Then off you go, it’s first on the left.
|by Vrangtante Brun via Flickr|
OK. Better now?
It’s not that kind of wee I want to talk about. It’s the wee “we”, a pronoun – first person plural.
Clearly it’s a very useful little world. “We are a grandmother,” wouldn’t have the same whiff of Lady Bracknell without it. And “we need to get a grip on this situation” should be a red flag of warning to the pronoun sensitive.
I’m not suggesting for a minute that we (you and I) dispense with it altogether, not a bit. What I’m saying is that it’s time we (not you and me, obviously, but everyone else) stepped back from it a little.
Everywhere you look on the internet there are people blogging, writing jolly news updates and being perky all over Facebook, Twitter and any number of other social medial.
Perkiness is super; a bit of bubbliness is marvellous. However, you frisky fun folk writing all this up-beat aren’t-we-just-the-most-fun-ev-ah copy need to learn to use other pronouns. You’re making me feel queasy with inappropriate wes.
The nasty stuff looks like this: “Oooh, here at Simplyawesome Towers we’re soooo excited. We’ve just noticed that the next most amazing thing has arrived. OMG. So we simply can’t wait to get our hands on it. Ooooh.” Etc. Ad nauseam.
What this conjours up is an image of lots of over-excited young people (with very nice hair) jumping up and down on the spot, clapping their hands and squealing like the kind of wind-up toy you make a point of standing on. They appear to be unable to think as individuals and are even sharing the job of expressing their over-reaction on the internet.
In my mind’s eye they’re in pastels and all jostling over the keyboard “no, say how excited we are, we’re more excited than that, not enough exclamation marks, ooooo”.
Only it’s not fun and bubbly, it’s annoying and a bit strange.
If you’re writing something – particularly feelings and reactions – you only get to write about your own feelings and reactions. Pronoun – first person singular. “I’m excited, though not quite excited enough for clapping and using lots of oos on the end of so. I can’t speak about how excited my colleagues are because they haven’t told me.”
The corporate “we” is excused a little bit. “We at Acme Inc,” is OK if you’ve got something business-like to convey, and it spares us some very unwieldy constructions.
However, this gem on the subject of the things that women do that men hate is horrific. Read it then shut your eyes and consider that in using the plural pronoun you are, by definition, suggesting there is more than one person there.
“One would be mistaken for thinking that a bed is for sleeping in. We go to get our head down for the night, only to find the bed piled sky-high with strategically placed cushions that leave no room for us. What’s more, only a couple of these cushions actually have a purpose. We don’t need the tiny heart-shaped one or the big fluffy one that makes us sneeze – just a normal pillow to rest our head on will suffice. We don’t adorn the bed with DIY tools and model cars, so please tame your OCD (Obsessive Cushion Disorder) and stop making an elaborate display out of our bed so we can get down to the important stuff.” (Yahoo Lifestyles)
This gang of cushion-hating bed-sharing blokes deserve to be smothered by the big fluffy one for their pronoun use long before they are taken to task for their sexist generalisations.