Stream of Consciousness Saturday — His, Her and the Grammar Police

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I’m always on the fence when people alter words to make a point, like using “herstory” instead of “history,” or “shero” instead of “hero” or even “heroine.” And I feel kind of guilty about that, particularly as a woman, because I definitely understand why people do this and I agree with the sentiment. Of course perspectives on current events, our society and how it’s evolved should include women’s experiences and perspectives.

My issue is with misusing words and grammar. It’s my understanding that these words didn’t actually evolve from a combination of the male pronoun “his” and words like “story.” So while changing it to be female-oriented is catchy, it bothers me since I’d bet it does confuse some people as to the true origins of the word that’s being modified.

Put another way, I guess you could say it bothers me because, at times, I can be the grammar police. Yes, I confess! It’s funny, because I make typos in text messages to friends which doesn’t really bother me, and I don’t mind when others make mistakes in writing. It happens. My pet peeve is with purposefully changing/creating terms without a true grammatical basis.

Although, I do have one other major pet peeve grammatically — when people can’t get “their,” “there” and “they’re” straight. That’s one mistake that really irks me and I’m surprised to see it happening more and more, even from mature adults and professionals. I think partly this may be due to people using dictation software to text or send brief emails using their smartphones. Usually the software gets things right, but words which sound the same verbally can sometimes be interchanged. I know that’s how it’s happened to me. And while my typos in casual communication don’t usually bother me, I really hate it when this one happens. First of all, it’s frustrating because I swear my phone often auto-corrects a message even after I’ve scanned it before sending; it doesn’t help that my phone lags frequently. Other times I may miss what my dictation software has transcribed if I’m in a rush. (And for the record, I use dictation because I find it convenient, plus my phone isn’t too accurate if I text by hand. I don’t have an iPhone and my input capabilities don’t seem too good; I once had an iPhone provided by an employer and found it was much more sensitive and accurate.) But primarily, I never want anyone to think I don’t know the difference between those basic words, especially since I’m also a freelance writer! How would that look? So when that mistake happens, I right away correct it in a follow-up message!

Anyway, I digress. Back to words that just happen to start with “his” or “he” and then are changed to start with “her” or “she.” I don’t like it. But I get why people do it. I might like it a bit more if people would include some kind of disclaimer when they do this, but I know that’s asking for too much. Some would say I’m missing the point and overthinking this. I actually don’t disagree, but I can’t help it.

Note: This post was created as part of this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog event which is run by writer Linda G Hill. Take a look at the link above to read some interesting uses of the prompt — this week it was “his/her(s)” — and consider joining in!

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15 comments

  1. I’m with you about hearing and seeing the change to history/herstory. It’s a bit cute at first look, but would be annoying if we heard it all the time. Good points to make about the texting mistakes, and the auto correct. I usually hit the wrong letter and have to start over. Here’s something that really bugs me…when people smash together names to make one name out of two people’s names. It just sounds weird! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Oh yes, glad you brought up combining names — that’s another example of something that can seem cute or clever at first but after a while can be annoying, especially if it’s overused. And it often is, particularly with celebrity couples for example. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I odn’t like trying to make neutral/inclusive words out of words we have used forever. I don’t mind using different words, and I don’t mind the objective, but making these changes always feels forced and like we are reaching for something too hard.

    I made the graphic (https://nofacilities.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/grammar-alert.png ) as a joke to show my wife on those times that I post without letting her edit my post. She worries that she will be blamed for my grammatical errors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, forced! That’s exactly the right word to describe what I’m talking about here, thanks for saying that. Oh, that’s funny about you and your wife, and I love that graphic you made — it’s so perfect for those moments! So glad you sent the link, it made me laugh!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I’m guilty of text errors, often I just don’t see them even when I scan my work. The bugbear of predictive text on smartphones, you have to watch it all the time.

    Like

  4. I’m all for fun with language — dialect, punning, portmanteaus, even a lil text speak — but misuse of actual words is not evolution as much as it is devolution. :/
    Herstory’s good, when it fits. It rarely fits. Because um, short on female historians for oh, thousands of years!

    Like

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