Entirely Removing Third-Person Pronouns

I mentioned a while ago that I was going to attempt to remove third person pronouns from my everyday language as much as possible. There are several reasons for this. The first is that Japanese and other languages get along just fine without using them as an ordinary part of speech. I mean, they do exist, but they tend to have connotations that our pronouns don’t and are generally used more sparingly. So it’s possible and seems like an interesting experiment. The second is that some snowflakes got their knickers in a twist about who uses what, and I think rather than having that inane and silly argument, I’ll just do and end run around the whole thing. My attitude about that, by the way, is that your pronouns are most certainly up for debate, as you do not live in a societal vacuum. You make your request, I choose whether to honor it. I may, may not, or just won’t play. Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter option. Make it a minefield, I’m taking my toys and going home.

I have found that removing third person pronouns, under most circumstances, is not only a simple thing to do, but it makes my writing clearer. There are some circumstances where it’s very difficult to do so without changing the meaning of the sentence. Often, though, it makes the sentence clearer, as using the pronoun actually involves using more words and makes the sentence more indirect. I guess what this experiment has actually done is made me much more aware of when I speak about someone to a third person.

But as long as I am aware, I am able to write entire posts, emails, etc., without once using a third person pronoun. It’s not a common thing, it seems to exist mostly for convenience. And I really don’t miss the construct all that much. Considering I don’t really care, honestly, what a person’s gender is when speaking about someone unless I’m planning on getting them out of their clothes, this deprecation of gender as a necessary part of language is useful.

The most challenging thing is that it can lead to awkward constructs if one is not careful. Using the proper name too much, for example. If you just replace a pronoun with a proper name, that can work most of the time, but not all the time. It requires some thought. It’s a very deeply ingrained construct in the English language.

I think when I have figured out some general rules for how to do this, I’ll post them here. All told, I think this is a good experiment and I plan on continuing it. I will consider it successful if I can completely excise third person pronouns from my language, eventually, without anyone even noticing I’m doing it. I’m not there yet, but I’m catching myself more often when I use them, and that’s a good first step.

You might ask, “why don’t you just use ‘they'”? The simple answer is, that’s still playing the game. I don’t want to use third person pronouns at all, not in any form, and not in any manner. It may not be a fully achievable goal, but I think it’s worth trying. The one exception to this is when I’m writing a story. I may try that as an experiment, but I don’t think it would work well, because you kind of have to use the pronouns if you want to keep a good narrative form.

Edit: after writing this, I went back through some former posts and realized I’d failed. Didn’t even think about it when I wrote them. I did a bit of rewriting. I wonder how well I succeeded. Oh well. I never said it was easy or not a work in progress.

What Japanese has taught me about English

I’d say this is a pretty good topic to talk about, right?

There are many things about Japanese that are very different from English. Some are just what they are – they’re different, but there’s no real useful insight to be gained about my own language. The fact that Japanese is postpositional, for example. It’s different, but neither system is better than the other. It’s just how things are.

But there are other things that are useful, and at least one thing that I intend on taking from Japanese and importing into my use of English.

One thing that I have learned is that language has a rather interesting way of distilling what a culture finds important. Because Japanese has a pretty well developed politeness structure. There are at least three different levels of politeness built in, and many words are rude unless used in a very specific context. English, for example, doesn’t really care about all that. There is a more formal way of speaking and addressing, but it’s not built into the language. We don’t consider it important enough to have that feature.

But what English does consider important is gender and countability, two things which Japanese seems to be mostly unconcerned about. In English, it is required to know whether we are talking about one or many items. It is important to know what the gender of a human or animal is. You can add this information in Japanese if you choose, but you don’t need to.

In my country, there is much kerfluffle about pronouns. Some people think you are required to use the pronouns which are demanded of you. Other people, such as me, don’t really care what is demanded and choose pronouns based upon longstanding societal norms. But this becomes difficult when eternal forces seek to demand that you use the pronoun that others demand that you use. “My pronouns are not up for debate”, you are told. Actually, I disagree. They are.

But that being said, it’s not something I really like to fight about. Truth be told, I’d rather just ignore the whole thing. Call yourself what you want, and I’ll just ignore it entirely. So the Japanese tendency to avoid pronouns is very appealing, and I think I am going to do that from now on. I have made it my goal to eliminate using third person pronouns in my everyday English.

After all, I did it in this post.