Gender-free Pronounds (was Re: Libertarian Economics)

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 16:15:12 -0700

Lee Daniel Crocker writes:
> Just an aside, I've always liked this particular set of gender-
> neutral pronouns (which is why I chose to use them for the
> Oceania Constitution rather than the awkward ones Eric proposed),
> but are they well-enough established here to use them without
> explanation? If not, could ExI or the list admins perhaps put
> some specific mention of them in the mail list description for
> newcomers, along with other commonly-used terms here that might
> require explanation?

(...referring to my habit of occasionally using "ey", "em",
"eir", "eirs", and "eirself" as a gender-free pronoun set.)

The most thorough document I've seen dealing with this question
is the Gender-free Pronoun FAQ currently at

Personally I shy away trying to designate an "official" usage
for any group. I use this set from time to time (not
consistently) when I think I can get away with it. I'm aware,
especially on an international mailing list such as this one
where not all readers are native speakers of English, that I'm
risking being misunderstood, but I'm willing to take the risk.

If this usage is ever going to be established as a standard,
then eventually people are going to have to take the step of
using them without explanation. I don't want to go around
beating people over the head with my personal taste in
gender-free pronouns, so I try to do it only occasionally.

I like this usage because I've noted that using "they", "them"
etc. as a gender-free singular pronoun is well established in
English literature (notable citations being available in the
novels of Jane Austen), but I like to be clear about when I'm
being explicitly singular or explicitly plural. The "ey", "em"
GFP set is directly derived from the established GFP "they",
"them", but is rendered explicitly singular by dropping the
initial "th" from each word.

I'm sensitive to those who worship custom and tradition in linguistic
usage, so I'm not directly encouraging anyone else to use these
GFPs in their writing, rather I'm just trying to get away with
dropping them into my own writing from time to time.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd