ilona the pest

insecurity + narcissism = awesome!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


i don't know why i've been so bad about posting here lately. i've still been traveling a lot -- five weddings in the last two months! - but mostly i think i'm just lazy, or bored. i suppose it's just a habit, like anything else. you have to cultivate it and then the habit will keep going of its own momentum. once you get in the habit of not-writing it can be awfully challenging to turn it around.

when i am at home, i've been reading a lot more than usual lately. (and watching tv. new shows i am super into: rock of love with bret michaels, top chef, meerkat manor.) i think i have perhaps given up on having a social life, having found, or accepted, that i can find nearly equal satisfaction from books as from people. i also joined my first book club, which i guess contradicts what i just said about giving up on people. i feel like i might find conversation easier & more fun when it's focused on books. our first meeting is in about a week. i am very excited.

books i've read recently:

- The Emperor's Children - i absolutely loved it. the characters were quirky, complex and empath-iz-able (is there a better word for that?), and i felt like i really saw myself in a couple of them. the plot was also so engaging that i couldn't put it down. this was definitely the best contemporary fiction i've read in a long time.

- Stumbling on Happiness - i love pop psychology/science books. cute and charming, although occasionally too cute.

- A Woman in Charge - biography of hillary rodham clinton. i feel like i learned a lot about recent history from reading this, although it was rather a chore to get through it. i feel about her pretty much exactly the same as i did beforehand. maybe i even like her a little less.

- Carry on, Jeeves - my introduction to p.g. wodehouse, at the recommendation of a number of my friends. a delight. yesterday i had to seek out a bookstore just to buy another few jeeves books to satisfy my new addiction.

- The Remains of the Day - i bought this yesterday too, and i'm maybe 2/3 of the way through. (it's pretty short.) it seems very satisfying, although i don't know if i'm jumping up and down about it the way some people seem to. i read Never Let Me Go a while ago, and i can see a lot of similarities between the two, particularly in the languid, reminiscing tone.

Monday, September 03, 2007

they is awesome

i wholly embrace the use of the third-person plural ("they") to represent a gender-neutral third-person singular -- as in, "if i were to get a new roommate, they would have to like cats." by my unscientific estimation, at least 90% of americans use "they" in that sense in casual speech, but most learned folks -- my old foes, the prescriptivists -- find it abhorrent and uneducated in written form. "it's just wrong!" they exclaim. "don't those ignorant fools realize that it's a plural? it simply meaningless and confusing to pretend it's a singular."

actually, though, the pronoun conveys its intended meaning perfectly well. everyone understands what it means in context. and furthermore, it serves a very useful function, since english otherwise lacks a convenient and polite way to refer to absent or imaginary humans in a gender-neutral way. ("it" is considered impolite, since we only use it to refer to non-human nouns like animals, objects or concepts; "he" is sexist, and "he or she" awkward.)

further, there's plenty of historical precedent for this kind of change. for instance, ever wonder why we used to say "thee" and "thou" instead of "you"? well, "thou" used to be the singular versions of the second-person pronoun, and "you" the plural. "thou" is a cognate of the french tu and german du. "you" was originally the plural, which later began to be used as the formal version of the singular. again, think of french vous or german sie, which serve both as the plural and the formal singular. over time, we dropped the old singular/informal form altogether, probably out of a growing egalitarianism. (and now we have to invent new second-person plurals, like "y'all", to fill in that lexical gap.)

my point is that the elements of our language are constantly shifting to take on new useful roles. to adopt such new forms isn't incorrect or sloppy -- it's natural and useful. those shifts help our language more accurately reflect our reality and the concepts we want to express, which is the whole point of language, after all.

if anyone disagrees with me, they're an idiot. :) rather, they're standing in the way of progress for the sake of tradition -- or, less charitably, to preserve the power of that exclusive minority with enough education to mimic perfectly the archaic conventions of our language.