24 Feb 2021

Let’s discuss something uncontroversial: pronouns. According to the dictionary a pronoun is a substitute for a noun or noun phrase where the referent is named or understood in the context. He, his, she, hers, and theirs are pronouns.

A pronoun allows you to refer to someone without using their name:

“Who robbed the bank?”

“He did.”

Useful for when you can’t remember the person’s name or don’t feel like repeating it several times in a conversation.

Pronouns shouldn’t require much thought, but when I applied for a software developer position they asked what are your preferred pronouns?

I replied thon1.

I didn’t get the job which I now consider to be a blessing. Maybe they thought I was being flippant in my answer but it’s like asking what tree would I like to be. It shows the company’s cognitive resources are squandered on frivolities instead of invested in important work. Or maybe the company has no important work.

Pronouns such as he and she are too boring for some people so they make you refer to them as ze and zer or some other oddity. So now I have to memorize your name and your custom pronoun as well.

Today people get fired over pronouns. Over at a programming Q&A site, an unpaid volunteer moderator was fired for the crime of pronoun misuse:

Monica was fired on the 27th September, for a CoC2 violation of a CoC that didn’t exist at that time. Moderators were consulted on various drafts of the CoC amendments and we successfully requested the removal of the compelled speech (“do not avoid using pronouns when requested”). This clause implies that people cannot address people by name or “The OP”3 if they declare a pronoun. This makes a mockery of how to address them individually among a discussion group of many participants.

In short, the moderator tried to avoid the tangle of who uses which pronoun by just referring to others by name or OP3. Not good enough. Out she goes.

Pronouns are a simple concept and shouldn’t require a workplace accomodation as if you had some sort of handicap. Those who maliciously complicate things deserve our mockery. And they certainly don’t deserve our free labor.

  1. Thon is a gender-neutral pronoun meaning “that one.” It was invented in 1858 by Charles Crozat Converse, and was listed in Funk and Wagnalls’ 1903 “Supplement To A Standard Dictionary of the English Language” and the Merrium Webster Dictionary from 1934 to 1961. 

  2. CoC: Code of Conduct. 

  3. OP: Original Poster.