Coffee Share 200217 – Anodyne Writing

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest. Here’s mine for the week ending Feb. 15, 2020.
Link to This week’s full list
Link to my Story Blog. Come share a laugh with me.

Good day all.  Thanks for stopping by.

I know we almost always start with a summary or our week and how we managed to still be alive and drawing breath, so this last week for me was more nuts, not less as hoped, than the previous week.  In one week, my job got first more complex and stressful and then queued for nearly a complete, yet to be defined, change.

How could this happen?  Easy apparently.  Those of us who labor in the corporate world, live with the omnipresent possibility of  (queue the small trumpet fanfare) divisional re-organization – and, after 10 plus years of working for a wonderful manager, this fact of corporate life caught up with me. My little island of productivity is being moved along with that of many of my colleagues.

reorg corp

Good news? Maybe. Of the 3 projects I routinely work on, the one I found most challenging was yanked away and given to another.  But there is also a long list of people I love working with who will now only be good friends from our shared history of solving problems.  I’ll miss all these good folks from my daily life.

Bad news? Also maybe.  I’ve never met or even heard of my new manager and know little of his projects and nothing about his priorities.  I expect he’ll prove to be a decent guy, respected enough to have his role and survived the reorg, so we’ll see if this proves to be a good landing.  I retain, for now, my other 2 projects.  One, I doubt he’ll want to touch for simple reasons of experience with the customer. But the other will be a wild card.  It is a project that I built myself over 10 plus years but does not fit the model of what I was hired to do. This project has both a strong user base and end customers.  I’ll have to do a careful explanation for my new manager and hope he agrees to allow me to continue working it.

I’ve coached several younger employees through this sort of thing so now it’s my turn to take my own medicine of assuming a calm and mature attitude, but now its me feeling a tad resentful over not being asked my opinion of this surprise transplantation.

So, next week should clarify what my work world will look like for the foreseeable future. By decision, I’m going into next week optimistic.

– – = = ( o ) = = – –

What I really wanted to share this week is a writing thought-challenge that I’ve been wresting with.

This item is somewhat academic for me as work had not left me much time for writing lately – but there is always time to learn and think about writing and this item has  bubbled up, reaching wildly for attention, like a spoiled child demanding to be the center of attention that I’ve not wanted to give it.

By design, I avoid writing about religion and politics.  Most of you know my feelings about both and already have an opinion of my opinion and don’t care to talk any further about either – which I both respect and prefer – so we’re good – right?.  I am firmly confrontation-adverse both by preference and skill set. If you need an evangelist or a policy wonk; sorry but I’m not your man. On any day, I’d prefer to laugh with you about something than to argue with you about anything.

So what has gotten my ire up now?  Simple.  I resent being sucked into an argument I’d rather not be a part of.  If you’re a writer, you, no doubt, have encountered this literary IED (acronym from military context: Improvised Explosive Device).

Just a few days ago, I was reading an article titled; “Sex and the Singular Pronoun” by Bryan Garner, and since I really do want to a writer when I grow up, how could I not read this essay?  His point, his concern grabbed me immediately.  He discussed the growing and accepted use of the word ‘they‘ as a singular pronoun where the point of a sentence is has nothing to do with the gender of a person. For example:

  1. After firing (his / her) gun, (he / she) sadly lowered the weapon.
  2. After firing (their) gun, (they) sadly lowered the weapon.

There is some politically correct pressure to replace sentence of the first type with the second. Some might argue (because this is what so many chose to do – but that is a different topic).  Some might argue that adding the gender specifics is painless, so when you know it, just use whichever, or if it does not matter, just chose one and move on. The masculine form is mostly accepted as all inclusive, but those who hate it – REALLY HATE it, and I agree with them here.

Always using the masculine form to mean ‘everyone’ is too provocative. But using the feminine form is as least as confusing to most readers as the masculine is provocative.

Others are arguing that either choice is provocative because choosing either leaves out all the gender dysphoric folks, whom we’re told are everywhere and need to be accommodated. Apparently, gender dysphoria is now something of a legal term of art  and any gender reference that leaves them out is discriminatory – a label none of us want.

And there are others still who argue that the, previously plural their and they are increasingly accepted as proper English.  I think this is confusing and screams that the narrator is failing at keeping out of the flow of the story due to political correctness. The odd thing here is that the older we are, the less likely we will ever accept this cultural mangling of the original definitions for both words.  I’ve tried using them both in speech and writing and, sorry, it always feels wrong, very wrong.

For the final argument – I cite the whole quagmire of folks trying to invent a new set of pronouns and gender labels.  I think this is a waste of pixels to even address.  We can stake out any position on this, but culture is going to go where ever society as a whole wants to go and something will eventually show up as accepted both in the Merriam-Webster and the OED, so I’ll just step back and let the dust of that argument settle without creating more dirty laundry for myself.

