Wednesday, August 16, 2006

theorist as politician and his/her

two ideas and a question:

1) There are two (at least) parts to being a theorist. The first is to solve useful problems. The second is to represent a group of people for whom this theory is relevant; to arbitrate on rules relating to usage. The problem here is that the theorist hasn't been elected, and so those he/she represents may not be interested in having their disputes arbitrated. I think this second role gets slipped in on top of the first... "wow, that's really an interesting, useful idea!" says person x. "Well, if you want to use that idea, then I suggest you folks straighten out your thinking on A,B, C." says theorist y.

2) The discrepancy between theory and practice isn't that theory isn't followed in practice. A good theory should apply in reality otherwise its not a good theory. But theories only cover a small part of reality. They always come with suppose that "x,y, and z" which probably aren't exactly true in practice. When developing a theory, it may be easier to temporarilly forget the simplifying assumptions. How else could you get anything done. But you should periodically remind yourself that they exist.

3) Shouldn't we straighten out this "his/her" business? The / is really not a solution, its an indication that a problem exists. How about "hser", or "hir"? Any other solutions out there? You could say this is just the PC police.. but shouldn't there be at least an option for a gender neutral pronoun? I find myself conflicted about which stage of a story to use the pronoun, after which the gender of the person in question is clear which may be irrelevant at that point, or not wanted to be emphasized. A language should give move options.

2 comments:

josh said...

how about "it"?
"they", of course, is totally inadequate.
apparently "em" is in use by some.
the chinese have only one personal pronoun, which sounds something like "ta".

Boaz said...

hmm, yeah, "em" does work reasonably well for the the object pronoun...
but we still need a possessive. "the flight attendant rolled its eyes in disbelief..." or "the flight attendant rolled their eyes in disbelief..." ???
"its" isn't all that bad.

btw, much thanks for the jalapeno saucesphere... just used it to help defeat a weremoose.