Hen.

Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary:

The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced.

“Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL. […]

The word “hen” was coined in the 1960s when the ubiquitous use of “han” (he) became politically incorrect, and was aimed at simplifying the language and avoiding the clumsy “han/hon” (s/he) construction.

But the word never really took hold.

It resurfaced around 2000, when the country’s small transgender community latched on to it, and its use has taken off in the past few years.

It can now be found in official texts, court rulings, media texts and books, and has begun to lose some of its feminist-activist connotation.

If the Swedes don’t have an easy and traditional form comparable to “they,” this seems like an excellent idea, and I’m glad it’s catching on. (Thanks, Bathrobe!)

Comments

  1. The Guardian article says that the official Swedish dictionary gets updated every 10 years, but doesn’t indicate what a typical update contains in terms of “new” words. 13,000 “new” words seems like a lot, I wonder if that volume is typical for addictions, or, if not, how it compares to previous years.

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3898 is a GKP post on this pronoun innovation from a few years back that actually has a comment thread. Most people seem to think there’s no analogy to singular they (although Pullum points out that “they” came into English from a Scandinavian source via the Danelaw), but others say “no there’s this other pre-existing pronoun that some people have adapted to be used as gender-neutral, but other people don’t like it for some reason or other and prefer the newer coinage.”

  3. Siganus Sutor says:

    I would personally like to be called “hen”, which is much better than “rooster”.

    And, yes, 13 000 new words does seem a lot compared to the previous edition of the dictionary (which might have been published during Sumerian times though).

  4. Virtually every use of “hen” I encounter it is where singular they would fit in English, so I’m baffled to hear there is “no analogy”. I see it pretty often in newspapers and recent academic prose. I do occasionally hear it in speech but only by young lefties or with self-conscious quotation marks.

  5. Interesting idea, but it would only work in languages where verbs aren’t inflected for gender.

  6. For others you’d have to invent a new inflection.

  7. J. W. Brewer says:

    By “no analogy,” I meant “allegedly no analogous construction in actual use” – it would certainly be possible in principle for the Swedes to repurpose their non-gender-specific third-person-plural pronoun(s) to serve as a singular, just as it would be possible in principle for English to use third-person-plural pronouns as polite second-person pronouns a la German and Spanish.

  8. Singular they may be used in situations where a definite person’s gender is not known, but I believe most uses are for indefinite persons. Here’s a bit I just found by googling:

    Because he’s one of them, reader. One of them, one of them, one of them. One of those extremely low-quality young men whose entire peace of mind rests on the knowledge that they are a genius, not just that they’re a genius but that nobody else is a genius, and that nobody else even thinks they’re a genius in the same way they do, one of those insanely bad young men, in fact, who are so utterly addicted to the idea of their own genius that — and here’s an irony, given what happened to me in the sixties — they loaf about the place harboring a secret confidence that had they been born in any earlier era they would naturally have been best friends with all the other geniuses, the ones you’ve heard of.

    This is from a 2001 novel called My Little Blue Dress by Bruno Maddox. The narrator is female and (as you can see) addresses the reader directly; the person (“he”) being described above is also named Bruno Maddox, who belongs to a class of young men defined by the characteristics of a single, indefinite individual referred to as they throughout.

  9. There is an existing word to refer to a person in a non-gender-specific way in Swedish, “vederbörande”, but it’s considered overly formal and perhaps clumsy. “Hen” is convenient because it sounds like “han” (he) and “hon” (she) and also like the Finnish “hän”, which is gender-neutral. (Finnish does not have any specific words for “he” and “she” – there is only “hän”, and the informal “se”, which originally means “it” but is informally used for people and is of course also gender neutral). Mandarin is another language where there is no distinction between male and female pronouns in spoken form (both are “ta” in tone 1) – but the written forms differ.

  10. “If the Swedes don’t have an easy and traditional form comparable to “they,” this seems like an excellent idea,”

    Not so fast. I disapprove of the vowel. It looks suspiciously like an attempt to avoid honestly adopting the already available “Finnish “hän” and the most obvious motive is cultural/ethnic/racial snobbery.

  11. You’re kidding, right? It seems axiomatic to you that a language should adopt a pronoun from a completely unrelated language, and the only reason for not doing so is cultural/ethnic/racial snobbery?

  12. I guess you probably are kidding. It’s so hard to tell these days.

  13. Trond Engen says:

    No, I don’t think he is. I sort of agree too. The spelling of the new gender-neutral pronoun hen is ambiguous to pronunciation. The vowel might either be short and open (like in Finnish hän) or long and closed. The parallel with han and hon makes it pretty obvious that the short vowel was intended at conception, but whoever put it into writing chose the ambiguous spelling, and whoever took it up in spoken form chose the over-literal pronunciation. I haven’t thought of keeping distance to Finnish as an explanation of either choice before. It’s worth considering, although frankly I don’t think Finnish is even in a position to be avoided in the relevant social strata. Rather, it’s just a reading pronunciation reflecting the literary origin of the word. Helped, maybe, by the conscious avoidance of perceived colloquialism among educated Swedes of all persuasions.

