Rod Liddle

Here's my rule: If the word 'he' will offend, then always use it

They want a gender-neutral pronoun? What the hell’s wrong with them?

7 February 2015

9:00 AM

7 February 2015

9:00 AM

Isn’t it about time the English language got itself a gender-neutral pronoun? This was the clarion call from the Guardian last week — and when that particular clarion sounds, we must all stand to attention and cut out the sniggering. I assume the writer of the piece was moved to action having seen photographs of members of Isis pushing gay people from the tops of large buildings — and was deeply worried that each of the victims, tumbling to their deaths, might have been unhappy about being referred to as ‘he’ by wilfully unprogressive western journalists.

(Incidentally, with regard to these new acts of Islamist savagery, have you heard any complaints from the liberal left and the gay lobby — demands that something must be done, petitions, demonstrations, letters to the Times etc? Nope, me neither. The remarkable thing is that this viciousness from the dark ages has attracted no remarks at all from the bien-pensants. And yet tell them you’re thinking of going skiing in Sochi and they’ll be roused into a terrible fury, stamping their feet and gnashing their teeth, and Stephen Fry will come round to your house and cry in front of you, while gently stroking the floppy hair of his toyboy husband in a melancholic but consoling manner, and begging you, begging you, to go to Courcheval instead. But, hell, I digress.)

The gender-neutral pronoun is needed, we are told, for two reasons. First there are those among us, apparently, who do not consider themselves ‘he’ or ‘she’. As the Guardian writer put it: ‘There are people who self-define as neither, as gender-non-binary. To those who see gender as a construct, this makes perfect sense. But the English language fails to reflect it.’ Let me tell you, I have met people who say they see gender as the oppressive construct of a misogyn-istic society, and I have never got on with them terribly well. My fault, beyond doubt.

But there is the other more obvious and less politically loaded problem. Imagine for a moment that you are an Ofsted inspector, on site in the classroom of a school in Sunderland, and you wish to address the under-ten pupils directly. ‘If there is anyone in this form who feels trapped in their own bodies, or does not understand what lesbians do to one another once the lights have gone out, could he or she come and see me for tuition at the end of the lesson.’ That might be the grammatically correct form — he or she — but it is also cumbersome and ungainly. Whereas ‘they’ might be briefer, but grammatically dubious. So what to do?

As long ago as the late 1800s, grammarians with too much time on their hands grappled with this. Suggestions for a gender-neutral collective pronoun back then included thon, hiser, ip and le. None of them seem to have caught on — perhaps because only people who are certifiably insane considered that the English language required this sort of help or complication. The rest of us just muddled along. Language is dynamic and changing endlessly; if users felt that the lack of a gender-free pronoun was vital, then one would have been created — but quite the reverse. Over the years we have simplified our language instead of making it messier, and got rid of stuff like ‘thine’ and ‘thy’ and ‘thou’, which puts us ahead of the Germans. For my own part, I follow an inviolable grammatical rule whenever the absent gender-neutral collective noun is required. If the use of the word ‘he’, as opposed to the cumbersome ‘he/she’, will definitely offend the people to whom I’m speaking, then I always use it. As in: ‘If any member of the Guardian editorial board is in urgent need of locally sourced hummus, or goji berries, then he will find both comestibles in the fridge.’ On all other occasions I do what everybody else does and use ‘they’. The grammatical argument against ‘they’ seems to me utterly pointless. In the context in which it is being used, it does not imply a plurality. It implies a plurality of people only if you have spent too long indoors, terrified that the very language we speak is oppressing you. The rules concerning ‘they’ and ‘their’ are not inviolable, nor do they matter. You will not get your head chopped off or be flung from a tall building for using either in what some pedant might consider an inappropriate manner. No confusion will result in the supposedly inappropriate use of ‘they’ or ‘their’ — and that’s the point of language rules, isn’t it? To avoid confusion.

