If this version of Matthew 5:2 sounds odd, you don’t belong in our top universities.
For the sentence represents the twin peaks of modern lexicology, one scaled by Oxbridge, the other, with all due modesty yet justified pride, by me.
If you feel the pain of others as acutely as your own, you must behold the peaks with appropriate awe. For you must toss and turn through the night, weeping over verbal discrimination against gender-fluid and transgender people.
Even the earliest sentences written in English contained, with nary a thought for their offensive potential, the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ – not to mention their equally lacerating derivatives ‘his’, ‘her’ and ‘hers’.
Those pronouns were like knives going through the heart of every gender-fluid person millennia before this indispensable adjective was even coined or the surgical transgender option became available.
Yet those sieve-like hearts aren’t beyond healing. The cardiac holes are beginning to close thanks to a therapeutic diktat issued to Oxford students. Henceforth they shall replace ‘he’ and ‘she’ with the mellifluous neologism ‘ze’.
This explains the first ‘ze’ in the title, which corrects the crass oversight committed by Lancelot Andrewes et al. who dared refer to Jesus as ‘he’ in their grossly outdated version of the Bible.
While I wish I had come up with the ‘ze’ breakthrough, I must give credit where it’s so richly due. But I can claim some for myself too.
For the same sample phrase mentions ‘his mouth’, which undoes some of the good work by being unacceptably gender-specific. Yes, a ready-made solution can be found in the ubiquitous word ‘their’, now doing the sensitivity job in addition to its own.
However, while the phrase “And ze opened their mouth…” is unobjectionable in terms of either sensitivity or aesthetics, it creates an unnecessary theological ambiguity. This involves the dual nature of Christ, the fact that ze is an hypostasis of the Trinity and other things too involved to ponder here.
Hence my ingenuous solution: replacing ‘his’ with ‘the’. But so many English words work at several tiers of meaning, and my second ‘ze’ is no exception.
Spelling ‘the’ that way makes it easy for our German and French EU friends to scale the otherwise daunting phonetic barrier of English interdental sounds. This second ‘ze’ thus strikes a double blow for sensitivity to both gender-fluid and nation-fluid persons, whose plight happens to excite me with equal passion.
In general, as a lifelong student of English I welcome any new additions to this great language, especially those inspired by newfound empathy and sensitivity.
The innovations mentioned are paralleled in a guidebook Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? sponsored by Educate and Celebrate, an organisation funded by your taxes – and what better use can you find for some loose change?
The book is “much-needed” as an educational guide, according to Elly Barnes, the founder of Educate and Celebrate. “Not everyone identifies as male or female – that is fact,” ze said.
Indeed it is. Some people identify as male, some as female, some as neither, some as both, some as dogs and some as trees. Branding such people as abnormal would imply that there’s such a thing as the norm, which we know isn’t true.
After all, even the forward-looking St Paul acknowledged that “there is neither male nor female”, although theological pedants will no doubt argue that the Apostle meant something other than gender-fluidity.
The next thing will be to correct the English language to bring together every possible variant of self-identification (provided we keep those who identify as dogs apart from those who see themselves as trees), but at least a step has been made in the right direction.
Or rather many steps, for the book also comes up with other suggestions to facilitate “medical transitioning for children aged seven and above”.
My personal favourites, apart from the beautiful coinage ‘transitioning’ itself, include such essential words as “cisgender” (children who stubbornly identify with their original sex), “genderqueer” and “panromantic” (children ready to jump anything with a pulse and a few things without).
How can anyone not feel overjoyed about the new blood injected into our tired old tongue? One person who can’t contain himself is Peter Tatchell, that heroic campaigner for every perve… sorry, I almost let slip a word that ought to be excised from dictionaries. Equal rights, is what I mean.
“Giving people the ‘ze’ option is a thoughtful, considerate move,” ze said. “It’s about respecting people’s right to define themselves as neither male nor female.”
Cambridge wouldn’t be outdone by its old rival, as proved by Sophie Buck, the welfare officer at its students’ union. Ze said: “Events start with a speaker introducing themselves using a gender-neutral pronoun.” ‘Themselves’ implies that the speaker suffers from the multiple personality disorder, which too must be respected.
By now you must be feeling terribly lost among the surfeit of things you must respect, to say nothing of a whole new lexicon with which such respect must be communicated. But don’t worry, I’ll keep you straight – and I don’t mean that the way it sounds.