In the meantime, can I just rewrite all my sentences to avoid pronouns altogether? yuck!

Now, I’ve been known to experiment with language and grammar and if that’s you laughing at me already, just stop it.  I do not agree that somehow I brought this on myself by not catching and abiding by the new writing trends coming out of some editorial offices.  In most ways, I like English just fine.  There are a few things I’d love to see settled, but this question has now grabbed the attention of the political correctness police, so any expectations of sanity are likely to be dashed on the stormy rocks of political/cultural evolution.

Sigh. . .

A couple of years ago, I was writing something for internal use at work and needed a gender neutral pronoun.  I still recall creating and settling on the neologism of ‘s/he‘, thinking it was clever of me to accommodate either reader preference.  As it turns out, it was not new with me (or if it was me, someone else had already been credited for it) and s/he became a thing for a while, but it now falls short because, again, the gender dysphoric person is left out of this otherwise cleaver term.  Well, at least someone other than me is being blasted for its failure.

olive branchAs writers, we do have one shred of sanctuary in this argument.  When I randomly choose a he or she pronoun in my writing (as opposed to speaking) I won’t be interrupted by some youngster who simply must call me to pause because I’ve left whatever-they-are out and that he/she/it prefers to be addressed as (whatever new pronoun is vogue for the week).  I can’t but imagine any useful conversation following such a scene.

All I really want here is to produce an engaging, maybe instructive, and anodyne story that entertains many without offending anyone. Okay, perhaps the safest recourse is to just name and assign genders to all characters to avoid the PC police dragnet.

Is it just me or are you too bothered by being dragged into this simmering argument that you’d really prefer not to engage?

I’ll be by to check out your coffee share shortly – if you have one.

I wish you blessings, regardless of your opinions and am thrilled that you took the time to read my article.  Many thanks.


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Gary photo n bio

6 thoughts on “Coffee Share 200217 – Anodyne Writing”

  1. Loved your gender dysphoria piece! On the corporate reorg front, companies like Google are clear that you’re in a position too long if you’re still there in 18 months, so intentionally reorg for that very reason. The culture supports it as much as I struggled with it… Oracle seems very Sun-like, so I’m not sure lifers like you will take it so well. I love how you’re keeping open-minded, but do I sense some skepticism?

    Like

    1. GD – I wish you were around to talk this stuff over. This piece really was the top of a lop-sided iceberg. We really need to have closely located cubes again for a few weeks or so. Just think of the problems we could share.
      Also, you owe me an update. Any new future plans from your solve?
      Thanks for reading my article – I’ll bet you have a few more reactions I should hear about.

      Like

  2. When something is working perfectly or at least you have come to understand how it runs imperfectly and along comes someone shaking up the tables…

    Hope the re-org isn’t too bad and even if it is, it’s easy how we eventually adapt or decide Ok enough with this.

    I hate confrontations and would rather laugh than argue… I understand where people are coming from in their arguments but also I have come to realize people are such fickle creatures if a line is not drawn and defined we have a tendency towards chaos and anarchy I sometimes wonder if that’s not a good idea to let everything run its course and when it comes crashing down… So be it

    Maybe we can start all over again, wiser? Perhaps…
    Note how I hope I have cleverly tried not to answer your question as such and prefer to wait for the dust to settle and see what brave new inclusive world will have been forged

    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gary, It sounds like that is a huge change on the job front! Being a middle school teacher, we get a new principal every three years, it seems. They move on, retire, go to larger schools, etc. I have stayed at the same school almost twenty years, because change comes to me. As for the gender neutral pronouns, I am aware, but I write as I write, because the books I read are not radically different yet. I should peruse more YA Lit and see if it is changing. At that point, perhaps I will change my grammar. When I encounter a student who seems to be gender neutral, I usually just stick to calling them by their name, or nickname, as usually is the case. I am not one to argue with such a subject, either! Good luck or best wishes with the change in your organization. I, too, cannot wait to have more time to edit and write! -Pam

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Corporate reorganization in the mid 1980s provided me with a severance option. I spent the next 30 years as a freelance editor, writer, and along the way, a photo artist. Anything to stay involved in the rapidly evolving world of computers!

    I grew up in a relatively gender-blind household. The inequality and arbitrary divisions never did make sense to me, and so I stuck with ignoring them. I do, by the way, prefer the singular they/them; a lot of my freelance work as an academic style editor involved following gender-neutral guidelines.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Gary, hope your week is going good with work and everything going on there.

    As far as the gender thing goes, you have enlightened me. I knew there was something out there, but never really paid attention to it. As it stands, I probably won’t pay much attention to it now either. I’ll just write things and see how they go. I never try to be offensive or anything like that, but accept that not everyone will like my writing. At the end of the day, I’ll just have to be okay with that.

    Liked by 1 person

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