A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun. It avoids the redundancy of saying a name over and over, thus preventing Beetlejuice from being summoned or Bloody Mary from ripping out your eyes. Pronouns are a magical thing when used properly. Americans have a tendency to misuse the English language to the disdain of many other cultures. The French language is kept pure by a council of people specifically devoted to whether or not a word is allowed and/or inventing new words to replace commonly used words that have caught on. English is a sloppy melting pot of billions of speakers all over the world and a penchant to add new words as soon as the thought occurs (ie. bootylicious, on fleek, Chrismukkah). It seems we’ve taken our disregard for the purity of the English language one step farther, and have eliminated the necessity of the nouns that the pronouns supposedly replace. We refer to they, and them, without even a thought as to who the people that we are referring to, originally were. It seems that we actually don’t care who ‘they’ are. When asked, a person referring to ‘they, them, or even us’ is often unable to tell you to whom they were referring. It seems that whenever ‘they, them, or us’ are utilized as a subject of a sentence including statistics or information the noun to which we are often are referring is actually ‘rumor’, ‘what I read somewhere’, or ‘shut up! I know it’s true!’
Pronouns are not weapons people! Aligning oneself with a faceless crowd of nondescript people who may or may not exist to prove or disprove a point is a poor use of these little time (and eye) savers. I can’t speak for other cultures, but I know that in mine, we use these vague pronouns the same way I step my foot far out in front of me when a creepy old man gets too close. They are either barriers to protect us from the people we don’t want to relate to; or, like name dropping, a (somewhat) convincing, but non-existent connection to the people who we want to relate to but can’t find.
Keeping us and them bound together in this dysfunctional, fictitious relationship are politicians, pundits, and we the people. Our culture has given itself over to the idea that relation can be manufactured through a purely distanced connection- print and meme replacing word of mouth and personal experience. Our anecdotes are looked at not only as unreliable, but also as being of no true consequence. I once was meme slapped by they. A friend said that I didn’t even know how damaged I was by being spanked because studies (see synonyms of they) said that it is deeply psychologically traumatizing. Discounting a person’s own ability to speak for themselves on the word of unknown psuedo-pronoun is not an anomaly. I’ve heard it chanted again and again. ‘The plural of anecdote isn’t data,’ a friend argued with me. In fact, my dears, it is. The plural of anecdote is data to the CDC who takes calls and reports of side affects as data to determine the effectiveness of drugs and vaccines. The plural of anecdote is data to historians who try to build a replica of the past from stories of those who have seen it.
The degradation of personal ownership and personal responsibility are what we are forfeiting should we choose to fall prey to the easy out that is an empty pronoun. No one is allowed to know something just because they’ve seen it. No one is allowed to challenge you because you’ve only heard it from them; “no,” they say “you must find them and challenge them, not me!” Hundreds of thousands of years of information and experience can be lost in one generation. Perhaps, we don’t know how the ancients built things like Stonehenge because of the encroachment of empty pronouns. “Sh!” the scholars may have insisted, “You cannot tell us how you’ve seen your father, and your father’s father build this extraordinary thing, no. You must have the backing of They. When you find them, let us know and report their findings to us.” Perhaps the ancients searched for decades, dying in the desert or rain-forest, or wood never having found ‘them;’ their knowledge dying with them, the scholars wondering why and how for all eternity.
We (who is this ‘we’ I speak of? You and me, of course!) must fight the use of empty pronouns, I demand it! Their use will drown our knowledge forever in an endless bureaucratic eddy. Save the pronouns-with-nouns-to-back-them-up I say! Save them each and every one! Don’t let the ease of unaccountably drive you to give them up. Hold onto to your empirical proof, and please don’t let the scholars (who are these scholars) and studies (hm, that one again) replace your voice of reason and experience. Do we really want our whole world made up of male gynecologists and bicycling mechanics? People who have learned how to do and teach but have no personal experience of either? Do we want a world full of I’ll-take-you-at-your- worders, I’ve-majored-in-carpentry-can’t-build-a-thing-but-can-tell-you-how people? I don’t know about you, but I favor a world full of do-ers, apprentices. I want to live in a world where the scholars are the people who have done and seen. People who, for centuries, have been passing down knowledge and know-how. There’s a reason that crops tastes better by hereditary farmers. Seed is cultivated, kept, stored, treasured, and replanted. Every variation in it’s genetics unreplaceably unique. Store bought seeds won’t grow as well, won’t have the depth of flavor. I don’t want a store bought knowledge base. I want to know where it comes from.
*I’m sure male gynecologists and bicycling mechanics do their jobs quite competently. It’s my personal preference, however, to take both my vagina and my car to someone who has driven one of their own. 😉