Ben Shapiro Is Wrong And Stupid About Pronouns, By A Doktor Of Rhetoric

Ben Shapiro, the rightwing thought leader who thinks stupid things, has just about had it with you killjoy liberals and your insane social engineering schemes to turn America into the worst place on Earth. And that's why he's taking a very principled stand against the latest liberal outrage against all that's good and holy: pronouns. Yes, really. Sorry, Ben, you're almost two months behind Peggy Noonan on this one. Not to mention a few years behind much of the rest of America, even universities in the South, where referring to people the way they'd like to be referred to is considered polite to trans people and everyone else, not a sign of coming tyranny. (Everything is tyranny for these guys, except for when they want to lock certain people up forever.)

Still, it's a sin to waste a Ben Shapiro snit, so let us observe Mr. Facts Don't Care About Your Feelings and his mighty, fact-based brain at work:

First off, in this age of deepfakes and other video trickery, we should demand proof that this is actually Ben Shapiro talking all staccato and spitty-like, and not an AI simulation that's been snorting digital Adderall. That's some unnaturally fast bullshit delivery there.

Shapiro is upset that a cadre of "wokescolds" are "doing their best to ruin every aspect of American life," which apparently includes pronouns. We had no idea they were such a cherished part of American life, and we're sure that comes as a surprise to a lot of elementary language arts teachers, too.

Specifically, Shapiro is unhappy to learn "the Merriam-Webster dictionary has now added the non-binary pronoun they to the dictionary." Yup, nothing makes better fodder for a stupid Two Minutes Hate than some awful term conservatives don't like being added to "the dictionary."

The Boy With Green Brains explains why the dictionary editors are nothing but politically correct stooges and frauds:

When I look at a book for definitions of words [this sort of book is called a "dictionary" -- Dok], what I want is a made-up definition of a word that has never been used this way in all of human history, a plural noun, used as a singular noun, to refer to a singular gender. We'regonnause [that's what he said] a plural noun, and Merriam-Webster is gonna go along with this, which just demonstrates once and for all that logic has gone out the window. People are tailoring science to meet politically correct demands, people are tailoring language to meet politically correct demands.

You can't just go making up words, like "wokescolds," which is not even a word at all!

Shapiro then mocked the very notion, as reported by the Washington Post, that the singular "they" can be "liberating" for trans people, which is insane, because how can a PRONOUN be "liberating"? What a lot of nonsense! Language can't be liberating or oppressive, it just has to be accurate, says the guy who simultaneously believes American Life is being ruined by the singular they.

And don't you dare say "many" Americans are having a hard time accepting this incredibly upsetting and ungrammatical change, when in reality all Americans reject it, except for the "small group of SJWs who think we need to redefine all of language in order to meet politically correct demands." As if those people are Americans.

This might be a useful place for a Doktor of Rhetoric (2000, University of Arizona) to point out some facts that do not care about Ben Shapiro's feelings -- which were so intense that he was driven to spluttering incoherence in the video above. Numero Uno: Modern American English usage is not, in fact, "all of human history." Lots of other languages out there, quite a few of which don't have gendered pronouns at all. Not that they count as part of "human history," which began in 1776 with the foreFATHERS.

Numero Two-o: Even in English, Ben is wrong, wrong, wrong. Those politically correct Antifa wordies at the Oxford English Dictionarynote the singular they being used in writing as far back as 1375, and point out that since usages generally exist in oral speech long before anyone writes 'em down, "it's likely that singular they was common even before the late fourteenth century."

Ben, being an ignorant soul, assumes that the stuff he's familiar with has always been that way. In mere reality, the proscription against the singular they only dates back to the 18th century, when widespread, cheap printing led to a boom in literacy. And for that market there were any number of dictionaries and grammarians ready to tell the nouveau literate commoners just how terribly they'd all been sinning against logic and decency. That's where we got the stupid "rule" against split infinitives. A number of influential grammarians assumed Latin is the purest language, and since Latin infinitives are single, indivisible words, they pronounced it "illogical" to boldly split English infinitives. Load of bollocks.

Anyway, here are the OED radicals on the matter, pointing out that we've already had this fight over the singular you, a barbaric innovation that came to replace thou and thee.

In the eighteenth century, grammarians began warning that singular they was an error because a plural pronoun can't take a singular antecedent. They clearly forgot that singular you was a plural pronoun that had become singular as well. You functioned as a polite singular for centuries, but in the seventeenth century singular you replaced thou, thee, and thy, except for some dialect use. That change met with some resistance. In 1660, George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, wrote a whole book labeling anyone who used singular you an idiot or a fool.

And yes, Quakers really did hold on to thou and thee longer than most English-speakers, and probably made pissy videos about upstarts ruining the language with the singular you.

We suppose we could also point out the still-extant "editorial we," which we have fun with here at Yr Wonkette, and which is meant to express the view of a publication as an institution, but let's be real -- that's effectively a singular, too. Even more so for the "royal we" (again, speaking for an entire nation, allegedly). At least it gives us an excuse to mention one of our favorite "Mark Twain quotes," although yet again, Sam Clemens never said it (it was probably Gen. Horace Porter ... maybe):

There are only three persons who may use the plural we in speaking of themselves, a crowned head, an editor and a man with a tapeworm.

In conclusion, we think Mark Twain never said NOTHING and Ben Shapiro's an asshole. And if anyone doesn't like it, they can go suck eggs.


[Jason Campbell on Twitter / WaPo / OED]

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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Remember, Dok is out for a week starting tomorrow, so no Sunday Nice Things (at least not by him!) Our next Wonkette Book Club Selection is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which we'll start discussing on Sunday, September 29. More details HERE.

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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