This piece by Douglas Hofstadter was funny, but I don’t agree. I think common usage is the king, and people should only contravene the king’s orders under dire circumstances. I also don’t agree with Vihart’s tweet that “Gender neutral pronouns have failed again, and again, and again… which means they have the persistence to someday succeed.” So the more I fail, the more likely I am to succeed? Doesn’t sound mathematically rigorous. The English language changes to whatever form it wants, nobody can predict it, and none of those changes are intrinsically better or worse – the Grimm’s Shift of ancient times was no different to the “ebonics” of today. Just a mutation that seems to have survived.
But if we were able to redesign the English language to be as convenient as possible, what would we do?
– Make every character unique – no mirrors or flips. Make it impossible to mistake b for backwards d, or M for upside down W.
– Rearrange the alphabet so that commonest letters are at the front, and less used letters are at the back. There’s no reason the alphabet should run A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z instead of E-T-A-O-I-N-S-R-H-D-L-U-C-M-F-Y-W-G-P-B-V-K-X-Q-J-Z. Maybe then we won’t call it the alphabet, we’ll call it the epsilontau.
– Optimise the English script for handwriting. Make it so that x (for example) can be written with one stroke – perhaps by connecting the two lines with an arch.
– Incorporate Japanese’s honorifics. They’re useful as hell. They let you add trick out sentences out with emotion and color and nuance. “Yes, Spongebob-sama” is a nearly the opposite of “Yes, Spongebob-chan.”
– Add some pronoun modifiers so we can tell multiple people of the same gender apart. You want effective anti-gay therapy? Imagine giving yourself an embolism trying to puzzle out gay erotica (“He pressed him closer and ran his teeth over his neck…”). Maybe call the subject him1 and people in further proximity him2, him3, etc.
– Fix “w” so that it isn’t three syllables long. Have you ever tried to give someone a website address and had your mouth block up with dubya-dubya-dubyas like a jammed printer? This article suggests a pronounciation of “wu”.
– Remove the indefinite article, like Greek does. And if we get get away without the definitive article, so much the better. I hate a‘s and the‘s sitting in between the real words. Somehow they cause my trypophobia to flare up.