June 07, 2015

Anohito

English needs a word like あの人 anohito (pronounced "a-noh-shtoh"). It means "that person" and it's a completely neutral way to refer to someone. Anything can be offensive, of course, depending on how it's used, but as far as I can tell in normal usage anohito is not considered offensive.

The advantage of the word is that it doesn't imply anything at all about the one being referenced. It doesn't even imply a sex; you can use it for men or for women. It doesn't imply any kind of age; you can use it for kids or for adults. It works for people you know, people you don't know, people you like, people you don't like, and anyone else.

Reason I need that word is to refer to the person whose surname is "Jenner" who is in the news right now. I don't feel comfortable right now using either "he" or "she" for anohito, and picking either "Bruce" or "Caitlyn" forces me to decide on one or the other.

If I refer to Jenner as "him" the PC Police will arrest me. If I refer to Jenner as "her" it makes me feel like barfing. Powerline says Jenner hasn't gone under the knife yet. Photos indicate that Jenner has been undergoing hormone treatment, though, and has grown breasts. If Powerline is right, it means that at the moment Jenner is a hermaphrodite and we English speakers don't actually have an appropriate pronoun for hermaphrodites.

If I used the English phrase "that person" it wouldn't be neutral. In English that's a little rude, and it also makes clear my discomfort with other ways of referring to that person.

So I need to borrow anohito for this instance.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 10:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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