I’ve got problems with old age; I forget what it’s called

I struggle with the new nomenclature. I forget the current accepted term for various afflictions, races and such. I fail to see the difference between coloured people and people of colour, partly because grammatically there’s isn’t any. I read a lot of books and a slight change in the sequence of words, or a pleonasm that is an accepted norm, chosen for emphasis, excites me when I see the point of the writer.

I have owned a few hairy dogs in my time and it has often been impossible to sex the animal from the ¾ front view. Most people opted for calling my dogs ‘he’; it seemed the accepted way to go to when you don’t know. There’s a tribe in the Cameroons which has a name for every type of indigenous snake. They call a black mamba a black mamba. However, they call a snake they have been unable to type a black mamba. Sensible doesn’t quite cut it.

There’s a lot of angst around regarding personal pronouns at the moment. It leaves me cold. What’s the problem if it’s ill-chosen? If the speaker doesn’t know what you see as the acceptable term, how can it be their fault? I was once corrected by an inspector about the terminology for what now would be called special needs children, this before a multi-agency meeting. At the meeting, I used this new, to me, terminology, only to be chided by a social worker that it was typical for the police to be so outdated. It probably made her feel superior, but it’s fair to say that there was a fair bit of stifled laughter from others there, and it wasn’t aimed at me. Perhaps there were new descriptions for those in the know.

There can be few who can’t nominate what the acronym of LBGT, or rather what is now called an initialism. That’s part of the problem. Initially, everyone knew what it meant to include. Now we have a plethora of initials, and we are all at sea. But woe betide if you fail to use the currently accepted form.

I don’t want to be known as heterosexual. Being classed by one’s sexuality is, to me, pathetic. Is that the most important sub-classification of me as a person? What about husband, father, writer, and more? There’s so much more that defines me before my sexuality. I reckon I’d still be me if I was gay, yet being married and having children changed my attitude and behaviour almost from the word go. I can’t say I’m offended, just irritated.

I write on email marketing and often give advice on what criteria to use when compiling data on customers and subscribers. I normally suggest that classifying people by whether they are male or female is too broad a brush, and apart for specialist products, is probably best left alone. There are any number of other criteria which are much more prescriptive of a person.

In this I am hardly sticking out my neck. Indeed, I probably copied the basics from some other commentator. So why is the main form of title for people dependent upon their gender?

I want to go further.

I’m with Shelley. He reckoned all titles are tinsel, and life has taught me that he was spot on. A high rank in the police service is no guarantee of good sense or dedication to what the service is all about. Same goes for whether a person has been knighted, crowned or lorded. There’s Archer and Green to support my contempt for such titles. I admire people who have studied at university and achieved a high grade, but I see no reason for them to carry their titles around with them, in initialised form, for the rest of their life.

My son has completed his Masters, but I still call him son. He admits that his Masters degree has a short shelf life although it does have a certain cachet on his CV. I’m proud of him. I was proud of him before he could use MA after his name.

So why do professors profess their profession? I don’t care. In TV listings we have a dame professor something or other, and one wonders what she will do if she gets some other honorary.

I knew someone who called himself Lieutenant-Colonel whatever, and then suffixed his name with rtd. Or to put it another way, stated he was no longer a Lieutenant-Colonel. He was though, a bit of a prig and after one of his senseless pontifications on the laziness of youth today, a girl I was with asked, rather sweetly, “Lieutenant-Colonel? Is that like higher than a Colonel?”

Sillier still are personal pronouns. What is the point of he and she? Then there’s him and her. At a time where we are striving for equal opportunity regardless of gender, why do we continue classifying everyone by sex? Not only that but I defined myself as a father and a husband a few paragraphs back yet there is nothing wrong with parent and spouse. Come to that, why is the fact that I am in a long-term relationship with another person seen as important to anyone other than me and my wife, partner, spouse?

I think it would be a big step forward in equality if sex-specific pronouns were either replaced by pronouns which were not related to gender, or else just left off. I was at a coeducational school where surnames were used for boys. I was Smith and responded to that. But any thought of pioneering with regards to not being sex-specific was lost because all the girls were referred to by their forenames.

Why can’t I be Derek Smith to people outside my close acquaintance and Derek to those who know me sufficiently well? Good morning Derek Smith is no different from good morning Mr Smith in the great scheme of things. What’s the problem?

It might help with the great dilemma of dealing with people who have a specific sexuality, are of a different gender, who are seen as inferior by some for whatever reason. Surely we want people not to differentiate between the sexes and genders.

There should be an exception where sex is a vital point of whatever the person was being referred to over. Mother is quite important differentiation in the maternity unit. However once outside the confines, parent should be the preferred option.

I was brought up at a time when being gay, at least for a male, was a crime and engaging in sex between two men was accepted as a dreadful criminal act. Now it is accepted that they should be treated equally. So why call them something different to other men? I can’t help thinking that the argument over what to call a gay person does, if anything, increase the differentiation between the sort of ‘them and us’ that is the fundamental problem. In answer to the question, what would you call a gay person, I’d give the answer, ‘A person’.

It’s not a funny article, but then defining the population by their sex and even by their sexuality is funny enough I think.

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