There are plenty of these so-called rules which should be ignored. And starting a sentence with a conjunction is but another one of them. And don’t get me started on split infinitives; I’ll boldly go whenever the hell I want, thank you.

However, the Guardian hacks are not alone. Northern Europeans, for similar political reasons, have been desperately trying — see what I did there? — to find themselves a gender-neutral pronoun for the past couple of decades. The Swedes particularly, but also the Germans. This cultural imperative has run in tandem with an exciting move to outlaw urinals. It is odious to these former steadfast members of the Hanseatic league that men are not required to sit down to urinate, but can instead do so very quickly, standing up. It posits an appalling inequality between the sexes, one which can be overcome only by making men take longer over their micturition, so that women — standing in a queue and looking baleful — are not transgressed.

So we abolish urinals and we do what some of the Swedish progressives wish us to do and make language entirely gender-free — and then everything will be OK, won’t it? We’ll all be the same! Such a magnificent first world delusion.

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Show comments
  • Pacificweather

    Yes Rod. Isis have just been waiting for that liberal letter to the times to change their ways. Your column had them rolling in the aisles.

    • alabenn

      Would Hack hacks head off, be an appropriate gender neutral statement.

    • Solage 1386

      I call everybody, whether male or female, kunts. You cannot get more gender-neutral than this. A group of kunts I call a “bunch” of kunts. I am a kunt, you are a kunt, Hot Rod is a kunt, we are all kunts! Let us celebrate our kuntishness! You know it makes sense, you kunts!

  • rtj1211

    Why don’t you just call blokes a ‘prick’ and women a ‘c**t’ if you can’t stand them.

    Pretty obvious that you couldn’t reverse the insults across the sexes isn’t i??

    • FrankS2

      Which should we use for you?

      (Mind you, both your suggestions are often used for blokes.)

    • The_Common_Potato

      A wonderful, and gender-neutral, insult I read in a DM comment today: “pube”.

  • alabenn

    If you are coming into contact with these types people on a regular basis, don’t you think it is time, you stopped in more.

  • great heading.

  • wudyermucuss

    You forgot to mention Saint Cumberbatch supporting the quivering Fry,whilst simultaneously lashing himself in pennance for his vile,racist,bigotted use of the word coloured.

    I do sometimes,when in the mood,drop words like “personhole cover”,”darkboard”,”ginger bread person” into the conversation if my fellow conversee is a rad pc fundie,while maintaining constant eye contact,and an inscrutable face.I have yet to witness even a flicker of irony in their glazed eyes.

    • FrankS2

      Ginger bread person – is that some kind of queer-cake?

    • UnionJihack

      You’re right – calling someone a cracker is always good fun. Not a flickr of irony in eyes of the urbanised poor, it cracks me up.

    • Kennie

      Just tell them (him/her/it) that you heard it from the Harriet Harperson creature.

    • MenControlTheMedia

      No, it’s a Gingerbread Man, like Green Man, cave man, Snow Man, Every man, man in the street, mankind, man, man, man. The problem isn’t the name, it’s the fact that in our culture, man is the default human being and woman is a derivation or deviation from it.

      • wudyermucuss

        It’s mother nature I blame.

      • andylowings

        No. It simply is not connected to “men” at all.. It derives from misunderstanding of the neuter “man” as in “mankind” or to include another one “the brotherhood of man”. Germans will know this well.

  • Dale

    This is ludicrous. Implying that wanting a word to describe a person without assuming it’s a man (or a woman) makes you an ISIS apologist? When I’m told “the nurse will see you now?”, I’d like a word to use that doesn’t assume it’s a woman so I can ask something like, “ok, where is he or she?”, without trying to verbalise an “or”. What does this have to do with Putin’s oppressions of gays?
    This “I’m just saying what we’re all thinking and I’ll offend who I like” facade for misogyny and racism is wearing thin.

