A bit more on political correctness – and a poem: Hamdullah

A bit more on political correctness (see my previous post HERE yesterday).

Obama Says He Will Stop This Candidate If They Win The Nomination

ran a headline on my monitor this morning. As happens all too often these days I was left wondering who “they” were. The Democratic Party? That didn’t make sense. I read on:

President Barack Obama has threatened to intervene to stop a particular candidate if they win the nomination. That candidate would be Bernie Sanders.

So they are Bernie Sanders. And that last sentence should perhaps read “Those candidates would be Bernie Sanders”.

In fact this blatant misuse of the word “they” as a singular pronoun is so widespread that I have more or less given up reading books written after the year 2000 as the authors seem far more concerned about so-called gender-neutrality than they are about the Queen’s English (or The President’s!)

Let us be quite clear about this. The pronouns “I’, “You” and “We” are of course gender-neutral. However, when we come to the 3rd Person Singular we find ourselves, these days, faced with a choice: (1) My father is a poet. It lives in London. My mother is a painter. It lives in Paris. (Or 2) My father is a poet. They live in London. My mother is a painter. They live in Paris. (Or 3) My father is a poet. He lives in London. My mother is a painter. She lives in Paris … For hundreds of years speakers of the English language have recognised that one’s father is unlikely to be gender-neutral; the same goes for one’s mother. I am with Professor Peterson on this – and with all the poets and novelists who agree with him and studiously avoid all hint of “gender-neutralism” in their writings.

A propos. here is a poem of mine where I touch on the subject:

Hamdullah

Aisha’s brothers
hauled me up to the top of a block of flats
and chucked me off the roof.

Half way down
I was hailed by the Angel Gabriel.
Hi, I said,

not being the Virgin Mary –
or any other kind of a virgin come to that –
and imagining we were just passing.

But no! My luck
had changed! They plucked me out of the air
(Sorry about that “They” –

I chose to use
a gender-neutral pronoun as Gabriel was definitely
gender-neutral. I have never

used “they” as a singular pronoun
before in my life and I never will again, I promise.
Okay? Now back to the story.)

Angels? Angels?? I must be dead –
must have died of fright before ever reaching
the ground! But she was speaking.

(I’ll call him her from now on.
Gender-neutral or not she looked more like
Wonderwoman gone blonde than Superman.)

Come, little mermaid,
she said, this is no place for you,
this wind-blown city on the edge of the desert,

and she flew with me
out over the great grey-green Atlantic
and dropped me in. Be happy!

Aisha’s brothers
found no body, said the dogs had eaten it,
Hamdullah.

2 thoughts on “A bit more on political correctness – and a poem: Hamdullah

  1. I am a great fan of Doris Lessing and I too still find the constant misuse of “they/them” for idealogical reasons irritating, but hey, there are tousands of books to read that were written before all that began (like Lessing’s own Shikasta quintet). And this poem is one of your best and most memorable – refreshingly chatty and full of surprises.

    Liked by 1 person

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