That's What She Sang

By Logan K. Young on Aug 26, 2013 04:33 AM EDT

Pronouns are curious things.

Never more than a few letters long, they end up speaking volumes about the nouns they replace.

More so than any of the other seven, pronouns are the DNA of our speech parts. Encoded in their pro-form is a kind of linguistic genome, telling me, you, him and her who, what and how much of it.

No matter their case, though, it's often sex they're telling.

To be fair, gender is probably the better word. "He" can always stand in for John; Jane can forever be reduced to "she."

Everything else (save for maybe those in Greg Egan's Distress), is the inanimate, anaphoric "it."

And as long as there's a clear line of gender demarcation--blue, masculine Mars for Portugal vs. pink, feminine Venus for Spain--we're all good.

No harm, no bicameral foul, respectively.

But such distinctions are never fully discrete. And just as red 'n' blue politics has a Green Party, the body's politics also have a third option.

"S/he," "hir," "zie"--these are the pronouns of humanity's option C, Mr. Poynter.

Be they full-on intersexed or just identifying as transgender, conjugating verbs via this new slang still has a lot of gender theorists baffled.

So, you can imagine the kind of confusion (if not the outright pigheadedness) that these C-list pronomials would engender with the AP.

As per WashPo and The Grey Lady, you'll notice I, myself, have yet to reference a certain U.S. Army Private First Class.

At this point, I really don't think I need to. And anyways, that's not what I want to write about when I write about these things.

My case, then, in this point: Patrick M. Doneghy's play on words, That's What She Sang.

That show's premise was simple. While discussing life, lust and love during a gay men's support group, six patients randomly burst into song, just like any juke musical worth its Lessig should.

As with so many things in the theater--Broadway Backwards, anyone?--there was a catch...the songs, themselves, had all been traditionally sung by women.

Forgoing the syntactical breech served by one "Agador Spartacus," hilarity ensued for the half-dozen Victor-cum-Victorias in everything from Thoroughly Modern Millie's "Gimme Gimme" to the Sally Bowles tune "Maybe This Time."

And just like Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, CBS, ABC and the BBC did with this week's Chelsea Manning news, not a single, solitary pronoun was changed.

In fact, that was the point.

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TagsPoynter Institute, AP, Washington Post, New York Times, Patrick M. Doneghy, That's What She Sang, Broadway Backwards, NPR, BBC, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, Bradley Manning, Chelsea Manning

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