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Sweden will make a gender-neutral pronoun official by adding it to the dictionary

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Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 18:38
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Silly Mar 28, 2015

It doesn't meet any real need. The language is already equipped to handle the sorts of issues indicated. When I don't know a person's gender, I say "han eller hon", if the person is transgender I say either "han" or "hon" depending on a variety of factors, and when I don't want to reveal the gender of a person or it seems irrelevant, I say for instance "personen i fråga" or use a suitable phrase depending on the context ("läkaren", "handläggaren", etc.)

Second, the only motivation for the introduction of the word is gender-political: it is not based on (i) a real linguistic need or (ii) new developments of the linguistic environment (e.g. new technologies, new cultural or social phenomena etc.) or (iii) an analysis of actual linguistic practice.

Third, the form of the word is bad. It's difficult to pronounce and will easily be confused with "han".

Fourth, while gender equality supposedly is the reason behind the word, it's not clear what the word really has to do with gender equality. A neutral pronoun neither generates nor reflects increased equality between men and women. There's no gender inequality in referring to a person whose gender is unknown as "han eller hon".

If the word is really used by a large portion of Swedish speakers (and not just by a politically orthodox subculture), then it would be appropriate to add it to the official dictionary, but it's not ok to add a new word just to promote some particular politics.

[Edited at 2015-03-28 11:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-28 11:55 GMT]


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 00:38
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Don’ agree Mar 28, 2015

Politics aside, I do believe the word comes handy and had it not become so politically infected – incidentally exactly by those complaining about it being a political statement – I would use it almost every day in my work.

A lot of my work consists of translating manuals from German into Swedish. These texts are crammed with instructions like: The operator must xxx, he must also xxx xxx. And every single time I think about the poor women, and yes there are quite a few, who are made completely invisible. You might not think it’s a big deal, but that’s because you’re not on the receiving end.

Using your suggestions I could, of course type han eller hon (he or she), personen i fråga (the person concerned) or what not… But how much simpler it would be to simply type hen! And why on earth should we confuse hen with han, when we have managed to distinguish between han and hon?


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George Hopkins
Local time: 00:38
Swedish to English
Silly, yes Mar 28, 2015

Many Swedes are keen on using English words when speaking Swedish. One of the latest attempts is ‘hen’ which in Swedish is ‘höna’. Confusing and unnecessary to say the least.
It appears to be a step in what is referred to as feminism.
When will someone introduce masculinism in an attempt to achieve equality between the sexes?

Translating into English is usually a piece of cake. (Source: Collins English Dictionary).
he refers to a person or animal of unknown or unspecified sex.
she refers to a female person or animal.
A lot of people don't know that.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:38
Spanish to English
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Fantastic Mar 28, 2015

The fact that grammatical gender and physical gender are not the same thing appears to have escaped these luminaries. One wonders if they have nothing more important to do with their time.

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George Hopkins
Local time: 00:38
Swedish to English
Neilmac Mar 28, 2015

Perhaps you can explain for us?

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:38
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
A useful idea Mar 29, 2015

I have just read yet another discussion about how to solve the issue in English. I have also seen a series of legal documents in Danish striving to be gender neutral, even in family law (using terminology like Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, Parent 1 and Parent 2 instead of husband, wife, father, mother etc.).

I am in favour at least in principle. Where gender is irrelevant - as in machine operators, decision makers in most cases, and so much of public life, then why cloud the issue?

The only problem I have with it is that gender should not be obliterated where it is relevant.

In discussions about parental leave, for instance, there are biological considerations that affect the health of parent and child if the child-bearing, breast-feeding parent is not distinguished from the other one, who legally can be anywhere on the gender scale these days.

I think it is important to allow children to develop real, varying gender identities, while accepting that all are equally valid. If the majority are more or less conventional heteros (male or female), well, that is how many species function, so why not ours?
At the same time, as one who has often rebelled against conventional roles assigned to me, I will always assert that individuals must be accepted as they are, as long as they do not violate others.


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Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 09:38
Member (2008)
English to Russian
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Well said Mar 29, 2015


If the word is really used by a large portion of Swedish speakers (and not just by a politically orthodox subculture), then it would be appropriate to add it to the official dictionary, but it's not ok to add a new word just to promote some particular politics.


I totally agree with you, Thomas. This pronoun has been invented only to promote some political ideas. Nothing in either language itself, either in society reflects a need for it.


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laurgi  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:38
German to French
what about Mar 29, 2015

possessive hans/hennes/.... ?

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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:38
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Simple solution Apr 1, 2015

Vera Schoen wrote:

A lot of my work consists of translating manuals from German into Swedish. These texts are crammed with instructions like: The operator must xxx, he must also xxx xxx.


The operator must xxx, and must also xxx xxx.


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 00:38
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
+ ...
Michele Apr 2, 2015

Of course there are other solutions, and I would be a poor translator indeed if I couldn't find them! My point was simply that it is a handy word and that I really don't understand all the fuss and resentment it’s creating.

Addition:
You actually pinpointed what the word is all about: there should be no need for “solutions”, awkward constructions or focus on gender. Just use a simple hen.



[Edited at 2015-04-03 15:33 GMT]


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Vera Schoen  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 00:38
Member (2008)
German to Swedish
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George Apr 2, 2015

I don’t really see what English has to do with this topic. The Swedish word hen has nothing to do with hens and chickens, nor does the Swedish word barn have anything to do with buildings. It’s merely an attempt to make *both* sexes the norm, not only the male one. Why, oh why, is that so threatening?

And on the subject of hens and chickens: Happy Easter everyone!

[Edited at 2015-04-02 08:52 GMT]


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ulrika månsson
Sweden
English to Swedish
+ ...
useful and used Apr 2, 2015

I agree with Vera! There are many useful areas for this word, and not only among politically orthodox sub-cultures.
In this discussion, it seems like swedish-speaking people living in Sweden find it useful, other people not, and that is perfectly fine, I guess. I can understand why a english-speaking person would find it "silly", it is the same reaction as when a german-speaking person hears the swedish word for torch.
Ulrika


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 00:38
French to English
+ ...
Not silly Apr 3, 2015

I'm an English-speaking person and I wish English had a similar construction. It would save all the ugliness of [s]he and he/she and all similar devices.

People found Ms. odd when it was first used but it's pretty widely used now.


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Mario Marcolin  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 00:38
Member (2003)
English to Swedish
+ ...
hen=hän Apr 3, 2015

"hen" is obviously inspired by Finnish "hän" which refers to humans of unspecified gender, and if I ever use this word I will probably spell it the Finnish way. Usage will of course determine, though I for one will continue to use "han eller hon" where appropriate.

Speaking of words we need, how about finally creating a term for respectful address in Swedish (Italian Lei, German Sie, Danish De) ???


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Viachaslau B.  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 00:38
English to Russian
+ ...
I kinda like it now Apr 23, 2016

I was a little sceptical to it at first, but now I generally find it very useful in informal situations. I would be reluctant to use in writing though.

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Sweden will make a gender-neutral pronoun official by adding it to the dictionary

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