52 Weeks of Writing: Week 28—A word about pronouns

52 Weeks of Writing: Week 28—A word about pronouns
Photo by Katie Rainbow 🏳️‍🌈 / Unsplash


Well, it's been a week. A real week.

I've had so many different things going on, things I didn't really want to have to deal with the week before I graduate. I've been a tad stressed out, let's put it that way. I'm not comfortable explaining why because it's a personal and sensitive issue.

I tried writing about it, but I'm not ready. I know, I know, I'm vaguebooking. But I want to be cautious.

The upside?

I've been writing Amnar. I'm really enjoying it. I do go through a battle every day where I want to procrastinate or read Threads (thanks, Zuck, just when I got over my addiction to Insta), but it isn't the same. And when I do write, or when I'm able to write first thing in the morning, it's amazing.

Object Spotlight

Let's do clothing. People don't think about clothing as belonging to the category of "object", but it absolutely is. I devoted some space during my PhD to investigating whether specific clothing was ever required to make a magical object. I discovered, in the context of the rituals and procedures I study, that... it depends.

Frustrating, I know. Magical activity in the real world very often has a loose relationship with rules to that level of specificity, so we can usually only say that a rule applies in the context of the procedure where it appears.

I did find there were some circumstances where practitioners were expected to wear an item of clothing, especially white or "clean" clothing—for a given definition of "clean".

But there's a big reason why I'm talking about clothing in the context of ritual: I'm graduating next week.

I should probably save this for next week, and I might come back to it, but I thought I would blab a little about that process, as it pertains to wearing clothing for a ritual.

A graduation is a ritual, of a sort. It's an initiation. It has a lot of the characteristics considered to be typical (have a look at Dodds and Faraone (2003) for an examination of initiation in the context of Ancient Greece): specific clothing, speech acts, performative behaviours including ritual objects, the receiving of a specific object conveying status, among other things.

I put on the robe and hat—which, for a PhD, is different to the undergraduate and Master's versions—I walk up to a stage, and a person who has been granted this ability by the institution gives me a piece of paper that makes me a new thing. In society's eyes, I've been changed.

The robe and hat are temporary. I am dressed in them by somebody else and wear them for about four hours in total. It's surreal. This is a moment of social transition, so it's not just about what happens on the stage. As long as I walk around the university wearing these clothes, people can see and read what my status is in that moment.

Of course, there's a difference between wearing a robe for a magical procedure in the ancient world and wearing one for your graduation, but it all feels part of the same idea. We're all using clothing as a way to physically enter a particular period of time, one that's special and different and transitional.


OK. This is a special week, and thank you for sticking with me this far if you came for the bit about pronouns. I'm going to dig into this in more depth in a separate special post, probably out on Sunday.

Today is International Nonbinary Week, so I wanted to explore that a little bit more. I'm 26k words into writing a book about a culture that has a single neuter pronoun, and using one in order to refer to all characters in that culture.

I'm going to save a deeper discussion about that for that post, because this is about my weekly round-up, but I've started to use that pronoun in my head. It really didn't take long before I found I didn't have to check in to correct writing where I'd accidentally used a gendered pronoun.

I've been using Dennis Baron's new book on the history of gendered and non-gendered pronouns (released last year), which gave me a lot of insight. I'm also grateful to my Chinese student, who introduced me to their pronouns and how they find adapting to using gendered pronouns in English.

You know what, I'll make this the read of the week. Check out He or She? if you're interested in looking at how the search for a neuter pronoun for the English language.

Podcast of the Week

I'm still obsessed with The Retrievals. I'm on episode three, which came out this week. It's heartbreaking, and I have to stress this is not a series for everybody. At the moment, I feel it's handling the issues with a lot of sensitivity, but if you've struggled because of going through IVF treatment, or any medical treatment where your pain was ignored or diminished, you might want to be cautious about it.

If not that, then listen to Robert Evans detail the downfall of Scott Adams of Dilbert fame on Behind the Bastards. Available wherever you get your podcasts.


You know what happens when I'm obsessed with Amnar? I don't have anything else to share by the end of the week. Damn. Here I am with a weekly round-up and I have nothing to round up. I have bought a deck to help with story-writing and another, related one, for world-building. Will review when it arrives and I've had a play with it.

Well, I kind of do, but it's a lot like The Retrievals. I've been following an unfolding celebrity downfall that began on YouTube and has since spread out into the real world. It's so serious, and the allegations so huge, I don't feel comfortable discussing them in a relatively light-hearted post.

Oh, I've made so much progress with learning British Sign Language. It's amazing. I love it. I so want to talk about how it works, partly because a lot of the words express a relationship between the body or the mind and the space around it.

I could write a thousand words on that alone. Now, because my cat is sitting between me and my computer screen and I have to guess at whether this is actually coming out right.

Have a good weekend and I really hope your writing is going well.