George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language” is probably the best known of many essays and books showing how language is manipulated for political purposes. One might be tempted to think that the terms we use are of little importance, just a question of semantics. But the forces for political change know that they cannot rely just on politics. They need to attack the social norms and institutions that bind our society and culture together, for it is they that impede radical political change. Our culture reflects our concepts and our concepts reflect our language. Subversion of language is thus an easy way to begin the process of deforming our culture in preparation for political change. Since the family is the most important glue holding together our culture, the linguistic fascists attack it, starting with our notions of what is feminine and what masculine. For example, the traditional use of the pronoun ‘he’ to refer to a person of unknown sex was the first to go, supplanted by the ugly ‘he or she’ and more recently the uglier ‘they’ to refer to a singular antecedent. The use of ‘he’ in this context was considered a ‘sexist’ and offensive relic of ‘patriarchy.’ Or consider the sudden and imperceptible slide away from the term ‘homosexual’ to the term ‘gay,’ which projects a more positive image.
This weekend’s Wall Street Journal ran an article by Ben Zimmer, Can We Take ‘They’ as a Singular Pronoun? Mr. Zimmer, seeming to answer in the affirmative, ventures to say this:
Lately, transgender issues have been driving the call for a more inclusive pronoun. The singular ‘they’ avoids having to assign a static role to someone transitioning from one gender to another. And many who identify as transgender or ‘gender-fluid’ would prefer the use of the pronoun ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she.’
The willful confusion between sex (biological) and gender (grammatical) has been a potent progressive tool. It is not a secret that marriage is between a man and a woman and there are manly and feminine roles. Is to say this bigotry? Consider the present social disintegration. Much of it is fueled by the number of never married single mothers, whose sons have no father figure and statistically can look forward a life of poverty and probability of incarceration, generating the next generation of fatherless children. If for fear of giving ‘offense’ our families and schools do not teach the values followed by real men with respect to women, along with citizenship and patriotism, this depressing cycle will repeat itself, worsening with each new generation. Our society’s values are too important to be scuttled by rampant individualism and its antinomian celebration of made-up virtues. Proscribing sex-based pronouns is an important step in the radical agenda. Let’s refuse to be cowed; our singular personal pronoun of choice should be ’he,’ not ‘they.’ And let’s reclaim the term ‘gay’ by not confusing it with ‘homosexual.’