Yeah, the particular spellings and pronunciations given are strange to me. I've seen lots of variants, though it seems like the simpler and more phonetic, the more likely to catch on.
In any case, there are two distinct problems being conflated here.
1. We need a set of pronouns to use to refer to someone who doesn't identify with either "he" or "she" for whatever reason. There could be multiple such sets and the choice left up to the antecedent zirself, but that just makes the second problem worse. This is where the neologic sets are most likely to come in, IMO.
2. We need a set of pronouns to use when we simply don't know what gender or pronoun set the antecedent identifies with. This is where an expanded singular "they" is likely to win out - again IMO.
Sent from my iPhone
> On Aug 31, 2015, at 23:13, Amanda Babcock Furrow <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> You guys do realize that people are already using things like ze/zir
> online, right? Those weren't made up this year by UK and they're not
> being applied prescriptively. If epicene pronouns in English survive
> past the current wave of interest, the ones people are already using
> are far more likely to survive than ones conlangers helpfully try to
> come up with at this late date :)
> Heck, I saw ze/zir in use on some forums back in 1994. (Didn't know
> anyone pronounced them zhe, though. Still not convinced about that.)
> And yeah, that also applies to singular-they used with a definite
> antecedent. I've seen that one used in conversation and (some online
> subsets of) fiction a lot, and I have to say it does actually create
> some confusion over whether the referent is singular or plural.
>> On Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 11:10:51PM +0100, And Rosta wrote:
>> Jeffrey Brown, On 31/08/2015 21:06:
>>> "Pat's roommate is coming. They have their own shoes."
>>> This sounds odd to my ear. I'm not sure the best gender-free way to put
>>> this, assuming I don't know the sex of the roommate, without totally
>>> rephrasing it: "Pat's roommate is coming with a pair of shoes" ...?
>> I presume you'd be okay with "If I get a new roommate, they must have their own shoes". So probably what you find weird is the use of THEM with a singular specific antecedent even if of unknown gender. So, say, "G. M. Kelly of Bishops Stortford writes in to say that they have today heard the first cuckoo of the year" seems odd too? There may well be interlectal differences on the acceptability of such utterances. If I understand correctly (from a brief but enthusiastic bout of googling), folk who actually use neologistic epicene pronouns use them just when the antecedent is specific. (I wasn't able to find arguments in favour of neologistic epicene pronouns over THEM, or any such arguments constructed by anybody with a decent understanding of English linguistics; my casual impression is that the disfavouring of THEM is due partly to prescriptivism and partly to seeking more salient markers of group identity.)
>> Returning to my Q2 -- hypothetical alternatives to THEM -- I think _thun/thon_ (with STRUT or LOT, and weakform /D@n/, perhaps even developing a /@n/ variant via th-dropping) is hard to beat; it could semiplausibly originate as a contraction of _the one_, for _the_, like personal pronouns, can be bound by an antecedent (e.g. as in "Bob's invited me to DINner, but I can't STAND the fucker"). So: "Bob's invited me to DINner but I can't STAND the one" >>> "Bob's invited me to DINner but I can't STAND thun". Allowing variant _thon_ with LOT makes the etymology work for those who have LOT in _one_, but creates an annoying clash with demonstrative _thon_.