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mistersloane
05-01-2008, 01:16 AM
Brilliant story in New Scientist but also here

http://www.bignewsday.com/story.asp?code=BZ345203T&news=yo_being_used_as_gender-neutral_pronoun

about the word 'Yo' having been adopted by Baltimore kids as a gender-neutral pronoun, i.e. 'Yo looks like a freak'.

I suggest spreading it everywhere, I can hear the grime track already.

(not sure what section this should have gone in)

nomadologist
05-01-2008, 02:17 AM
Huh...Why are people in the article trying to claim "yo" sounds "crass and disrespectful"? Its obvious origins are in the first-person pronoun "I" ("Yo") from Spanish.

mistersloane
05-01-2008, 11:49 AM
Huh...Why are people in the article trying to claim "yo" sounds "crass and disrespectful"? Its obvious origins are in the first-person pronoun "I" ("Yo") from Spanish.

I think it's a class thing. That really made me laugh though - "no, you can't have that word entering common usage, it's UGLY'. Aesthetics police!

Eric
08-01-2008, 07:59 AM
This is very cool.


Huh...Why are people in the article trying to claim "yo" sounds "crass and disrespectful"? Its obvious origins are in the first-person pronoun "I" ("Yo") from Spanish.

It seems that the reason is that the people who use this themselves feel it sounds disrespectful. E.g. if you refer to the teacher as `yo' other students may say `she's not a yo', etc. (as reported on language log) Nice example of language changing from whatever its original roots were. also it is not so clear to me that the obvious origins of this pronoun are in Spanish 1P `yo', it seems likely also that they could have come from the vocative yo as in `yo wassup!!'

language log also reports that this form is now altered in baltimore and has become a masculine pronoun; the feminine is apparently `shorty'

nice facts.

mistersloane
08-01-2008, 12:23 PM
This is very cool.
It seems that the reason is that the people who use this themselves feel it sounds disrespectful. E.g. if you refer to the teacher as `yo' other students may say `she's not a yo', etc. (as reported on language log) Nice example of language changing from whatever its original roots were. also it is not so clear to me that the obvious origins of this pronoun are in Spanish 1P `yo', it seems likely also that they could have come from the vocative yo as in `yo wassup!!'

language log also reports that this form is now altered in baltimore and has become a masculine pronoun; the feminine is apparently `shorty'

nice facts.

That's a shame that it's changing already, I had real utopian desires for it! But we'll wait n see, thanks for the language log tip, didn't know about it, that's got RSSed immediately, and I'm sure I'll be schlepping round the links for weeks, pukka linguist sites! Hurrah!

Can anyone in eduation get hold of the original PDF? It's here

http://americanspeech.dukejournals.org/cgi/reprint/82/3/262.pdf

noel emits
08-01-2008, 12:32 PM
Tim Leary tried to introduce 's/he' as a gender neutral pronoun. Obviously it wasn't going to catch on in spoken language because it sounds stupid. 'Yo' might work, the backlash could be due to conventional resistance to referring to people as 'it'.

subvert47
06-04-2008, 05:46 PM
Tim Leary tried to introduce 's/he' as a gender neutral pronoun. Obviously it wasn't going to catch on in spoken language because it sounds stupid.

I always use s/he in writing – didn't know it came from Leary though

there's also:

"ze" — for "he", "she", or "other"
"hir" — a possessive pronoun for "ze"
"per" — another neutral possessive pronoun (from Marge Piercy) - I like this one

I suppose "ze" is more flexible:

"s/he" is either/or: "she" or "he" — it might include "both", but it leaves out "neither"
whereas "ze" makes no assumption about gender whatsoever

:)

nomadologist
08-04-2008, 04:02 AM
This is very cool.



It seems that the reason is that the people who use this themselves feel it sounds disrespectful. E.g. if you refer to the teacher as `yo' other students may say `she's not a yo', etc. (as reported on language log) Nice example of language changing from whatever its original roots were. also it is not so clear to me that the obvious origins of this pronoun are in Spanish 1P `yo', it seems likely also that they could have come from the vocative yo as in `yo wassup!!'

language log also reports that this form is now altered in baltimore and has become a masculine pronoun; the feminine is apparently `shorty'

nice facts.

huh, i guess you're right about possible origins if "shorty" is going to be considered somehow a feminine form...interesting...also i don't know if baltimore has a very big hispanic population--anyone know?

i haven't heard this on tv or in music yet so i wonder how widespread it is or whether it will catch on...

stelfox
08-04-2008, 11:19 AM
From what I remember of official statistics Baltimore is somewhere around about 65 percent black, 30 percent white and has a pretty negligible, but growing, Latino population. It's far from "obvious" that the root of this word would be Spanish. If you had ever been there, you'd be unlikely to say this.

