48 Comments

Blessings to you Heather my neighbor on this rock! I tried to explain this EXACT discussion with an interviewee and it (because I am still not sure what it was) told me I was transphobic-I was stunned! I am a biologist/farmer/rancher/artist and an endangered specimen-a 67 year old white woman! No one seems to remember that we-single white women- had no rights up until the mid-70's... and then it took years! Where is this all going?-worse, the mess it will make before it ends up there! Keep it up-you are a treasure! Keep the language real-maybe I'll make bumper stickers.... right next to "my cows are vegan!"

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Caught myself laughing out loud reading this. I am a unreconstructed "grammar Nazi" and have been known to take issue with how ideas are expressed before taking issue with the ideas, if ever. I can't get over the suspicion that this whole "pronoun controversy" is to confuse the issue rather than clarify it. The "trans mania" that western societies are going through is a completely self-inflicted problem. Allow men who get sexual arousal from dressing as women to demand that we treat them like women and see if their numbers don't explode. Take troubled and insecure young women and tell them that the route to acceptance and celebration is to mutilate their bodies and see if THEIR numbers don't explode. "Divide and conquer" comes from Machiaveli. "Diversity is strength" comes from his spiritual heirs. It is still a means of control.

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"I am a person of surprise" 😆😆 your literary use of satire is excellent.

Also, "Maintaining uncertainty is a hallmark of wisdom." This. So much this. We are seeing less and less of this kind of humility to rapidly changing culture and it's so sad. As an evolutionary biologist, why do you think our ever- growing ego's haven't found the psychological balance that's conducive to being more beneficial? As a layman I'd say because we haven't encountered the full breadth of what makes the unfavorable go by the wayside.. Yet. Yikes.

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Dear Heather,

Thank you always for your thoughtful writing! I am always edified by your words and grateful for your perspectives. I’d like to propose that adjective order has something to do with permanence vs. impermanence, where more permanent descriptors are set closer to the noun in question. For example, antique velvet couch - the couch was always velvet (presumably) but at one point it was a new velvet couch. It’s age is ever-changing, while it’s material makeup is constant. I think this applies for all examples. If someone has a better explanation I’ll happily concede! Thanks again for all you do!

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As an expat British Columbian, I’m pretty embarrassed at the state of my homeland.

“Using person-first language helps to not define people by just one of their characteristics” is a weird statement to make, considering the majority of the groups behind language-policing tend to put the most emphasis on characteristics such as race and gender identity as literally the most interesting thing about them.

And Considering it sounds like a lot of this language revolves around the gender movement, I’m curious what they feel we should say in lieu of “transgender people/community”?

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Great piece Heather! And I noticed Robert Malone MD has shared it with his Substack audience. Both of these things make me a person of gratefulness. 😉 #defundthelanguagepolice #wordsaladgonemad

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I think you are missing something by focusing on a snapshot in time. This control of language is a power play. The progresses find something presently normalized and decide that by planting the victimhood flag, and forwarding a new label. They imply that our less than eager embrace of this new labels means we are bad, and thus they are good. They get to claim a moral advantage even if nothing actually positive was accomplished.

This is just a different flavor of the "made you look" game.

Don't worry though as soon as we toss out garbage man and get comfortable with sanitation engineer, the next human rights activist will again claim a dubious moral high ground by changing the label again.

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This is a nitpick but

> Pronouns are about sex, not gender.

Isn't quite right. I get what you mean; if gender is the hardware and gender is the software, then pronouns are not about the software. But they aren't really about the hardware either. Language has it's own rules, correlated to but not determined by the realities it models.

"Gender" in the old school sense is a grammatical concept, and it is *exactly* what pronouns are about. In English, grammatical and "natural" gender match pretty strongly. Yet even in English, ships can be "she". But my favourite example is that JK Rowling is a "she" while Robert Galbraith is a "he" -- even though they are the same person.

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Welp. You just got a new paid subscriber.

“new modernizing legislation to correct outdated language by amending more than 2,300 instances of outdated gendered and binary terms from 21 ministries across 210 provincial statutes.”

Let me say it plain: Fuck. That.

Scary scary scary.

Relevant: https://michaelmohr.substack.com/p/george-orwells-politics-and-the-english

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We Germans of stupidity are topping it off. On educational pages for kids provided by public broadcasting services (e.g.: https://www.kindernetz.de/wissen/rosa-parks-102.html) we learn about "Schwarze Menschen of Color" (i.e., "black people of color"; nobody dares to translate "of color"). Yes, we always capitalize nouns (Menschen/People) but the capitalization of adjectives is pure virtue signalling, and gramatically wrong. To emphasize the contrast, whites ("weiße") are not capitalized (again, grammatically wrong, because this is an adjective promoted to noun) but italicized.

Note also the "Schwarze Taxifahrer of Color" (Black taxi drivers of Color).

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Stanford wisely avoided tackling the dreaded dangling preposition.

That is something for which we should all be grateful.

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Love your takes Heather, keep speaking up!

I wanted to comment on certainty, but start by saying I’m not sure I see the jump from language policing to preventing uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a tool of control as much as certainty. I see certainty in your statements (sex is a biological fact) as you resist nonsense. And I see uncertainty being cultivated in non-experts to push them away from the table and suppress their voices.

Certainty is a mindset, a tool, that can be applied intentionally and cautiously. And like all tools it can be misused or weaponized. Certainty coexists with skepticism, given new information reevaluating our certainties is important. Perhaps this makes them not certainties, but denying people certainty is denying them a critical tool of self identity and meaning making.

Like a balloon, when inflated too large certainty becomes be brittle by its own assumptions. Have them be small and discreet, replace them when the world shifts and they are no longer facts, but let the rest float on. Where do you come from? Who is your family? What do you love? On such answers we hang our lives and with luck rise above the confusion and the fray.

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When I was teaching English as a second language, the guide for adjective order was the general to the specific. 'The big, red, council bus.' There are fewer options for size than colour, then fewer option for colour than ownership of the bus. As with most aspects of English grammar, this is a guide rather than a prescriptive rule.

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These claims of moral superiority have gone so far over the top that one wonders whether people are being paid to create this nonsense, by those who have some political interest in sowing the seeds of confusion. Paid obfuscators, I would call them. The worst thing is that all of the sanctimonious creators of right-speak are just showing their own counter phobic predilections toward their own prejudicial feelings. The pot is again calling the quiet kettle black. Methinks the lady doth protest too much, or whatever the heck the lady calls herself. The next time the right-thinkers speak out, they should be asked to preach into a mirror.

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Wow, WALS online has 2662 language entries. Maybe we need to learn the ones we have before fabricating anything new?

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Governments can neither grant nor take away human rights. It can violate, it can respect, it can pretend to be the source of those rights, or it can deny they exist. Human rights are not contractual.

Sorry to the readers for being off-topic. My point was simply a mockery of the contra-adjective proposition.

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