Lower-case "x" as a gender-neutral typographic convention


#1

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A law prof responds to students who anonymously complained about #blacklivesmatter tee
#2

Gender-neutral pronouns have always seemed awkward and artificial: sie, hir, zie, ze, etc.

But I really like the look of Mx. Jones. It’s classy and smart looking, and somehow flows naturally.


#3

As a unilingual English speaker…

Can’t we just put the language out of its misery already, instead of adding kludges to keep it relevant?


#4

Every language on earth has evolved, changed, and added ‘kludges’ for thousands of years. Some transform completely or add an entirely new writing system to adapt (see: Japanese katakana and romaji). I think continuing to adapt English is a lot more interesting than killing it off.


#5

It certainly looks classy in print, but I can’t see very many people saying it in spoken language. Mix Jones sounds like a rapper from the 80’s.


#6

It’s all beautiful kludges.


#7

Does help. I remember when I was IRC names there were no indication on the person’s gender. So I did a lot of rewording to avoid using pronouns.


#8

Agreed, but I think that in common use it wouldn’t be as pronounced as that. The same way that “Ms” and “Miss” sound nearly identical in conversation, I think it’d just sound like a quickly pronounced “Mks”.


#9

Mix Jones sounds like an awesome rapper from the 80’s!

What’s the downside here?


#10

Interesting! I wonder at the future of honorifics in general. Do we need them? There are professional titles, like Dr, Prof, Rev, and the wonderful Right Rev. But something to say that we’re a man or a woman or other, married or unmarried? Who cares? Why not an honorific for whether we’re tall or short? Why is it important?
One of my favorite online adventures is when I have to fill out a form, and the honorific drop-down box has not been edited down to US normal, but has every conceivable title in the world. I’m so tempted to use “Lord”, “Rabbi”, or “General”. Who would argue with me?


#11

?What’s awkward and artificial about Sie? Sie and Du, and the English equivalents you and thou are already gender neutral. The odd thing is that we continue to use gendered pronouns for 3rd person singular only in English.
In many languages the gender of nouns is more to do with derivation and spelling rules - le soldat becomes la sentinelle when the soldier is on sentry duty, and mon livre et ma plume tell me nothing about the gender of the speaker. Male dogs in Russian are as feminine as female ones, while cats can be male or female. And so on.
The real problem, in fact, is not so much pronouns as titles. The Quakers had a good idea a long time ago; abolish them altogether.

I would argue we don’t need them. Not even Very Reverend, the title of someone I know. As an example I would adduce the bizarre example of the British health system, in which junior doctors who are not MDs are called “doctor” while senior doctors who usually are MDs are called “Mr.”


#12

What’s wrong with just “M” ? I think I first saw it in Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and it seemed quite sensible. (In that particular case it is used in conjunction with “A”, which designates androids.)


#13

meaningless honorifics. “Master” and “Mistress”/“Matron” which became “mister” and “missus” are obsolete titular references, in the same way that just about no-one uses “esquire” or “Lord/Lady” (would that become “Lx.” as well?) time to move on. When a telemarketer calls they’ll not be saying “Can I please speak to mux Johnson please?” It ain’t gonna happen… what WILL they do instead? I’m sure marketing departments everywhere are already working on that… or will be soon.


#14

I’ve always thought that using different honorifics for people to denote their marital status was super weird: “This teacher is Miss Smith, because she’s single, and this one is Mrs. Jones, because she’s married”. What the? Why should I care!? I actually thought it was fascinating to find out that “Mrs” isn’t short for anything – it’s never really spelled out. What a weird word.

I think we’ll always have honorifics of some sort if just to avoid the awkwardness and informality of calling people just “Doctorow” or “Jardin” while introducing them.

It sounds odd to say and seems like a very artificially constructed pronoun to me, and has never been a very good gender-neutral option, unfortunately. Just my opinion.


#15

Well now you’re just being snarky, Mx Wordy-word. :wink:


#16

I love that non-gender-specific pronouns are being squeezed into English. I just have no idea how to pronounce ‘Latinx’, although in my imagination it’s ‘latinex’ or ‘latinix’ (similar to the Mx in the original post. Anyone got any pointers?


#17

Really I’ve found sticking with singular they unless you know for sure the other person’s gender tends to work well at not angering anyone but weird grammar pedants who think singular they isn’t valid Because Reasons

Said reasons being:
"some asshole in the 19th century decided English had to be like latin and gender EVERYTHING and his book had sorta-widespread acceptance so those are the rules, fuck future changes to the language or the fact even Shakespeare used singular they"
sometimes mixed with a little:
“I don’t like transgender people who don’t ‘pick a side’/gender nonconforming people in general so I’m going to hypercorrect their grammar.”


#18

I read it “Latinex” in my head.

Though that does make it sound like some sort of prescription drug brand name.


#19

Thank you. Same! Sounds almost like a laxative brand name, I reckon. Or uncomfortably close to ‘laminex’ if we’re talking non-drugs.


#20

Just want to point out an interesting item in Fowler’s Modern English Usage, in which he defends feminine honorifics and titles such as Doctress. It’s on p175, “Feminine Designations.” Rather charming and quaint, even though I disagree with practically everything he says on the subject.