  14. I take Jim to mean that it is anti-Finnish snobbery to use the spelling “hen” rather than “hän”, which would be pronounced the same (at least in Standard Swedish, see above) but would be too obviously redolent of its origin, or supposed origin. I can’t think of any straightforward example of this in English, as we freely adopt foreign spellings nowadays, but perhaps poppycock < Du pappe kak ‘soft shit’ is loosely analogous. Here, though, it’s the Dutch meaning more than the Dutch origin that is concealed.

  15. elessorn says:

    It’s fascinating to hear that conscious pronoun engineering is actually something close to possible– though perhaps it’s still too early to tell.

    Still, I don’t know… all that matters in the end is whether Swedophones (Suecophones?) themselves like and use it, but if it really is more than just a clearly useful graphic shortcut, it’s hard for me to distinguish it from the category of top-down prescriptivism in general (unlike the English singular they).

  16. Trond Engen says:

    Before anyone accuses me of gross oversimplification of Swedish sociolinguistics, I’ll admit to it all. But it’s a pretty accurate description as seen from a certain Norwegian armchair.

  17. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, that’s what I meant and somehow lost: If identity with Finnish was consciously avoided it was probably in the choice of spelling.

  18. top-down prescriptivism

    I don’t know. Are Swedes being told that they SHOULD use hen in specified circumstances, or merely that they can if they like?

  19. But it’s a pretty accurate description as seen from a certain Norwegian armchair.

    Well then, I agree, out of Norsk solidarity!

  20. I guess it just surprises me that Swedes would be so aware of Finnish pronouns that they would play such games to avoid mimicking them.

  21. If I can say Dutchophones (Batavophones isn’t really any better), Elessorn can say Swedophones. I can never make up my mind about capitalizing these words, though.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    Hat: I guess it just surprises me

    Yes, me too. But it was an intellectual coinage, so anything is possible. Especially since on that premise it’s essentially just speculation about what went on in the head of the originator.

  23. Henk Metselaar says:

    On a tangent, in JC’s quote above (One of those extremely low-quality young men whose… ), isn’t that a construction that simply allows for plural they, following ‘men’, or must one, in English, follow ‘one’?

    For gender neutral, Dutch is apparently stuck with combining hij and zij to zhij, possessive zijn/haar to zharijn. Neither seem serious candidates but perhaps that’s the best recommendation.

    You may change your poppycock back to pappe kak, I think not a living soul would even recognise it as Dutch.

  24. Elessorn says:

    @John Cowan

    That’s the question, right? At first I thought that, sensationalism aside, it might be something like “Ms.”– an option that no one is told they SHOULD use for themselves, but which some people are profoundly glad to have recognized officially as a choice by city hall, etc. It would still be artificial, but it wouldn’t be prescriptivism– just some nudging to call everyone by their preferred mode of address.

    But — and this is a massively overweighted fulcrum — IF the article is accurate, and people really are getting newspapers, court documents, etc. using the term regardless of their preferences, it begins to look like a case of conspicuous modeling and promotion by elites in order to encourage usage– prescriptivism.

  25. Elessorn says:

    Swedophones

    This is vexing, isn’t it? Same thing with Japanology. Doesn’t quite sit well, but profoundly better than the alternative: “Nipponology.” Some countries have all the Latin luck: who wouldn’t rather be a called a Russophile than a Suecophile? A Lusophone than a Hispanophone? It’s subjective all the way down, to be sure. Maybe there’s a language where “Anglophone” sounds awkward but Batavophone rolls off the tongue.

  26. isn’t that a construction that simply allows for plural they

    The relative clause whose entire peace of mind rests on the knowledge could indeed modify either one or men, but if the latter were true, that they are geniuses would have to come next. Per contra, they are a genius is unmistakably singular they.

  27. Stefan Holm says:

    So far ’hen’ has very little to do with Finnish. It’s history and contemporary use points to political correctness (as the Guardian article indicates). It’s Simone de Beauvoir’s idea of gender not being a biological but a social category transferred into linguistics. Today you can find it in some of the leading newspapers and in some legal documents – not to overcome the ambiguity between ‘han’ and ‘hon’ but to mark that a person’s gender is unimportant, invalid or even discriminating.

    In the streets you never hear the word (other than humorous or pejorative). It may very well though make its way into colloquial Swedish in its ‘Finnish’ meaning but until now it has been an elite project within the ideological sphere.

