Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ne-ner-nis (Part 3) - LANGUAGE 03

It turns out that Dr. Al Lippart,  a Wisconsin veterinarian, independently came up with ne-ner-nis, too.  He wrote an eloquent article in support of these neuter pronouns for his local newspaper in 1999 and posted that article on the web in 2007.  In the language of patent law, Dr. Lippart is the first inventor to file, for sure, but I did not derive my idea from him.  Great minds think alike, once again.

I learned about Dr. Lippart from someone who had found my blog because I wrote about Andy Borowitz. (Thank you, Andy.) 

Veterinarians need neuter pronouns, not because pets are neutered (ha), but because vets do not always know the gender of their patient.   They don't like to use "it" when referring to someone's beloved pet.  As Dr. Lippart explained to me last November, "It is downright embarrassing to call a dog 'she' when ne is a 'he'!"  (Yes, our correspondence was several months ago.  Apologies for not posting sooner.)

Dr. Lippart said he was told by various lexicographers that "'he' and 'she' start with fricative sounds and ne begins with a nasal sound [and] that alone is reason enough for 'ne' not to work into our language."  Hmmm.  "It" does not begin with a fricative sound but people are willing to use it.  As to a general dislike of the nasal:  Ever notice how nobody likes to say NO?  No, I have not, either.  As I'd noted in my earliest post on this subject, N is an underused initial letter and quite uncommon among fiction writers' last names.  Is that because it is not fricative?   I wonder.

Anyway, I'm no veterinarian, but I do find I need ne-ner-nis all the time.  Would that those words would become more common.  Footnotes in email are inappropriate; footnotes in texting and tweeting are impossible.

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