The Nundoing of Language

Pronoun. Pro noun. Pro nun. Purr O nun. Purr O now n.

Look at words, Readrrr. Look at them c/lo/sely. With Me. (Bee cause, down’t yew hagree, sow f-ew writrrrs of rrriddles hextist daze!)

Take them apart, play with their letters –their litters (of letters) and their (c)litanies, and build new ones. Speaking of new nuns, we welcom-ed a new Sistrrr into the abbey this mourning. Her name: Sistrrr Moody. Like Judy, but not in denial about possessing a pen-chant for (bi)polar bears! Tell you more about hyr laytrrr.

But back to pronouns, pronuns, nun puns, and subversive substitutions– combining words to form new ones: this is what Shakespeare did. And, on the sentence level (rather than letter/word-level), this is what was done and done and done by Gertrude Stein.

Let’s make a big pact, Readrrr, to nunlearn pronoun uses together.

Over the course of the next century or two (thou sand of them)– because, as we know, nuns live long-ass lives. And I want to live all my long-ass lives with my readrrr, so we can nun learn things, like pronouns, together. The first step in nun-learning pronouns is to enter the realm of acknowledgment. Scary realm for the nuns, but Readrrr, you mustn’t be scared– you’re with me, and Sistrrr Grim ain’t afraid of no (pronoun) ghost!

So let me make a pronouncement here, by way of acknowledgement, and an acknowledgement by way of pronuncement.

(Sistrrr Readrrr, nuns are always, yet not all ways, nouns; but nouns, alas, cannot lay claims to always being nuns. That said, nouns and nuns are only an -O- apart, and this is significant, if you know the meaning of the “O” sound and the symbolical labyrinth of the “O” in the ‘nun alpha-bet’!)

Sistrrr Grim could go on, Readrrr, for e.e.-ons, but the children are almost ready to be nunloaded from the lavender (LCLC) bus, so, instead, to the chase, must I cut.

Unlearning pronoun uses and learning new pronoun uses and even simply shifting within the pronoun binary is MORE than hard. Difficult is an understatement. Especially for people who are used to running their mouths, usually fairly aptly and coherently, without much thought.

I had an experience not too long ago in which I could not stop using the wrong pronoun for an individual no matter how I tried, even though I knew their preference and believed them to be exactly who they said they were. I shocked the heck out of myself (CURSES! CURSES!) because I thought that I, “of all people”, would easily be able to step out of my typical pronoun uses and adopt new ones, or perform a simple act of “switching pronouns.” I thought that my theory would translate smoothly into action– nope: WRONG. I could not have been more wrong, in fact. And no matter how I tried, I would mess up. I felt embarrassed. I felt like a sham. And I felt deeply sorry. In fact, when it happened, I cried almost ALL night over it. And then I forgave myself and changed my whole way of thinking about pronouns.

I STUDY and teach about gender and language for a(n extremely humble) living at the Lavender Academy so I just assumed that all of this theorizing would do all the work necessary– but what I have realized is that all the intellectualizing in the world does not necessarily take you to the next step: of actualization.

Binaristic pronouns are more deeply ingrained than we think: they go far down below the surface. Dualism is almost the base of all language and identity formation: it doesn’t have to be and perhaps it shouldn’t be, but there is it– look at famous historical/religious texts (the nuns recommend the Bible! Nuncanny!) and you will see that duality is written deeply into human “history”. The modern psyche merely reflects that. These all fundamentally go back to the separation of “self” from “other.”

But as we become a more connected and progressive society, the abbey notwithstanding, we see that the rigid adherence to a gender binary, in particular, no longer serves us. There are ALL sorts of unconscious triggers for the use of “him” or “her”– like, for instance, the tone of voice of a person that we respond to instinctively, based on what we learned early on. Again: a nod to the interconnectedness of nature and nurture. I think it’s easier introducing a totally new word than trying to learn new associations for old binary pronouns, but it’s hard no matter what.

We need to work hard with one another to learn new pronoun uses and to radically adjust the way we use the binary ones, but we also need room to mess up, because we’re infants when it comes to doing this– especially as adults. And so I say to us all, not just the Sapphic nuns, whether we’re trying to get others to adopt new pronoun practices for ourselves, trying to adopt new pronouns for ourselves, or trying to learn new practices for others: work HARD but also be gentle. It may take the rest of our lifetimes, or longer, to make a little headway.

This conversation feeds into my long-existing desire to bring gender education into schools, at all levels, starting with our very own Lavender Academy and the Lake Child Little-novitiate Center. I hope to develop a project in which, through theatre programs and radical performance pedagogy, we can start gender (and pronoun) sensitivity education in schools, in a developmentally appropriate manner. Sistrrr Frau Frown has volunteered to begin working on this project with me “immediately.” Readrrr, I’ll let you know all the details as they come in, if they come in (Sistrrr FF has a severely warped sense of time and is a little slow when it comes to attending scheduled meetings– might be a year or six; who knows!).

Anyway, Readrrr, although I agree: I can’t wait forever to get those ruby slip… I mean, together with Sistrrr Frau Frown for our scheduled meeting, I think we can be reasonably patient– and just continue to do what we always do: run around hunched over and shrieking like the proud pronoun/pronun-riotous banshee-hags we are! And while we’re all waiting imp-atiently, this way, for snaily sally Sistrrr Frau Frown to ancient-wagon-haul her dawdling, dandy lilac arse to the Lavender Pronoun Rehabilitation and Reinvention Project (musical-)staff meeting, promise me you’ll follow my lead: and put your wicked nose to my grindstone to plot merrily away on pronoun education ideas, (n)until we finally meet!

All in good time (like Sistrrr Frau Frown likes to say to her little pretty Sistrrr Grim), all in good time

One Comment Add yours

  1. andrewjsacks says:

    To say that all this is fascinating and enlightening is not for me.e., one who has already studied at the altar/alter of HexMistress Jess and hyrr Substitutive Language Shrine for some thyme now, but for the vocabulary-challenged among us–those novices who, for example, may have thought that a pronoun was simply a noun that had given up its amateur status, but thanks to the kindly light-shedding of our First Lady of Linguistics, begin hereby on a journey of semantical revolution and informed and heightened vision that will change their lives for the better and widen so many horizons that their former friends won’t even know them. And that will be for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

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