    The Academy’s word list tries to balance things. So they in the new edition kept the words ‘neger’, ‘lapp’ and ‘zigenare’ (because they are ‘actually in use’) but added a warning that (the equivalents to English) black/African, Saami and Roma are the preferred alternatives. To me it’s like: we continue to discriminate you but we don’t call you gypsies…

  28. Rodger C says:

    Suionophone?

  29. To me it’s like: we continue to discriminate you but we don’t call you gypsies…

    To me it’s like: we continue to maintain dictionaries as descriptive works of scholarship rather than turning them into tools of social activism. Do you seriously maintain that dictionaries should pretend that words a group of people dislike don’t exist? How do you differentiate between your desire and that of the traditional prude who doesn’t want “bad words” polluting the dictionary?

  30. Indeed, the OED3 article for nigger, while too long to quote here, is an amazing work of sense discrimination.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Monolingual dictionaries are not only for educated native speakers. When you are studying a language, whether your own (if you are very young, especially if you come from an uneducated background) or another one (beyond the beginner stage), you are not concerned about the everyday words that you already know but you need to learn the meaning and connotations of both high and low register words, abbreviations, etc. If words considered “bad” or undeserving of an entry are left out, how is the reader encountering them in a book supposed to understand their meaning correctly and decide whether to use them or not, in the appropriate context?

  32. Trond Engen says:

    I understand Stefan’s point somewhat differently. Words like neger, lapp and zigenare may indeed be used with negative connotations, but they’re also (to a very varying degree, contemporarily) the neutral words, so pejorative use is the deed of prejudiced speakers rather than inescapable aspects of the words themselves. Campaigning to replace a word without doing anything with the prejudice won’t achieve anything of substance.

    I think we see this in Eastern Europe, where some languages deliberately changed their words for ‘Jew’ after the war, other did not, and this decision has little predicatory power when it comes to the connotations of the contemporary default word, or, more importantly, the (popular or official) acceptance of antisemitic prejudice.

  33. Trond Engen says:

    Heh. “Predictive power”.

  34. ” It seems axiomatic to you that a language should adopt a pronoun from a completely unrelated language,”

    it seems obvious to me that that’s what’s already happening. I just expect people to own their decisions rather than slinking around behind a cosmetic spelling. But the discussion has progressed beyond this point.

    Adopting a pronoun from a completely unrelated language is strange but not unknown. Thai has adopted “you” from English, and the motive was that it was so broad spectrum in a social sense that it relieved the speaker of the requirement to determine one’s relative social status in order to choose the correct pronoun from the menagerie of 2PS pronouns in the language. Okay, that’s an extreme case, but the fact is it can happen.

    The languages that developed into Swedish and Finnish have been in contact for at least two millennia and there has been extensive cultural influence, across a narrow calm stretch of water, and probably not all in one direction. In fact population-wise there has been significant gene flow into Sweden from Finland, both Y DNA and mDNA and beyond that there are significant Finnish speaking minorities in a broad area around Stockholm, and then also further west. We should expect some level of mutual language awareness if not Sprachbund effects.

    Anecdote: I was an exchange student in Sweden after high school and one of my friends mentioned that the mother of some other friend always confused “hon” and “han” because she was Finnish and Finnish only had one pronoun for both. His knowledge of the language beyond that probably didn’t extend beyond a few profanities.

    As for the top down thing, Sweden has form on this. In the mid-60s they had the “Du reform” when it became uncool to use the formal equivalent. It’s not so much some elite forcing their will on the language community as it is the socially prestigious “cool kids” setting an example that everyone else mimics.

    On the Swedophone/Suecophone question, may I suggest Sveaphone.? It actually sounds like something.

  35. Stefan Holm says:

    I definitely support dictionaries reflecting the actual, living language. My comment was just a thought upon the turning of the tide: On one hand it has now been found necessary to add comments to the words used by everybody for African, Saami and Roma people. On the other hand a word hitherto not used colloquially (hen) is found necessary to introduce. I don’t ‘oppose’ to any of this – just note it.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Among my friends and acquaintances there’s no offense even thought of in using (the Swedish words for) negro, lapp or gypsy. If somebody however is refered to as a ‘hen’ the connotation would in most cases be ridiculing or diminishing. For the Academy it is obviously vice versa. None of us are of course neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’. The disturbing thing (for me) is the from-above perspective that a change of words would have any impact on what really is a problem – oppression or discrimination of people based on ethnicity, belief, sexual preferences, income level or whatever.

    I’m also sure that the language is ‘democratic’ in the sense that nobody in the long run can decide what’s wrong and what’s right. When I was a child I was sincerely instructed never ever to call a girl a tjej /çɛj/, a loanword from Romany, since that was very derogatory. Today all Swedish females aged from 5 to 85 refer to themselves as such.

