Random Thoughts For The Week

June 30th, 2012 by Potato

Let’s start with the nazis: grammar and food.

For the grammar issue of the week, I bring you singular they: do you think it’s wrong to say something like “A consumer of 2012 expects their laptops to be lighter and more powerful than ever?” Or do you think the “they” referring to a single consumer is the wrong pronoun, and “him/her” should be used instead?

I’ve long been fine with the singular they: tradition was to use “him” in such cases, even where the gender was indeterminate. When that became politically incorrect, “they” seemed to be an appropriate alternative: it has some parallels in the disuse of thee/thou in favour of the singular ye/you (which then just became “you”). Many writers started to use it, and I hear it all the time in casual speech. It’s certainly a damned sight cleaner than putting in the awkward “his/her” or “his or her” compound everywhere.

One alternative I don’t care for is the idea that it’s somehow more correct to use “her” in place of “him” for a gender-uncertain third person pronoun. “A student has many books to buy at university, straining her budget.” The use of “him” in that kind of sentence has been traditional and common for so long that seeing “her” in its place makes me think that the writer must somehow know the gender — it’s not serving as an effective gender-unknown pronoun. I personally find that much more distracting than the singular they.

Like all things in life, there does need to be balance: we can’t have everyone making up their own dialect and rules, but “thou/thee” has long since slipped from common usage to anachronistic, and we’ve had to recognize that evolution. Similarly for now, writing “u” in place of you, or using numerals for homophones “to” and “for” is a disgusting mark of poor upbringing and laziness — a hopefully temporary artifact of T9 phones that will forever be forgotten with the rise of QWERTY smartphones. But I do have to accept that one day in the distant future — long after I’m dead — such usage may be commonplace. (And for all my acceptance of linguistic evolution, I will still spin in my grave if it happens.) The role of the grammar nazi is to try to keep that sort of thing from getting a foothold in the first place, not to deny the common usage long after it’s happened.

On to food/grammar nazi-hybrids: if you make a dish in a non-traditional way, does it cease to be that dish? I don’t think so: language evolves, as do tastes, yet again today I heard the old saying that “chili isn’t chili if it has beans.” Well, traditional Texican chili maybe, but I think it’s more common with than without these days, and it’s not like a totally different food either way. Or like a few years ago, when a friend of Italian descent tried to tell me that there’s no such thing as “vegetarian lasagna”, because lasagna by definition has meat in it. Well, fine, think that all you want, but my vegetarian lasagna (or as I call it, “lasagna”) is pretty damned tasty, and there isn’t any confusion over what it is I’m slopping on my guests’ dinner plates (or they’re able to surmount the seeming oxymoron). [Plus as an aside, my understanding is that the word refers to the noodle, not the dish.]

I made cinnamon rolls today — kick-ass ones, I might add — and someone asked if I put raisins in them. No, as a matter of fact, I did not, nor would I ever. Raisins are gross, and I think putting raisins in your cinnamon rolls represents a serious lapse in judgement… but they do not cease to be cinnamon rolls by the addition of the raisins and their dark influence.

Blueberry has been getting big so quickly. I’m finding that she’s already getting heavy and tough to carry around: though to be fair I had a lot of years of training with an 8-lbs cat, so when she was ~8 lbs I was well inside my comfort zone; now she’s pushing me into the feats of strength zone.

It’s amazing how fickle she is: perfectly content to screaming banshee in a second flat. And just as often, back again. I know that movement helps to settle her, so I hold her and walk, or do a little baby rain dance. I got tired today after just a few minutes of the baby rain dance, and it made me wonder if I had missed striking the right balance in terms of when to have kids: too young, and well, you’re too young: not ready, not able to handle them. Too old, and you can’t keep up.

Then she started crying again, and I lost that train of thought. I plodded on, doing laps of the house.

Singing turned to pleading. Pleading to soft moaning. “Pleeaaasseee. Hushushushushshhhhh.” Then I thought perhaps this is how the zombie apocalypse would feel: zombies shuffling across the face of the earth without end, moaning while being gummed by a smaller, unhappy zombie.

7 Responses to “Random Thoughts For The Week”

  1. JP Says:

    I think this article should be mandatory reading for elementary schoolers… and perhaps Highschoolers now.

    Oh! … and I agree with the whole raisin thing! Gross!

  2. Netbug Says:

    I agree with JP on the mandatory reading.

    I do not agree with either of you on raisins; raisins are awesome.

    And I don’t agree with the age thing… come on… you’re just past 30… perhaps… maybe… the gym? *ducks*

  3. JP Says:

    Hmmmm… I gotta stick to my guns on the raisins, but Netbug’s right with the age thing. If 60 is the new 40 (as I’ve heard so many times), where does that put you/us? Sorry Potato, we’ve got a few years yet before we can start using that as an excuse.
    Check all other variables first. ;)

  4. Potato Says:

    Age ain’t nothing but a number.

    Telomere shortening and artery clogging are the true signs of age :)

  5. JP Says:

    Lifestyle can help with the later. As for the former…
    They’re working on it…

  6. Netbug Says:

    Bah. That article is 14 years old! They should have us living to 600 by now.

  7. JP Says:

    Sorry, my bad…