instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Calvinball Manual of Style

Another argument for the "inclusive language" etiquette is that people who don't subscribe to it "are subverting communication into politics."

This sort of argument amounts to declaring that "inclusive language" etiquette is prescriptive English, and resistance is not only futile but poor sportsmanship.

It reminds me of Calvinball, a game wherein any player can at any time invent almost any rule, which trumps all previous rules and which the other players must from then on follow. One difference, though, is that in Calvinball the rule, "And you can't make any new rules," would lose force once the other player said, "Yes I can."

But beyond the somewhat astonishing claim that the rules of English unmarked forms have both changed and been forever frozen -- the linguistic equivalent of the babysitter flag -- is the even more astonishing claim that those who do not subscribe to the "inclusive language" etiquette are the ones subverting communication into politics.

The "inclusive language" movement is explicitly political. In the context of the Church, it is inextricable from the broader movement that sees its goal as taking governmental power away from men and giving it to women. To see someone claim that those who do not subscribe to this movement are the ones politicizing communication brings to mind the story of the man who told the psychiatrist, "I've got a sexual fixation? You're the one with all the dirty Rorschach blots!"