  36. Trond Engen says:

    Jim: We should expect some level of mutual language awareness if not Sprachbund effects.

    Of course there are Sprachbund effects. The Finnish pronouns are borrowed. Finnish syntax is pretty SAE except for the locative cases. The unmarked Swedish word for ‘boy’ is an OSw borrowing from Finnish. But I’m skeptical to the post-WW2 wave of Finnish immigration having enough impact on Swedish linguistic consciousness to trigger avoidance. There simply was no bilinguality, no awareness among the majority population of Finnish beyond caricature, nowhere to pick up anything but the most common swearwords. Finnish was so inferior that children grew up without learning the only functioning language of their parents, and they weren’t numerous enough to impose their judgments from a sense of Finnish inferiority on the indifferent majority. And I especially doubt avoidance of the Finnish written form, since I doubt any Swede outside the Finno-Ugric departments has looked twice on a Finnish text and recognized the pronoun.

    But then, this was an intellectual coinage, so anything is possible.

  37. Trond Engen says:

    Boy, did I state that clearly without any real knowledge. I still think avoidance of Finnish is an interesting idea, but I need to be convinced that Finnish was part of the sociolinguistic environment.

  38. “but I need to be convinced that Finnish was part of the sociolinguistic environment.”

    I think it’s on the order of the Spanish part of the American sociolinguistic environment – some passive knowledge of a lexical items, mispronounced; some knowledge, usually wrong enough to have been parodied and picked up as joke forms – “correctimundo!” and “mucho macho”.

    I can’t think of anything that would motivate a Swedish speaker in Sweden to learn Finnish, since everyone can already communicate in English anyway.

  39. Jim: Adopting a pronoun from a completely unrelated language is strange but not unknown. Thai has adopted “you” from English, and the motive was that it was so broad spectrum in a social sense that it relieved the speaker of the requirement to determine one’s relative social status

    Very strange in European languages but common in Southeast Asian languages, where many of the pronouns are either borrowings from Chinese languages or derived from nouns that were originally taken from an unrelated language (eg Sanskrit/Prakrit). As I understand the case with “you” and “I” in Thai – of which I know very little, and am open to correction – they were adopted as generational and status markers by urban middle & upper class youth, as much as supposedly neutral pronouns. Along with copious sprinklings of other English words.

    Indonesian has a case of a totally invented pronoun, Anda, proposed in the late 1950s (by a military bureaucrat, which perhaps says something) and immediately taken up in governmental and official written usage for the neutral / formal 2nd person. It hasn’t really extended much beyond bureaucratic and other formal announcement contexts, but it does occur occasionally in the spoken language. A couple of Indonesians have told me they’d tend to use it more with non-Indonesians than with fellow Indonesians, which suggests that a supposedly neutral pronoun is taking on subconsciously exclusionary overtones.

    The plethora of pronoun options in SE Asian languages, especially as relationship markers in the 1st and 2nd persons, presumably makes pronoun innovation easier to contemplate than in conservative European languages. As does the fact that personal names and kin words are frequently used as pronoun substitutes: your own name usage and kin relationships can be changed, so why can’t pronouns? Personal anecdote: A couple of years ago I edited the English translation of an Indonesian book on women’s sexuality. For the chapter on transgender persons, the author was keen for me to use the invented genderless pronoun zi/hir, which she’d read was being used by some transgender activists in the US. We had a cordial discussion in which I persuaded her that, irrespective of one’s attitudes towards transgender issues, zi/hir had no chance of being accepted as standard written English outside an extremely limited audience. But she may still have been thinking, “Why can’t English accept a new pronoun? It’s easy!”

  40. David Marjanović says:

    Mandarin is another language where there is no distinction between male and female pronouns in spoken form (both are “ta” in tone 1) – but the written forms differ.

    And this difference was only invented in the early 20th century, on the assumption that “developed”/”progressive” languages make such a distinction. Prior to that, the form that ended up as specifically male (the one with the radical for “human”) was the only one. (The others have different radicals.)

    The plethora of pronoun options in SE Asian languages, especially as relationship markers in the 1st and 2nd persons, presumably makes pronoun innovation easier to contemplate than in conservative European languages. As does the fact that personal names and kin words are frequently used as pronoun substitutes: your own name usage and kin relationships can be changed, so why can’t pronouns?

    The more extreme cases of such languages have been said to simply not have personal pronouns as a word class – nouns (names, titles, job descriptions) are all that’s on offer.

  41. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, I was going to suggest that the reason western languages don’t easily add pronouns is that they’re so bleached, to the point of being grammatical particles in many cases, and you can’t use a new one without adding emphasis to the pronoun itself. We do however easily use another word or a phrase when emphasis on the circumlocution is wanted (or at lear acceptable): “his lordship”, “vederbörande”, “the defendant”, etc. Those may of course in turn be bleached into pronominity, but it doesn’t seem to happen very often.

