How Do You Say “They’re” in Spivak?

Birds have stopped visiting the feeders in our yard. We suspected a Cooper’s Hawk, in the past an occasional visitor to our lot. Suspicion confirmed — Donna watched it catch and kill a mourning dove outside the sewing room window yesterday.

I discovered this tip on the All About Birds website:

If you put out seed for birds in your backyard, there’s a chance you’ll also attract the attention of a Cooper’s Hawk. While catching smaller birds is just doing what comes naturally for a Cooper’s Hawk, many of us would prefer not to share the responsibility for the deaths. If a Cooper’s Hawk takes up residence in your yard, you can take your feeders down for a few days and the hawk will move on.

Well okay then. Sounds like a plan. The hawk’s been part of our lives for several years. Its territory includes our neighborhood, and in the past our yard was one of many meal stops on its circuit. Which was cool — a hawk’s gotta live, nature red in tooth and claw, etc. But it’s been hanging out here for a month and a half now, driving away the birds that normally flock our feeders. If we can encourage the hawk to move on, we will. We miss our regular flock.


Now that I’m once again posting about book banning, I’ve started reading some of the books making headlines around the country, and have been working on a review of Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir “Gender Queer,” which conservative parents and organized right-wing groups have been raising hell over at school board meetings. That review will be part of a future You Can’t Read That! post. It’s pretty much written, but I keep revisiting it, picking at a problem I’m having with it.

The problem, which is mine and mine alone, is trying to be respectful of the author’s nonbinary gender identity without using the Spivak pronouns she prefers: e, er, and eir. I can’t abide those things. They sound wrong, they look wrong, and I can’t force myself to say or write them.

So use the singular they instead, you say. Sorry, can’t do that either, and for the same reason — it’s not English as I learned it. I tried to write the review without using pronouns at all, but there’s a section where that simply won’t work. For now, I’ve elected to stay with she and her.

Damn it, I’m old, and preferred pronouns other than he and her are fingernails on a blackboard to me. Language is gendered, and that’s just the way it is. I’ll be dead and gone soon enough, and those of you who’ll be sticking around a while longer can force yourselves to learn a new version of English that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

As for our resident hawk, I can’t think of her as an it. She may be a he, but I’m willing to bet she’s a she.

© 2021, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “How Do You Say “They’re” in Spivak?

  • And English isn’t even very gendered compared to Spanish and romance languages. I’m also elderly and once an English major to boot so I struggle with new age preferred pronouns as well. I have a great nephew who’s turning into a great niece and boy is it hard to think of him as her, or explain it to my 90 something father (sadly, beyond understanding much anymore- hospice). Luckily ‘Pat’ has a unisex name so, like you, I just robotically say ‘Pat did this…, Pat said that’. And that’s just avoiding ‘he’ or ‘she’, can’t imagine using some of these weird, clumsy, PC neologistic, invented pronouns. It ain’t good English. As you say, let the kids wrestle with this. I have the same problem with ‘latinx’. Sounds like a superhero. I hate superheroes and most vigilantes.
    Yea, those sharpshins are prolific songbird eaters. This is what it looks like, when doves die (RIP Prince). Closing down your feeder stations for a while should get your Cooper’s to widen her (usually a ‘her’ to me too) feeding area again.
    ‘Tod’ recently posted…Gibson Epiphone EB-0 4-string Short Scale HotrodMy Profile

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