Concerning Titles & Pronouns

     Glumfnor. ‘Tis a silly nonsense word, isn’t it? What would you think of someone who demanded that you refer to them by the title of “Glumfnor”? Titles can be a contentious thing. Should someone with an Ed.D be called “Doctor”? Should a former retired Professor without Emeritus status still be referred to as “Professor”?

     A title should reflect reality and have a mutually understandable meaning. Calling someone “Farmer John Smith” indicates a person is a farmer. Calling someone “Br’er John Smith” indicates that person is, or that you consider that person to be, either a “Brother in Christ” or a character from “Song of the South”.

     Similarly, calling someone “Ambassador” ought to indicate that they are an ambassador, present tense. As a sign of respect, one may say “Former Senator” or “Retired General”, but the qualification ought to be the normalized form of address in order to reflect reality. It is not a lifelong title of nobility.

     On the flip side are people who hold a title such as those who hold a doctorate. Certainly in a relevant professional setting, it would be rude to not call them “Doctor”. Outside of a professional setting it would be a courtesy to still call them “Doctor”, though no discourtesy ought to be seen with a perfectly respectable “Mister”, “Misses”, or “Miss”.   This ought to be the same even for physicians.

     That is why the default of “Mister”, “Misses”, or “Miss” are and ought to be a perfectly respectable title of address, with “Misses” or “Miss” being used for females depending on their marital status.

          Ah, but what if marital status isn’t known?

     It can be verbally cumbersome to say “Miss or Misses”, which is why “Ms.” as a marital neutral term came about. In a similar fashion, the use of “they” as a singular pronoun is not new instead of “he or her”, and has been used to indicate ambiguity towards the sex and thus grammatical gender to use.   In both cases the point is to indicate ambiguity where there is actual ambiguity—not to introduce ambiguity where the correct and more definitive term can be used. With both pronouns and titles a simple word is used instead of a more verbally cumbersome combinations of words.

     Your humble author prefers to use “one” instead of “they” when there is ambiguity, e.g. “one’s belief” rather this “his or her belief”, because use of “they” for both singular and plural can be confusing in a sentence.

     But case of both titles and pronouns, ambiguity should not be introduced in a sentence if a more specific title or pronoun can be used with what is known.

     However this verbal or written shorthand has gone from ambiguity where there is ambiguity to intentionally declaring ambiguity where there is none, such as default using “they” as a pronoun. Similarly with titles, we see “Mx.” being used as a gender neutral title more and more.

     Linguistically, as odd as it may sound to native English language speakers, grammatical gender neutral pronouns and titles do not per se indicate that biological sex does not exist as they may be perfectly normal in other languages, or could develop hypothetically in English. However, the increasing usage to indicate lack of grammatical gender is done intentionally by many to indicate a belief in lack of sexual gender.

     This breakdown of meanings breaks down further when one still has grammatically gendered titles and pronouns but allows for them to be applied to anyone or anything based on the subjective choice of the person so referred to. Moreover, the introduction of invented genders and pronouns such as the use of “Xyr” or “Ze” ceases to provide any meaning whatsoever—at least in an objectively understandable way—and turns these pronouns into nothing but nicknames.

     Pronouns like “Xyr” or “Ze” become the equivalent of creating your own title of address like… “Glumfnor”. When someone wants to be addressed as “Glumfnor John Smith”, what are they communicating?

     Absolutely nothing.

     And that’s the intent.

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