We got some exciting and amusing news recently. Our niece Catharine and her husband are expecting their first child.
Exciting because they’ve been wanting to have kids. Amusing (to me, anyway), not because of the fact, but the way it was presented.
I know the phrase “We’re pregnant” is pretty common these days. Yet AFAIK it is still only the woman who actually becomes pregnant. Jeff the grammar snob notices these things, you know.
But I’m not going to complain that this construct, like using “they” when referring to one person, represents a degradation of English. Our language has only become richer and stronger in the last few centuries, thanks to the spread of English and American influence and culture throughout the world. (For opposing viewpoints that go back centuries, read this article. I found it amusing as well.)
Sure, English changes. It’s changing so fast, the Oxford English Dictionary has abandoned any plans to continue a print version. It’s hard enough for them to keep up with the new words and phrases entering the language every day.
But the other reason I don’t have a problem with the above-mentioned evolution of English, such as the revised usage of “pregnant” and “they” is the intent. They’re designed to be inclusive at a time when so many events are trying to pull us farther apart as a society and a species. And I am all for inclusiveness.
Ironically, part of the reason divisive voices are so loud is due to our rapid social progress over the last fifty years. The very speed of same-sex marriage acceptance, non-binary gender use, and improving gender and racial equality is driving backlash. Much of it is irrational, and ignorant, and even violent. Why? Because change scares people. Even changes that will make us better. Look up the Luddite movement for a prime example.
Yes, I get we’re not there yet and have a long way to go. But consider the situation in America in 1961, when I was born. The Civil Rights Act was still four years off, and there were plenty of voices in society and our government that argued to keep segregation legal. Gay marriage? Hell, you could go to jail for homosexual activity in most states. Even interracial marriage wasn’t legalized nationally until 1967.
Today, despite all the ugly headlines, I see a far more inclusive America than the one I grew up in. We even elected a black President. Sadly, the subsequent election of the orange-headed He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named was, IMO, due in large part to backlash. Which shows me even more that we need to work to keep our gains.
“Freedom Isn’t Free” was a song I learned in elementary school, and even learned to play on our piano. It remains true. And inclusiveness, and other positive social changes, must also be actively supported and defended. So I say, go ahead and let my niece and her husband be pregnant together. As long as it’s okay with her.