  42. And this difference was only invented in the early 20th century, on the assumption that “developed”/”progressive” languages make such a distinction.

    That refers to the ‘he/she’ written distinction particularly. The natural word for ‘it’ in Mandarin is zero, or a demonstrative in ambiguous cases, remembering that Chinese tolerates more ambiguity than most languages. The use of for ‘it’ is a product of translationese from Indo-European languages, becoming current in the 1960s. At that point, adopting a form without a radical for ‘it’ probably seemed natural, although the ‘animal’ radical was used initially. (There is also a form with the ‘divine’ radical, still pronounced .)

  43. marie-lucie says:

    Reading 19th C English literature (eg Dickens) in my student days, I noticed what seemed to be an extra, gender-neutral human 3rd person singular pronoun: same, which (if I remember correctly) was not used in the narrative but sometimes in conversation and often in policemen’s oral reports and other semi-official but not high-register contexts, to refer to an already identified person, either as Subject or Object in a sentence. I have not tried to follow the life cycle of this usage, which seems to be obsolete. Perhaps one of you knows more about its history.

  44. That’s OED definition 4a:

    the same, †that (or this) same : the aforesaid person or thing. Often merely the equivalent of a personal pronoun; he, she, it, they. Now rare in literary use; still common in legal documents; also (with reference to things) in commercial language (where the is sometimes omitted). Cf. German der-, die-, dasselbe.

    1362 Langland Piers Plowman A. iii. 27 Þenne [lauȝten] þei leue þis lordynges, at Meede. Wiþ þat þer come Clerkes to Cumforte þe same.

    c1400 Lansdowne Ritual in Rule St. Benet, etc. 143 Þe nouyce sal..singe þare thrise: ‘Suscipe me, domine’ &c. Þe couent..sall reherce þe same again thrise, and ‘Gloria patri’.

    c1400 Mandeville’s Trav. (1839) viii. 97 Upon that same schalle he sytte,..righte as himself seyde.

    c1450 Cov. Myst. (Shaks. Soc.) ii. 25 Take this appyl and ete this ssame, This ffrute is best as I the telle.

    1474 Caxton tr. Game & Playe of Chesse (1883) Ded. 1 That ye sawe gladly the Inhabitants of ye same enformed in good, vertuous, prouffitable and honeste maners.

    1484 Caxton tr. Subtyl Historyes & Fables Esope iii. vii, [Men] ought to preyse and loue the chirche and the commaundements of the same.

    1503 in C. Kerry Hist. St. Lawrence, Reading (1883) 111 Also ij staynyd clothis wt ryddels to þe same.

    1509 J. Fisher Mornynge Remembraunce Countesse of Rychemonde (de Worde) sig. Aiiv, Aboue all these same there is a foure maner of noblenes.

    ▸?a1513 W. Dunbar Poems (1998) 237 Ȝour hienes can nocht gett an meter To keip ȝour wardrope, nor discreter To rewle ȝour robbis and dres the sam.

    1535 Bible (Coverdale) Lev. xiii. 40 Whan the hayres fall out of the heade of a man or a woman, so that he is balde, the same is cleane.

    1549 Bk. Common Prayer (STC 16267) Celebr. Holye Communion f. xxiv, Graunt that they maie both perceaue and knowe what thinges they ought to do, and also haue grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same.

    1583 P. Stubbes Second Pt. Anat. Abuses sig. I6v, Watermen haunt the waters, and fishes swim in the same.

    1596 Spenser Second Pt. Faerie Queene iv. x. sig. I6v, That was a temple..Farre renowmed..Much more then that, which was in Paphos built, Or that in Cyprus, both long since this same.

    1611 Bible (King James) Matt. xxiv. 13 But he that shall endure vnto the end, the same shall be saued.

    a1616 Shakespeare Comedy of Errors (1623) iv. i. 11 In the instant that I met with you, He had of me a Chaine, at fiue a clocke I shall receiue the money for the same.

    1621 in H. Owen & J. B. Blakeway Hist. Shrewsbury (1825) I. 574 Laid out in stocking up of the gorst in Kingsland, making the same into faggottes.

    ?1677 S. Primatt City & Covntry Purchaser & Builder 8 An over-shot-mill, which is the water brought to the top of the wheel, in landers or troughs which cast the same into Buckets made in the wheel for the receipt of the same, the force and weight of which water drives the same.

    1790 Coll. Voy. round World V. x. 1755 The natives thinking we were determined to pay not the least consideration, at length ceased to apply for the same.