    • Kevin T

      Not as thin as the “misogyny and racism” facade for cultural Marxism.

    • FrankS2

      If you’d like such a word, why are you waiting for it to be prescribed? Who do you think should invent it?
      Of course, you could just say “they” like (almost) everyone else.

      • Solage 1386

        How about “It”? It is a nurse. It approaches. It is applying a bandage. It is shoving a thermometer (I’ve just wasted six minutes of my life searching for this word in my dictionary, unsure as I was as to its correct spelling, and not wishing to make a fool of myself…..I was going to spell it as follows: “Themomitor!” Lawks!) up my quivering ass! “IT”. I like IT! IT it is from now on, for me at least……

    • Dunstan

      Try to be at least a bit sensible and say “What room is the Nurse in”? Not hard is it and you will have avoided projecting a “facade of misogyny” (Christ!!)

    • IvanDmitrich

      “Where is she?” “Oh, he is just in the next room on the left.” “Okay, thanks.”

      Horrifying. Simply horrifying. We definitely need a new word to tear us from the lap of this kind of terror. Definitely.

      • Owi Wowi

        “It’s a him actually !! you are worse than hitler !!”

      • Solage 1386

        I always refer to males as “she”. For example: “Ooh! Look at her! The old Trollope! We all know where she’s been! My dear, she is too too horrendous and utterly utterly past her prime…..that is, if she ever had a prime, poor thing!” I don’t know why I do this, but I do.

    • Owi Wowi

      “ok, where are they?”

  • Kevin T

    All left wingers are raving nutters and should be chased through the streets, Benny Hill-like by men in white coats wielding a big net. Thankfully the country is waking up to this, hopefully soon enough to prevent the next Rotherham.

    • global city

      Do you really think so? There are literally tens of millions intending to vote ‘liblabcon’.

      • Kevin T

        Barely twenty million are likely to turn out for them so I’m not sure that qualifies as literally tens of millions. The least amount of people ever will vote LibLabCon and UKIP should end up with a tidy number of MPs. It’s a slow process but we’re turning the corner.

        • global city

          I hope that you’re right!

    • JEK68

      My hunch is that the ‘next Rotherham’ has already happened but has not been reported on yet. Bradford, Luton, Birmingham, East London, Blackburn would be safe bets unfortunately.

      • Richard

        North East. See the Newcastle Evening Chronicle or Twitter #Operation Sanctuary.
        I live in East London and I have never heard of this type of thing going on here…so far.

        • JEK68

          I know that people keep saying they aren’t supposed to exist, but are there areas of East London that are commonly known ‘no-go’ areas for non-Muslims or non-white English people?

          • Kennie

            They claimed not to have these areas in France as well, but this week the French govt has publicly discussed the need to do something about them.

          • Richard

            To be honest i have never come a cross ‘no-go’ area in East London. There a quiet a few places I don’t want to go, Canning Town is bloody depressing despite modernisation. I though the idea Muslim anti-alcohol patrols going around Shoredirtch a few years ago was very funny. There must be fifty new bars in the Hoxton/Dalston/Brick Lane area.


          • JEK68

            Good to know, most places have 50 fewer bars these days.

      • Teacher

        Leicester, for sure.

      • MenControlTheMedia

        Westminster, Shepherd’s Bush.

    • Solage 1386

      Too late. Halifax.

  • Herman_U_Tick

    In the 1990s the company I worked for paid good money
    to send employees on an externally provided PC course.

    The advice given was that one should avoid gendered terms
    such as “hostess”,”manageress” and “headmistress” which
    draw attention to gender in a context where (supposedly) it
    is irrelevant.

    However “actress” was OK because in this case gender is
    a legitimate factor.

    Reasonable guidance it seemed to me then, and since.

    So it’s annoying to hear the BBC sedulously calling
    female members of the acting profession “actors”
    no doubt considering itself at the leading edge
    of progress in doing so.

