Fear of "His"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 8 14:52:27 UTC 2010

Scottish artist Susan Philipsz [sic] has won the Tate Prize for a "sound
installation" that allows you to hear her singing a nineteenth-century sea
shanty.  Philipsz explains:

"The song is about a sailor who appears in a dream to their loved one."

As has been mentioned here before (I think), even when "his" refers
unmistakably and exclusively to a man, it's terribly naughty.

Meanwhile, from the past, a note by the psychologist Erich Fromm to preface
his _Anatomy of Human Destructiveness_ (N.Y.: Holt, 1973), p. xvi:

"I have also, in general, used the word 'he' when I referred to human
beings, because to say 'he or she' each time would be awkward; I believe
words are very important, but also that one should not make a fetish of them
and become more interested in the words than in the thought they express."

Unanalyzed power relations kept the the naive, prepomo Fromm was from
understanding that the thought isn't what the speaker apparently thinks he
thinks, it's what the critic thinks the speaker must really be thinking
based on the language that speaks our sick society.

But enough pronominal fetishizing from me. My resistance to pomo theory only
proves my own sickness.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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