    1804 W. Cruise Digest Laws Eng. Real Prop. III. 362 If such tenant for life die on the day on which the same was made payable, the whole [rent must be paid].

    1820 Keats Isabella in Lamia & Other Poems 50 Her lute-string gave an echo of his name, She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.

    1901 M. Franklin My Brilliant Career viii. 56 A big red-bearded man..had received a letter from Mrs. Bossier instructing him to take care of me. He informed me also that he was glad to do what he termed ‘that same’.

    1926 in H. W. Fowler Mod. Eng. Usage 512/1 Sir,—Having in mind the approaching General Election, it appears to me that the result of same is likely to be as much a farce as the last.

    1966 G. W. Turner Eng. Lang. in Austral. & N.Z. vi. 135 A different influence of written language is seen in the use of same as a pronoun equivalent to it, as in ‘put the tailboard up and secure same with a length of wire’ from New Zealand (Wally Crump, 1964), a facetious borrowing of lawyer’s English which is quite common.

    1973 N.Y. Law Jrnl. 24 July 4/4 The following sentence in a brief is typical of its misuse as a noun: ‘Waldbaum purchased the soda..then stacked it on the shelves in order to sell the same.’

    To which I can add Bret Harte’s 1870 poem “Plain Language from Truthful James”: Ah Sin was his name / And I shall not deny / In regard to the same / What the name might imply.”

    ☞ There’s a famous four-word telegram (or similarly laconic text), where all four words begin with /s/ and the last is same in this sense, but I can’t remember it. The first word might be “Sought”. Any Hattic have a clue?

  45. marie-lucie says:

    JC, thank you for the quotations, but they all have the same or that same, while I remember just same with no determiner, as in LH’s quotation, for instance “I gave it to same”. The latter is in telegraphic style, but what I remember is not. I have not read the literature in question for ages, but I think I remember right, so I am surprised not to find examples of bare same in the OED. Perhaps I need to read Dickens again (I have only read a few of the novels).

  46. Trond Engen says:

    NGram of the sentence-final prepositional phrases “by/to/with/on/in/under same.”

  47. That’s quite a striking peak around WWI.

  48. Trond Engen says:

    My thought too. The discontinuous spike for “to same” in 1910-17, like that for “on same” in 1899-1906, look odd, but the tendency is still there. These are very small numbers, but the fact that the general tendency holds over six different pronouns adds power to the result.

  49. Trond Engen says:

    That doesn’t rule out some serious error in the way I defined the search, though. I have no idea what the machine is doing.

  50. The OED says in a general headnote: “Normally preceded by the, except after a demonstrative; the omission of the article occurs only in dialectal or vulgar speech and in certain specially elliptical varieties of diction (e.g. in commercial correspondence). As the prefixed article is functionally a part of the word, it is often difficult to distinguish the simple predicative use (= ‘identical’) from the absolute and elliptical uses.”

  51. Kathiravan Isak Arulampalam says:

    In regards to Stefan’s comment that “hen” is not heard on the street, I can’t really agree: but I live in Stockholm an go to a fairly “progressive/leftist” school in Stockholm, where people are generally “pro-hen”, and therefore use it non-ironically and fairly often in both conversation and all manner of writing (In formal writing it might depend on the teacher). I have also had two or three teachers who use it (Youngish ones mostly), so I definitely think that its usage is predicated on what age you are, what your political leanings are, where you live, and other dialectal and register-related constraints.

    The usage that I have noted tend to be of two chief orders.

    1. “Hen” as used as a general, catch-all pronoun. A generic pronoun, instead of “han/hon” or the less commonly used “dom” (Which is “They” in English, though using it as a generic pronoun might be a idiomatic Anglicization on my side). Used when the gender is irrelevant or hitherto unknown.

    2. “Hen” used as the pronoun for a specific person who does not belong to one of the binary genders. This might not be particularly common unless you have friends who are trans* or in regards to gender non-binary in some other fashion (If I have misused these terms incorrectly, it was certainly not done with malicious intent. I think I’ve got a fairly good grasp on them, but I’ve never sat down and dedicated time to study them), but I have certainly met and read people who prefer “hen” as a personal pronoun.

    Though I use it very infrequently as a generic pronoun, I do use it when someone has expressed that it is what they consider “their” pronoun, as I consider “han” to be “my” pronoun. I think it would be silly if I didn’t really.

    There are of course other words, none particularly popular nationally, that sound like “hen”. I believe some dialects use it for a type of “wheat-stone” and also as an archaic form for “hence”, but the sound fits in quite nicely with the two other personal pronouns, unlike for example “zhir” in English, which sounds and looks quite foreign.