    • Kennie

      Instead of “actors” or “actresses”, why not just “Pretenders”. That covers all three does it not?

      • Neil Saunders

        If we’re going to refer to actresses as “actors” perhaps we should refer to women as “men of gender”.

  • laurence

    Rod, your second paragraph above should be printed off and nailed to the door of The Guardian’s interactive, non-discriminatory, gender and carbon neutral, flax seed woven, Halal office hub-space. Or George Galloway’s forehead.

    • George Galloway’s forehead is made of cork board. A nail would just go right through it. How about a thumb tack?

  • ohforheavensake


    My rule is, that whenever the sentence suggests that the speaker is a boorish, disappointed middle-aged man, I use the word Rod. Seems to work.

    • Solage 1386

      There is no such thing as a disappointed middle-aged man.

      • MenControlTheMedia

        I think when Rod was a little girl she thought she’d be an Editor not a guest troll blogger.

  • FrankS2

    What is sorely lacking is a gender-specific third person plural – why must the sex of, say, a red-blooded rugby XV be cast in doubt by the wishy-washy “they”? Agreed, they put up with it manfully – as do the ladies of your average sewing circle – but how they must wish for a pronoun that didn’t leave the listener wondering it they were all men (or women, of course). The French have words for it (or them!). Why can’t we?
    By the way, if you’re going to boldly brag about splitting infinitives, man up and actually do it!

  • aurila

    as there is no difference between what used to be known as humans, animals, or Lego bricks

    why is the Spectator not campaigning for the first marriage between:

    a human,
    an animal
    a Lego brick


    • TimeandtheRani

      Nobody mentioned animals or lego bricks.

    • Solage 1386

      What would you call two Lego bricks screwing one-another? A Legover. Lego, lego, please! I don’t want to! Lego is an anagram of “ogle”. Time for bed.

  • Robusticus

    ‘However, the Guardian hacks are not alone. Northern Europeans, for similar political reasons, have been desperately trying — see what I did there?’

    I take it the gag here is that the phrase ‘have been desperately trying’
    contains the dreaded split infinitive. Sorry to be pedantic but It doesn’t.

    • FrankS2

      Right – any grumpy old sub would have put Rod right about that. I assume that the Speccie has decided to unwisely get rid of them.

      • little islander

        Rod could have written ‘have been trying to desperately find’ and the sub didn’t get his gag so corrected him. Likewise. ‘unwisely’ should closely track the verb ‘decided’. Splitting hair is easier than splitting infinitives.

        • FrankS2

          Well that’s not a proper grumpy old sub, then. And I’ll decide what’s done unwisely!

    • Solage 1386

      Pedants always pedantically apologise for their pedantic pedantry. Why?

  • SimonToo

    The difficulty is that whilst the inconvenient lack of a singular third person common pronoun has been regularly noted over the centuries, the overwhelming trend in the English language is to dispense with pronouns, not to add to them.

    As to those objecting to the use of “they” for a common singular pronoun, they seem not to insist on restoring “thou” for a singular “you”.

    • FrankS2

      The trouble is, “they” is historically associated with either male or female – and therefore excludes people who self-identify as one of the dozens of imaginary genders that are neither.
      At this point I should probably say “check your privilege”.

      • I have a feeling that last phrase is going to join Rod’s list — to be updated annually? — of obnoxious cant. It’s never too early to make your recommendations for the shortlist!

  • Dodgy Geezer

    I am glad to see that Mr Liddle has decided to follow a rule that I have been complying with since the 1970s…

  • Jason

    I have a nasty feeling Rod thinks that “have been desperately trying” is a split infinitive!

  • somberjellyfish

    I think a gender neutral pronoun would be a good thing if it caught on. I don’t think there’s anything particularly “politically correct” about the thought that it might be a good thing if it became progressively less important what particular reproductive organs people have (apart from in a few obvious circumstances – i.e. when these organs are “in use”). Perhaps if language didn’t constantly foreground sex/gender then that might help?

