Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

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Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by reboot on Sat Apr 11, 2015 12:03 pm

Hi all,

Somehow in my 40+ years I have never bumped into a situation like this and need some advice.

There is a security guard in my neighborhood that I am "Hey, what's up?" friendly with and for the life of me I do not know what pronoun to use. I can generally avoid using one in conversation, but last night my dog (who absolutely adores this person) made the mistake of thinking another person was the security guard and was doing her happy spastic dance and I wanted to tell the guard about it when we saw each other a few minutes later. I wanted to say "See doofus! There [pronoun] is!" but did not because I do not know the right pronoun and at the time did not know name.

So what are good ways to avoid pronouns in conversation?

Should I just ask preferred pronoun or is this too much for a casual relationship?

And, if there are any trans- or nonbinary people reading, how rude am I being if I accidentally slip up and use the wrong pronoun? Because last night I had half of "she" out my mouth before I caught myself
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by waxingjaney on Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:02 pm

"they" is a good all-purpose indefinite.
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by Guest on Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:10 pm

So, wait, you're not sure what your security guard identifies as? Do they look very androgynous? Or...? I'm not trying to be obtuse or anything like that, I'm trying to understand since I have few details to work with. Razz

I suggest just straight up asking what preferred pronoun they'd like if you feel comfortable about asking. Or if you know their name, refer to them by name, but you're asking for pronouns, so nevermind. Laughing

I would also suggest using the gender neutral "they" and/or "their", but it can come off as cold and uninviting when writing that out. But then again, in person and/or the right context with the added tone of voice can totally change that -- because, as we all know, that shit matters.

I guess maybe the best option would be to ask what they'd like to be referred to as. Shrug

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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by reboot on Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:35 pm

waxingjaney wrote:"they" is a good all-purpose indefinite.

But if I am talking face to face with the person? Like in this case where I wanted to say "There she is!" to my dog in earshot of the person. It would be weird to say "There they are!" when it is only one person, would it not?
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by reboot on Sat Apr 11, 2015 1:38 pm

The Mikey wrote:So, wait, you're not sure what your security guard identifies as? Do they look very androgynous? Or...? I'm not trying to be obtuse or anything like that, I'm trying to understand since I have few details to work with. Razz

I suggest just straight up asking what preferred pronoun they'd like if you feel comfortable about asking. Or if you know their name, refer to them by name, but you're asking for pronouns, so nevermind. Laughing

I would also suggest using the gender neutral "they" and/or "their", but it can come off as cold and uninviting when writing that out. But then again, in person and/or the right context with the added tone of voice can totally change that -- because, as we all know, that shit matters.

I guess maybe the best option would be to ask what they'd like to be referred to as. Shrug

Very androgynous and a gender neutral name (which I learned last night to avoid saying he/she) and a voice that could go either way.
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by kath on Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:11 pm

I would go with "they" even if it's one person and even if you're in earshot. It'd be great if we could get it to be a usual pronoun used for anyone, whether or not their gender presentation is non-binary. You could put it down to trying to make gender-neutral language happen if they seem to think it's odd / think you should be able to tell what their preferred pronoun is, and then ask if they see, to think it's weird.
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by Guest on Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:20 pm

reboot wrote:
But if I am talking face to face with the person? Like in this case where I wanted to say "There she is!" to my dog in earshot of the person. It would be weird to say "There they are!" when it is only one person, would it not?

I understand that concern, sounds almost like you're objectifying, maybe. That's where tone of voice comes into play, in my opinion. A jokey, friendly "Ahh, there they are, my favorite security guard!" Or "Hey, there you are!"

And if you're not comfortable with that either, then ask, "I don't wanna assume anything, and I hope you don't think I'm being rude, but do you happen to identify as a man or woman?"

reboot wrote:
Very androgynous and a gender neutral name (which I learned last night to avoid saying he/she) and a voice that could go either way.

Oh lawd, this just got a little bit more difficult. Their name is probably along the lines of say something like "Robin" or "Stacey" right? Razz Just a stab in the dark, I don't really know, I'm just guessing.

EDIT: Oooh, I like kath's suggestion too. Grin

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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by Wondering on Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:29 pm

I don't think "they" in speech is that weird. It's weird in writing, in my opinion, because writing tends to be more formal and takes more time to craft. But conversational speech is just spur of the moment, and I think "they" as the singular in speech is common enough that people won't be offended by it. They might just think you're bad at grammar. Grin

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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by waxingjaney on Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:30 pm

reboot wrote:But if I am talking face to face with the person? Like in this case where I wanted to say "There she is!" to my dog in earshot of the person. It would be weird to say "There they are!" when it is only one person, would it not?

Depends on your dialect. I do it all the time, though it comes out something like "airdeyaw".
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by reboot on Sat Apr 11, 2015 3:06 pm

OK, so it is they or first name or my favorite security guard Smile

I do not see this becoming a relationship where we will be close enough to ask directly about preferences. We just chit chat a little while they pet the dog. Maybe a 2-3 minute conversation every couple of days
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by ChrissyOrig on Sat Apr 11, 2015 6:46 pm

reboot wrote:I wanted to say "See doofus! There [pronoun] is!" but did not because I do not know the right pronoun and at the time did not know name. So what are good ways to avoid pronouns in conversation?

I could see/hear myself saying, "See doofus! There's your friend!" [I go for the generic: your friend, your favorite guard, etc.]

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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by reboot on Fri Apr 24, 2015 1:48 am

Situation resolved. Trans woman, so she (which was my gut reaction so if I slipped a pronoun I picked the right one) for future. She is also a huge anime fan
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by Wondering on Mon Mar 28, 2016 5:41 pm

Necroing an old thread and changing specific pronoun topic.

A friend of mine asked me what's a good gender-neutral substitute for sir/ma'am when you're talking directly to a person and saying something like "Yes, sir." She's from the South and was raised to use those words, and says she just can't stop using that respectful form of address, but she wants to use something gender-neutral that carries the same tone of respect.

I came up blank. I just don't use them (I'm totally disrespectful!). But does anyone here have any ideas?

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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by Werel on Mon Mar 28, 2016 8:53 pm

Ohhhh, that's a dilemma I sympathize with. I also have a reflexive sir/ma'am when talking to older folks, and have not yet needed to address a person over 50 who I wasn't comfortable using a gendered pronoun with, but it's bound to happen eventually. There's really no good gender-neutral honorific in English, though. "Boss"/"chief" usually come off glib or sassy; "Dr." and similar titles only work for, uh, doctors; best I can think of is "yes'm" said quickly enough that it's plausible as a very abbreviated "yessir."

If your friend finds one that works, please share. Razz
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by waxingjaney on Mon Mar 28, 2016 10:06 pm

"Cap'n" is about as close as you're going to get.
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by Wondering on Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:34 am

"Cap'n" seems sarcastic like "chief." "Your Honor" seems respectful, but doesn't really work if you're not a judge.

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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

Post by kath on Tue Mar 29, 2016 1:28 am

Looks like all the suggestions (on nonbinary.org) are pretty ... not customary and probably would stick out. I like "ser" though! Why yes I am a knight of the seven kingdoms!

Would there be a way for her to practice rephrasing that would still be very respectful but isn't as direct an address? Like instead of "Yes sir!" something more about the yes than the sir work? Like, "Certainly!"? Would probably take a lot of practice to re-train yourself.

Or what about something like "Yes, certainly!" - it would be redundant, but would come off as respectful, and you could be catching yourself if talking to a man?
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Re: Pronoun use etiquette IRL [advice]

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