    This is also why I am skeptical to the idea that it is a loan from Finnish, as it really is quite an easy jump from “han” and “hon”. And though I would prefer it if we spelled it like the Finns (Entirely because of aesthetic reasons: I think “Ä” is cool and should be used more often!), there has probably not been an overt attempt to steal it without crediting from them. In fact, the sadder fact is that we Swedes have so little knowledge of Finnish and Finland in general (At least in Stockholm: I’m certain that this changes the further north and closer to the border you get) that they wouldn’t necessarily have associated “hän/hen” with them at all.

    As a final note, I do think that “hen” will gain a larger foothold in the Swedish language, due to the fact that it fills a lexical gap that is to often bridged with quite clumsy and odd phrases (“den” seems dehumanizing, though I always explain it that it’s a shorthand for “den (personen)”, and “vederbörande”, which someone pointed out above, is quite legalistic and would feel silly to say to often).
    However, it’s future is not solely dependent on just its lexical usage. I suspect that whether it will be a mostly uncontroversial thing to say on the national news or in a Ministerial address, depends on another two factors:
    1. The future position and status of those who use it now: will it be considered a word used by those in power, culturally and politically? Or will Swedish culture and politics experience a more conservative blossoming, where the word becomes associated with “left-wing people, loonies, etc.” and generally considered non-correct?
    2. Or will it possibly become entirely depolitizied, embraced by people of all leanings? Will it lose some of its potency in this?
    The issue of “hen” as used by people of non-binary genders might also serve to complicate this further, as it could further politize and energize the issue.

    All in all, its quite fascinating.

    Regards, Kathiravan Isak Arulampalam.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    More on same

    JC’s quote: the omission of the article occurs only in dialectal or vulgar speech and in certain specially elliptical varieties of diction (e.g. in commercial correspondence).

    This would fit in with my recollection: apparently “low-class” usage and specific varieties (policemen, but probably others too).

  53. Trond Engen says:

    Kathiravan Isak Arulampalam: There are of course other words, none particularly popular nationally, that sound like “hen”. I believe some dialects use it for a type of “wheat-stone” and also as an archaic form for “hence”, but the sound fits in quite nicely with the two other personal pronouns […]

    Thanks, interesting. I take this, as well as your note on spelling, to mean that the pronunciation in your circles is [hɛn] rather than [he:n]. That’s different from what I’ve been told. I was probably just misinformed, but it may also be a sign that the word is getting naturalized.

  54. Trond Engen says:

    marie-lucie: This would fit in with my recollection: apparently “low-class” usage and specific varieties (policemen, but probably others too).

    I’m thinking police report formulae becoming jargon. But this could well be more of a literary trick to convey police jargon rather than actual usage.

  55. Stefan Holm says:

    You’re absolutely right Jim saying that The languages that developed into Swedish and Finnish have been in contact for at least two millennia and there has been extensive cultural influence, across a narrow calm stretch of water, But likewise Trond is right in saying I’m skeptical to the post-WW2 wave of Finnish immigration having enough impact on Swedish linguistic consciousness to trigger avoidance. There simply was no bilinguality.

    The contact between Finns and Swedes from the 13th century and onwards was one of occupation. Territories in the east were conquered in a Swedish (and Danish) variety of the crusades. From then until the end of the 20th c. nothing but Swedish was spoken in the ‘Finnish’ ‘society’. Finnish was a kind of gibberish spoken by untermenschen needed only as manpower. And as cannon fodder! Still today you can worldwide hear the Finnish audience at sports events hurray hakkaa päälle, pohjan poika, ‘cut them down, northern boy’. (Finnish consistently marks both long consonants and vowels by double-writing them) This was coined already in the 1620s by the Finnish cavalry units fighting under Swedish warrior king Gustav II Adolf during the 30 years war.

    Things changed in 1809 when Finland was ‘lost’ to Russia. Czar Alexander himself had no intentions per se to conquer Finland but was forced by Napoleon. The reason was that Sweden refused to take part in the ‘Continental System’, i.e. Napoleon’s blockade of the British isles. Attack Sweden, the emperor said, and lock up its military forces in the north – or I will attack you! (Napoleon a few years later attacked Russia anyway, but that’s another story.) Likewise it’s another story, that the Swedish aristocracy after the loss of Finland choose one of Napoleon’s generals, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte as king of Sweden – the only still existing Napoleonic royal lineage in the world.

    Finland became a Grand duchy in Russia but was allowed to keep most of its Swedish laws, administration and governmental rules. Only foreign and defence politics were transferred to S.t Petersburg. This however gave rise to Finnish nationalism. ‘Swedes we can’t be, Russians we don’t want to be – so let us be Finns!’ was the call (still in Swedish though).