    Then again, spoken Mandarin has only one pronoun for “he/she/it”. This isn’t, to my knowledge, a result of any sort of linguistic engineering – grammatical gender is a feature of indo-European languages, but is not present in all language families. I’m not sure whether it’s made any difference to gender equality though.

  • ian channing

    Update, Rod: The Swedes have actually gone ahead and done this. They have invented a gender-neutral pronoun, ‘hen,’ and it is used in right-on magazines, though not, I think, by many others and certainly not commonly in the spoken language (native Swedes, that’s right, isn’t it?). To get boringly linguistic about it, ‘hen’ is not such an absurdity in Swedish, as the words for he and she are ‘han’ and ‘hon,’ so ‘hen’ fits fairly comfortably in the middle. Googling ‘hen’ in Swedish phrases reveals limited use and a fair amount of scepticism about the word itself. I suppose it could catch on one day in Sweden, but this will never work in Britain. Nobody here is going to allow PC zealots to dictate their everyday speech.
    But the unisex bogs are fine; the Swedes are right on this one.

    • I’m not using a bog where some ghastly man or men have peed all over the floor! Just think about this, the next time someone in the royal family complains or someone complains on their behalf: They never have to use a loo that hasn’t been fragranced for their personal attention. They widdle in luxury. They never have to queue. And the women never have to hover in the ludicrous fashion that the rest of us do.

      • Solage 1386

        Queens crouch, serene, regal and poised, on the seat, surveying their extensive realm. A Royal Flush.

    • Hens lay eggs.

      • Solage 1386

        Hens don’t have willies. They are female eunuchs!

    • Solage 1386

      For every “hen” there must be a “cock”. Cluck cluck cluck. We are back to square one. Cock-a-doodle-doo and cock-a-doodle-don’t. The outcome is the same.

    • Grace Ironwood

      It won’t have time to catch on in Sweden.
      The sharia is silent on the matter.

    • MenControlTheMedia

      Good on them. Entirely sensible unlike our own archaic convention.

  • Ambientereal

    I don´t know why is this comment still “PENDING” (When I was a child, even very old unmarried women insisted in being called Miss. If the different preferences in sexual intercourse should generate a different pronoun, then so should the preferences in food, clothing and so one. Fortunately, the English language has a neutral article, while German has 12. As the author propose, the word “it” should be sufficient and the person should be tolerant enough as to not feel offended when being treated as a thing.)

    • Solage 1386

      I insist on being called “Miss”, and enjoy being treated as a Thing! Strangely, my nick-name amongst my intimates is “Miss Thing!” Your PATENT is PATENTLY PENDING! Time for another pink gin! Cheers!

  • Kaschner

    The old grammar rule was quite simple; ‘the masculine embraces the feminine’. In many languages the masculine pronoun does not necessarily denote sex (or gender). The French Monsieur le professeur doesn’t seem to upset too many people. It’s only the permanently outraged and grammatically suspect Yank women who obsessively seek out offence where none exists. Their English disciples have caught the disease, but that’s their problem. Just ignore it, Rod. Or, better still, carry on poking fun. It will drive them mad.

    • They do not need to be driven mad.

    • Solage 1386

      Shove a Rod up yer old grammar and give her a poke! How can you ignore a Rampant Rod? The masculine embraces the feminine but who’s on top? A Hot Rod? The suspect Yanks? Eh? Ban this filth!

      • bionde

        These PC types must have great fun with DIY shops when they are looking for male and female parts!

    • Neil Saunders

      Languages with grammatical gender across the board go much further. I can remember one of the French masters at my old school explaining that if you had a group of ten million grown women, the introduction of a single infant male would – strictly speaking – change the pronoun from “elles” to “ils”.

      • MenControlTheMedia

        Doesn’t even have to be a human male, it could be a male dog.

