pronoun update

Tied for first in the poll are “they” and “yehuatl,” which I find interesting. “Sie” is in second place. But I think the winner will be a candidate not in the original poll: aliettedb‘s fabulous suggestion of “ome,” which is the Nahuatl word for “two.” This is both short and easily pronounceable; also, it carries a benefit for my hindbrain, which is that it evokes Ometeotl, the (mostly abstract) Aztec deity of duality. Since I already had it in mind to port Ometeotl into the setting as the patron deity of the xera — particularly those xera in this character’s condition — that looks like a win all around.

And I think I even have a name. Cenquiztli may not be the world’s most user-friendly set of phonemes, but phonetic friendliness has never been a real priority in this setting. (One of the reasons I doubt I will ever write a novel there. I rarely even bother telling anybody the setting is called Xochitlicacan.)

So my thanks to Aliette, and to all of you who pitched in on the problem. Now I go back to renaming Matzoloa, and trying to figure out where I got vay zodtz from in the first place.

0 Responses to “pronoun update”

  1. mrissa

    My objection to sie/zie/zer as gender-neutral pronouns is less pronounced in print, where it’s clear that they are not she/her. But I’ve heard a lot of people mishearing them in conversation; I just don’t think they work in quick spoken English.

    • Marie Brennan

      I’ve become okay with it as a chosen referent for people who do not, by choice or by chance, fit our standard gender categories. But when it comes to using it as a generalized replacement for non-specific “he,” my objection is that it’s terribly artificial, and unlikely to ever achieve widespread use. I’d rather just use “they,” which people do already.

      And, as you say, they are not always aurally distinct.

      • mrissa

        I have a friend whose partner declines to state gender to the world at large, and to indicate R more briefly than by R’s first name, I use R’s first initial (which is, surprisingly enough by this point in the sentence, R).

        I am greatly interested that some of the people closest to R’s partner use gendered pronouns for R: the woman calls R “she” and the man calls R “he.” I find it fascinating that to both people, R gets classified as “like me” rather than as “not like me.”

  2. desperance

    aliettedb’s fabulous suggestion of “ome,” which is the Nahuatl word for “two.” This is both short and easily pronounceable

    Only if you know how to pronounce it. Does it rhyme with home, or with homey, or with, um, homay? Or none of the above?

    • Marie Brennan

      But none of those options are likely to result in anyone choking on their own tongue. Fantasy readers are constantly deciding how to pronounce character names; so long as the name itself isn’t spelled Bfhaighidh (a genuine Irish Gaelic word, which for the record is pronounced either “wee” or “why” depending on your dialect), nobody flips out too much.

      • desperance

        (a genuine Irish Gaelic word, which for the record is pronounced either “wee” or “why” depending on your dialect)

        Hee. Really? That’s … exceptional. Even for the Irish.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yup. It’s some conjugated form of the verb faigh, though I can’t remember what exactly the prefix and suffix signify. I can explain the pronunciation, though, for anybody who thought I was lying:

          “gh” is sort of a back-of-the-throat sound that generally gets dropped at the ends of words, giving “fai” (rhyming with “sigh”)

          “dh” is pronounced like a y (just go with it), making “faighidh” still sound like “fai”

          “bh” is pronounced like a w (JUST GO WITH IT), and it replaces the sound of the f entirely, resulting in “wai,” rhyming with “why.” (Except in dialects where the original verb was pronouced “fee.” Then it’s “wee.”)

Comments are closed.