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Darrell Berkheimer: A case of grammatical blasphemy

A reader has directed my attention to the incorrect usages of plural pronouns and plural adjectives in a story referring to a transgender individual.

The example cited was the story in last Saturday’s Union about Peace Lutheran Church welcoming the new bishop-elect for the regional Sierra Pacific Synod — the Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer.

Subsequent references to the Rev. Dr. Rohrer used the plural personal pronouns “they” and “them” and plural personal adjective “their.”



The reader who contacted me remarked that use of those plural words to refer to a single person is not only grammatically incorrect, but “absolutely awkward.”

We are talking about an individual person — not a “they” or a “them.” And the person who complained to me is concerned that incorrect usage will become frequent.




I consider such usages to be a sign of disrespect rather than respect. It’s tantamount to referring to a single person as “he, she, it” as if we cannot decide which.

Again, we are talking about a single person who deserves all of the respect that any other single person deserves. I think each person should be asked what that person prefers — he or she.

I’m wondering if the plural usages have been thrust upon transgender folks by “cancel culture do-gooders” in their oddball way of trying to show respect.

Rather than incorrect usages of plural words, perhaps we should be thinking about creating a new singular pronoun and adjective — new words that could give the person the respect that an individual person deserves.

Perhaps transgenders can somehow organize or agree to a new pronoun and adjective that pleases them.

Certainly the coining of a new word is not unusual. Every year the latest editions of our dictionaries include new words that were created recently — many of which stem from new technical verbiage.

And why should we disrupt centuries of grammar instruction to destroy the specificity of our old trustworthy plural pronouns?

As one of many writers who have spent much of our lives striving for the best nuances and specificity that our colorful language provides, we detest seeing such grammatical blasphemy and irreverence.

But, putting this words issue aside, I wish the best to the new bishop.

ABOUT GOOD AND BAD PIES

For two years I have been telling other folks that one of these days I want to go back to a particular little restaurant to get a pie made with fresh peaches — because that piece of peach pie was so delicious when two of us stopped there for lunch back in 2019.

I had hoped to return to that little restaurant last year after fresh peaches were harvested, but the pandemic put the kibosh to that idea.

So we finally made that return nearly two weeks ago, when we bought a whole peach pie.

And it was a tremendous disappointment.

I guess that’s why we still had half of that pie in our fridge a week later.

The top of the pie had thick mountainous gobs of crust, and more thick, hard crust all around the outer edge.

We have been wondering what happened to the baking of flat, thin and flaky crust like we remembered experiencing in the past?

In addition, this year’s pie was extremely watery — nothing like I remember.

And finally, we find it difficult to imagine someone preparing the pie who was too lazy to remove the peach skin first. The two of us cannot recall of anyone ever doing that before.

That was strike three — and that’s exactly what I wrote in an email to the restaurant.

In fairness to the restaurant, I must report that one of the owners called and offered to return our money if I brought back what was left of the pie. But instead, I took several photos of the remaining half and emailed a copy of one. I declined the return of money.

At first, we speculated the restaurant lost the chef, cook or baker who made those pies two years ago. But I was informed the same people are making the pies that made them back then.

“Maybe we just had a bad day,” the one owner said.

And maybe my 2-year-old memory made something much better than it actually was, as the story occasionally was retold during that time.

I’ve been told that our memories, with age, sometimes become more convenient than accurate.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has eight books available through Amazon. His sixth, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com


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