59 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

granny, how did the person come up with "Irish"? What is the explanation for that?

elevated, to make sure that it does not sound like ho, the second h should not be silent.

buck, you are a talented writer. What are you talking about? Your mother taught you well. Isn't she an English teacher?

thinker, jenny. Yeah, political correctness is the reality we need to deal with. Other words such as "mankind", "humanity" are banned as well, I believe. The same with "history."

grace, that is why I wrote third person singular pronouns. I like herm, but still like "hoh" better.

At February 18, 2006 10:10 PM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

Oops, sorry. I forgot about your dog. I like your dog. He's...the greatest dog in the world. Honest.

: ) <----don't you hate those smily things?

At February 19, 2006 11:45 PM, Blogger Friar Tuck said...

love your sense of humor here.

the author is a hottie.

And the gender neutral thing...I ran into that in seminary..was very challenging trying to work all of scripture into grammatically correct and gender neutral language.

At February 24, 2006 9:57 AM, Blogger Stuff said...

Oddly enough, a couple of friends and I have opted to use the term shim, she/him = shim. It works easily and is easy enough to slur that people might not always catch it on the first pass by. It's so natural :)


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