        In Polish, the feminine is used for groups or women and children, the masculine for groups that include an adult male. That goes for pronouns, adjectives, nouns.

        I really don’t get how men can complain about political correctness after inventing such a highly politicised convention as that.

        • Neil Saunders

          But was it “invented” at all, whether by men (as you assert), women or both?

    • MenControlTheMedia

      Pretty offensive though isn’t it.

      Of course male words denote gender. They just do it subconsciously. Let’s make it conscious for you: “mankind breastfeeds his young”.

      The effect of all this masculinisation of the language is that it masculinises our thoughts and then our behaviour. Man becomes the default, the norm, the right, the weighty. Woman becomes the deviant, the abnormal, the supplementary.

      I can’t imagine too many Spectator readers would appreciate being included in women, womankind, she, her, dear madam, etc. They’ll say they don’t mind of course, but after a few weeks of it they’d be whining about feminism. Look how much they moan at the prospect of having to include the female, can you imagine the noise and fuss if they have to submit to it?

      • I have to say that I have never appreciated being called ‘Mrs [His name] [His surname]’. I took his surname mainly because I thought it would prevent problems, but I retain my own first name and I am no more ‘Mrs Robert Pantry’ than he is ‘Mr Jennifer Pantry’ (not our real names, of course).

      • Neil Saunders

        “Mankind breastfeeds his young” makes no bloody sense, which is why it jars so badly. It’s a sentence that nobody would ever use in ordinary conversation or writing.

        The word “man” in mankind, by the way, refers to adult human beings indifferently, and not merely to adult males (this was the usual sense of the word in Anglo-Saxon times).

  • Kaschner

    I meant to put Madame le professeur. Apologies

  • ‘There are people who self-define as neither…’
    There are people that self-define as werewolves of London, but what’s that got to do with anything?

    • Solage 1386

      I have decided to dye my beard sky-blue. Howl! I self-define as Either/or. Kierkegaard would approve. Howl!

  • There are plenty of these so-called rules which should be ignored. And starting a sentence with a conjunction is but another one of them. And don’t get me started on split infinitives; I’ll boldly go whenever the hell I want, thank you.

    Love it! And the original Star Trek words are even racier, language-wise: Man it gets me all fired up to hear darling young William Shatner declaring that his mission and their mission and the whole dang mission is ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before!’ Dah-NAHHHH, nah nah nah nah nah nahhhhh….. [swoon]

    P. S. Rod, my friend, women don’t sit down to wee in very public toilets. You’ve been married twice and yet you do not know this? The real delay is in having to file into a cubicle, bolt the door, prop one’s coat/sunglasses/bag/water bottle somewhere, extract the requisite paper (which may be recalcitrant), get half-undressed, and then hover gingerlily so as not to splash and not to make contact with the seat. (I hate to be so graphic as it does nothing for the glamour of my s-cks, but these are facts of life you ought to know.) Then we have to figure out how this particular loo flushes. (Hmm, there’s a funny little black button and another knob over here. Does pushing this do it? Nope.) Those of us that refuse to touch any public loo with their bare hands have to push or pull the flusher with a beautifully shod foot. (It helps if you can high-kick.) Then we have to (if we’re not careless pigs) take care of any inadvertent splashes. Then we have to gather our bits. This is why it takes so dang long. This is why, when it comes to bladder matters, I really do have a case of p-n-s envy.

    • Solage 1386

      This is highly illogical. Beam me up!

    • gerontius redux

      ” You’ve been married twice and yet you do not know this?”

      Look, I’m as kinky as hell, but I’ve never thought to watch.
      Dunno about Rodders

    • MenControlTheMedia

      Plus after you’ve waited half an hour to get in you want to get your money’s worth.

      • Ha! I try to be as quick as possible. I never use hand-dryers, either. I wonder whether the geniuses that promote them as being more hygienic than paper towels have ever considered that they are contributing mightily to the public’s increasing deafness: I’ve never met a hand-dryer that doesn’t sound like a jet engine.