From what I understood when I was there and thanks to my obsession with The Wire, from what I can gather "yo" appears to be a kind of multi-purpose word: a call for attention (Yo! let's go get some food.); a full point on a sentence (I'm going to get some food, yo."); an appeal for agreement ("Let's go get some food, yo?". also, if you've watched any of The Wire, you have heard Carver, Herc and Kima referring to the hoppers and street kids as "Yos". That would explain the "Teacher isn't a yo" thing. It's a regional verbal tic in many ways, indicative of class status and all kinds of things. In this sense it could totally work as a non-gendered pronoun, but I'm not surprised this hasn't lasted because it's quite a masculine-sounding term

STN
08-04-2008, 11:27 AM
Not really fully on point, but some West African languages have no gendered pronoun, so when learning English, people just use them interchangeably - 'have you seen Sarah?', 'yes, he's gone back to the house' or whatever.

droid
08-04-2008, 11:36 AM
Not really fully on point, but some West African languages have no gendered pronoun, so when learning English, people just use them interchangeably - 'have you seen Sarah?', 'yes, he's gone back to the house' or whatever.


This is very common in Jamaica as well. 'Him' when referring to 'her'.

noel emits
08-04-2008, 11:41 AM
From what I understood when I was there and thanks to my obsession with The Wire, from what I can gather "yo" appears to be a kind of multi-purpose word: a call for attention (Yo! let's go get some food.); a full point on a sentence (I'm going to get some food, yo."); an appeal for agreement ("Let's go get some food, yo?". also, if you've watched any of The Wire, you have heard Carver, Herc and Kima referring to the hoppers and street kids as "Yos". That would explain the "Teacher isn't a yo" thing.
In all those cases it's a bit like a general acknowledgment of another, or a request for a response from another.

Mr. Tea
08-04-2008, 11:45 AM
Out of the Indo-European languages, English is in a small minority* that don't have gendered nouns (never mind pronouns) - in the Romance languages, inanimate objects are either 'he' or 'she', while it's even more complicate in German as they can be 'he', 'she' or 'it'. It's one of many features of the language that we've lost over the centuries.

*Afrikaans is another, apparently

nomadologist
08-04-2008, 09:31 PM
From what I remember of official statistics Baltimore is somewhere around about 65 percent black, 30 percent white and has a pretty negligible, but growing, Latino population. It's far from "obvious" that the root of this word would be Spanish. If you had ever been there, you'd be unlikely to say this.

From what I understood when I was there and thanks to my obsession with The Wire, from what I can gather "yo" appears to be a kind of multi-purpose word: a call for attention (Yo! let's go get some food.); a full point on a sentence (I'm going to get some food, yo."); an appeal for agreement ("Let's go get some food, yo?". also, if you've watched any of The Wire, you have heard Carver, Herc and Kima referring to the hoppers and street kids as "Yos". That would explain the "Teacher isn't a yo" thing. It's a regional verbal tic in many ways, indicative of class status and all kinds of things. In this sense it could totally work as a non-gendered pronoun, but I'm not surprised this hasn't lasted because it's quite a masculine-sounding term

I've been to Baltimore, more than once, and never heard any difference between the way people there use "yo" (the first several uses you list are extremely common all over the U.S.) Of course I haven't been there in the past couple of years. But many many new uses of urban slang in the U.S. *are* thanks to burgeoning latino populations and borrowed slang from spanish-speakers, so it wasn't an entirely strange guess to make about its origins as a pronoun.

hucks
08-04-2008, 10:59 PM
Appears to be a difference between the city and the county, tho

http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-5.pdf

I think Table 3, and I wish I knew how to post the table, shows the black population of Baltimore City to be 65%

But the numbers between city and county are so different as to be baffling. So I dunno.

noel emits
09-04-2008, 11:16 AM
Maybe it means that on average people in Baltimore are sort of brownish.