    Under the relatively liberal Russian rule nationalism grew during the 19th c. The poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg wrote the poem cycle Fänrik Ståls sägner, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tales_of_Ensign_St%C3%A5l (It also became a central part of the Swedish national myth and even in my school years back in the 1960s ‘Fänrik Stål’ was read and I still know many of its poems by heart. The initial poem is Finland’s national anthem. Do you by the way know any national anthem, in which the second verse begins Vårt land är fattigt, skall så bli, ‘Our land is poor, shall so remain’?

    In the same spirit Elias Lönnrot travelled around Karelia to gather ‘ancient’ songs and myths to create a Finnish national parallel to the Greek, Latin, Persian, Indian, Germanic etc. ones. He came out with the magnificient Kalevala http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalevala Significantly both Runeberg (‘Rune mountain’) and Lönnrot (‘Maple root’) were native speakers of Swedish.

    Then came 1917 and the Russian revolution. It has been said that the first decision in foreign politics made by the bolshevik Council of People’s Commissars was to declare Finland a free nation. Whether or not it lead to a civil war in Finland between ‘reds’ and ‘whites’. The Swedish speaking upper class was of course totally ‘white’ while the majority of the Finnish speaking peasantry and working class was ‘red’. The white side won under the leadership of Gustaf Mannerheim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Gustaf_Emil_Mannerheim (Swedish first name and a German surname). It took half a century, two wars against the Soviet Union and a trilogy by author Väinö Linna http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%A4in%C3%B6_Linna (Here under the North Star) to unite the nation.

    This was the background when during the 1950s immigration from a still poor Finland to a hungry for labour power Sweden started. Those who came were the grandsons and granddaughters of the ‘reds’. They contributed enormously to the Swedish economy, built the Volvo cars and Ericsson telephones, sewed our clothes and digged our mines. I grew up together with many of their children and can remember no racism whatsoever. On the other hand Swedish was the only spoken language and we only learned the Finnish swearwords and those connected to sexual matters. I still know them…

    The older among the Finnish immigrants however often deliberately refused to learn Swedish, the language of the lahtari, ‘slaughters’ (loanword from Germanic), i.e. those who had killed their fathers and mothers during the civil war.

    When the 200 years anniversary of 1809 was noticed it was a little embarassing, that the Swedes mourned the loss of the eastern third of their territory while the Finns celebrated their liberation. As good neighbours here under the polar star none of the parties commented upon the discrepancy. So Jim, it’s not only a matter of 2000 years of physical contact. It’s also a story of inequality. ‘History is the history of class struggle’, as Karl Marx put it.

  56. Rodger C says:

    In my youth I read an early-20th-century boys’ adventure story in which the young protagonists were always using “same” in this sense in their conversation, as if it were a youth catchword. I think it was Canadian.

  57. Trond Engen says:

    Stefan: The Swedish speaking upper class was of course totally ‘white’ while the majority of the Finnish speaking peasantry and working class was ‘red’.

    Well, there were great swaths of Finland where the Swedish speaking upper class consisted of the priest and judge, if that, and where the local “peasant aristocracy” of minor landowners and yeoman farmers were Finnish speaking and definitely not red. If I remember correctly, the Reds had their stronghold in the urban (and partly Swedish) south, while not only the rich agricultural central region but also the large eastern and northern regions of forestry and more or less subsistence farming were White. That may of course be due to location of garrisons rather than actual popular support, but the point is that the facts on the ground were messy.

    Anyway, there’s no doubt that there were some primarily anti-Swedish rural elements in the Red coalition. There are even parts of the current ugly nationalist wing that are pro-Russian and have their background in the old Communist Party, though of course, more are anti-Russian and will trace their origin to the White volunteer brigades.

  58. David Marjanović says:

    trans* or in regards to gender non-binary in some other fashion

    Most trans* people fit the binary just fine and prefer binary pronouns, just not the ones that were assigned to them at birth. Enbies – NBs: non-binary people – are trans* almost by definition (though see intersex, but that doesn’t work the other way around.

  59. Trond Engen says:

    Kathiravan Isak Arulampalam: […] I believe some dialects use it for a type of “wheat-stone” […]

    I was slow to notice this. Hen “whetstone” is cognate to No. dial. hein m./f. “ibid.”, from ON hein f., and Eng. hone, parallel to stensteinstone. That would mean [he:n].

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you Trond, I am glad to know about hone.

  61. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I would personally like to be called “hen”, which is much better than “rooster”.

    In British English we don’t say “rooster”, we say “cock”, but possibly you’d like being called that even less!

  62. Trond Engen says:

    marie-lucie: Thank you Trond, I am glad to know about hone.

    Me too! But it’s pure luck. I first noticed it in a discussion of ‘hone in’ a few years ago and went looking for a Norwegian cognate. I think I knew hein since I’d run into it a couple of times before, but not without help, and it’s still so obscure for me that I didn’t make the immediate connection to Kathiravan’s hen.

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