  • Geoff

    goji berries are delicate and best left out of the fridge.

    • Actually they’re best had in milk chocolate. Not so mouth-puckering that way.

  • One finds oneself unable not to see the solution here. The advantages of always using “one” instead of the awfully personal first person singular have been explored and verified by generations of upper-class neurotics with a dreadful fear of being seen to be what nature made them. The governesses of feminism insist on similar neuroses for everyone.

    Might one suggest a new conjugation:

    I am
    you are (sg)
    he / she/ it is
    we are
    you are (pl)
    they are

    one is
    other-one is
    third-one is
    ones are
    other-ones are
    third-ones are

    Much more elegant and less fraught with nature, isn’t it?

    • Solage 1386

      One cringes and one’s toes curl with embarrassment. That one should refer to oneself as one is more than one can bear. One is reduced to tears by the lunatic complexities of one’s native tongue. One is inebriated. One reaches for another can of Special Brew. One hesitates……one gulps! One is sated. One smiles. One is at One with the World Once more! It is just occurred to one that “once” should be spelt “wunce!” One is drunk.

  • Owi Wowi

    A friend who visited South Africa told me that they like gender-neutral terms for jobs such as Waiters or Wairesses = Waitrons.

    A simpler method than creating a gender neutral pronoun would be to create new terms for the gender neutral people : ‘sklee’ and ‘sklis’ or gender binary: ‘gree’ and ‘grer’. Then only social workers and mental health nurses would need to learn these words and the rest of us could be free of this shit.

    • Ex_Pom

      I understand that Facebook now has **71** “genders” that people can now identify themselves as !!!

      Wouldn’t it be much simpler to just have three ?

      Male, Female and Circus Freak Show Exhibits ?

      • Solage 1386

        I’m number 69.

      • MenControlTheMedia

        You’re unhappy aren’t you.

  • Ex_Pom

    Have you heard the latest ? Certain American campuses are banning productions of “The Vagina Monologues” as being exclusionist and exclusionary !! According to them there is no valid reason why “Women” should necessarily need to have to possess vaginas !!!

    Of course, Monty Python got there way before them :-

    The Frankfurt School continues its “Long March through the Institutions” !

  • Elle

    He inflicts total destruction of our planet..She suspects massive cover-up..

  • Elle

    He inflicts total destruction of our planet..She suspects massive cover-up..

  • UmUmUmUmUmUm

    They can stuff all their little rules up where the sun doesn’t shine. To paraphrase the truly awful Edward Miliband, the trendy left are simply trying to weaponise “offence”, in order to use it as a way of gaining power and exerting control over language and thus thought. To hell with them!

    • John Bindon

      “weaponise” ? Did you really want to use such an awful word ?

      • Neil Saunders

        It’s an awful word, but it meets the need to identify an awful process.

  • Doctor Crackles

    The use of the plural personal pronoun ‘they’ to replace the singular forms is a great degrading of the English language. It seems the left care little for language and the poor people who use it.

    Elsewhere in these pages, we read of the enroach of ‘cis’ to describe the poor people who’d rather not undergo strange treatments to correct what nature has ‘delivered’ to them.

    Absurd and obscene.

    • MenControlTheMedia

      Not as degrading as making female subservient to male.

  • Elle

    He inflicts total destruction of our planet..She suspects massive cover-up..

  • Sean L

    Talking of Isis, the language of their neighbours in Turkey already comes with gender neutral pronouns. That must explain their progressive political culture in these matters. . .

  • Sebastian Guinness

    There is a perfectly adequate gender neutral pronoun, IT, the neuter, which most people who worry about these sort of things are.

  • john p reid

    Possible, it would be a council and a county police force together covering it up, also the way those who’ve in the past spoke out get hounded,be they be Tommy Robinson or Ann Cryer

  • gerontius redux

    I use “they” without thinking much about it, but if you wish to offend I find “it” works ok.

  • Benbecula

    My favourite is the ‘chair’ as a reference to a person. The BBC in particular have ditched the man or woman affix, now it’s just ‘chair’. LOL.

  • MenControlTheMedia

    Why is it any more nutty to include female people in pronouns than to exclude them? I think it’s a sign of extreme nuttiness to be faced with the human race and say, “I know, let’s call it man, mankind, and use masculine to represent both sexes and refer to the feminine as a subset”. It flies in the face of science. It’s dogma.

    The sentence at the beginning of legal documents that “he” also means “she” shows nothing less than a narcissistic personality disorder. Right up there with mens favourite creation myth about women bring made after them, from a bit of them, in order to be their helpmeets.

    And the people who want a neuter one are the unreasonable ones?!?

  • MenControlTheMedia

    “Mankind breast feeds his young.” You see, man and his doesn’t mean womankind or hers at all.

  • MenControlTheMedia

    Funny how all these libertarian white straight men who slide through life with not a single derogatory word for them in the lexicon and who don’t mind offence/hate speech/propaganda/harm turn into whining pyards when confronted by a few feminist articles and Muslims calling them kuffars.

    Funny how they immediately reach for censorship and their legal system when it’s them rather than others on the receiving end of incitement and violence. A few jihadi videos and murders of men and it’s prison, no passport, no surrender and no platform, all the way. 88,000 rapes, 100s of 1000s of sexual assaults, 102 murders every single year just in Britain of women by men, millions of videos and other forms of media encouraging it and it’s “don’t be trivial professional offence seekers girls, just take more precautions like you have no rights – like a house, or a laptop”.

    Funny how they’ve forgotten how they stitched up the development of the language by spending millenia imprisoning and killing homosexuals and heretics, institutionalising the disabled, enslaving other races, controlling who could be educated or could publish, or in the case of women even speak in public. And then inventing a myriad ways to deride everyone but themselves. Bunch of hypocrites.

    • zoid

      ‘….there isn’t a single word that stigmatises and encourages violence
      against straight, white, Christian, wealthy, healthy males, but an
      embarrassment of riches for everybody else.’


      you’ve clearly never explored languages other than english -‘languagist!!’

      – try looking up (off the top of my head)……….gwailo, bak gwai, gora, whitey, gaijin, guiri, tete carre, white trash, cracker, honky, snowflake, gringo, anglo, baijo, farangi…..

      …and i’m sure that there are plenty of others which slip through the net of ‘hatespeech’….but then that net’s only meant to catch one type of fish….

  • Perseus Slade

    We have already got a gender-neutral pronoun: “it”
    Short and convenient, I use it all the time.
    And if someone disagrees it can piss off.

    • zoid

      i suspect that the usual acolytes of the church of the perpetually offended would be up in arms were you to describe someone as ‘it’…

      …which does make it an attractive proposition…

  • ilPugliese

    I think you mean to say:
    ‘If there is anyone in this form who feels trapped in their his or her own bodiesy,… could he or she come and see me for tuition at the end of the lesson.’

  • ilPugliese

    For grammatical pedants:
    ‘If there are people in this form who feel trapped in their own bodies, …could they come and see me for tuition at the end of the lesson.’

  • Terry Field

    How nice to live outside Britoland.

  • Picquet

    I hope Peter Robins went over this piece at least twice, with a microscope, before reluctantly agreeing to let it pass.

  • andylowings

    Dear Rod,

    As Founder of the Formal Use of English Society I must take issue here with you. But perhaps, (since we are a close group of friends here at the Spectator I can thou thee Rod), thouest rather missed thy point.
    Thine anger shouldest be directed at those whom thy generation have left bereft of learning.

  • Malus Pudor

    It’s Courchevel, Rod, old bean…. otherwise, spot on, as usual.