Oct 23, 2008

Playing the pronoun game

According to Wikipedia, the pronoun game is “the act of concealing sexual orientation in conversation by not using a gender-specific pronoun for a partner or a lover, which would reveal the sexual orientation of the person speaking.” It’s essentially deceiving the people you are talking with into assuming you are straight but without technically lying.

An example of playing the pronoun game is saying “my significant other and I” instead of “he and I” or by using gender-neutral names for occupations such as “firefighter” rather than “fireman”. Using the passive voice is also an option (e.g., “The dinner was prepared for me” instead of “He cooked dinner for me”). If your partner’s name is unisex, such as Tracy, Chris, or Aubrey, then playing the game is even easier since you can use the name itself without being stressed out being careful with what you say.

One big problem with playing the pronoun game is that sometimes the act of playing the game makes the player’s sexual orientation quite obvious. This is particularly true if the circumlocution used doesn’t sound natural or if the listener is not straight himself (gaydar can easily pick up signs like this). See this example passage from the blog of a guy for an excellent example:

someone cute from the gym came up to say hi to me today -- after an hour of shy glances and walking around the rows of equipment -- but nobody got anybody’s phone number and in the end i was like....hmmm, sayang.

A straight guy wouldn’t hesitate to use “this cute girl from the gym” (wow, an aggressive chick!) instead of “someone cute from the gym”, right? And look at that phrase: “nobody got anybody’s phone number”. It’s circumlocution at its most convoluted!

Fortunately for us Filipinos, Tagalog’s third person pronouns are gender-neutral (“siya”, “niya” and “kanya” instead of “he”, “him” and “his”) so playing the pronoun game in the vernacular sounds natural. It also helps that common terms for one’s partner, such as “syota” and “asawa”, are also gender-neutral, unlike “boyfriend” and “husband” (using “spouse” for “husband” sounds too formal).

Since I currently have no partner, I rarely have had to play the pronoun game. How about you guys? I’m sure you’ve had or you’ve been playing the game without knowing that there’s a term for it, right? :-)


joaqui_miguel wrote on October 23, 2008 at 11:30 PM:

"Since I currently have no partner, I rarely have had to play the pronoun game."

Same here. Thank god! hehehe

Tristan Tan wrote on October 23, 2008 at 11:59 PM:

This is exactly the reason why I now blog on blogspot. I hate playing the pronoun game. Hehe

Mugen wrote on October 24, 2008 at 2:00 AM:

It's been ages since I played the pronoun game. Medyo lumalakas na ang loob ng mga discreet ngayon, lalo na kung equally discreet ang mga kasama nila.

Vince wrote on October 26, 2008 at 9:43 AM:

Joaqui, yup!

Tristan, oh so you have a normal blog? I wonder where that is... hehehe

Mugen, but it's still applicable when the people you are with are straight, right? :-)

dalumat wrote on November 3, 2008 at 3:53 PM:

"chinupa ko siya."

o, hindi obvious!

Vince wrote on November 10, 2008 at 1:10 AM:

dalumat, LOL!

Tripper_M wrote on January 6, 2009 at 1:08 PM:

Yah. I used to play this pronoun game even until now....I'm discreet....trip trip nga lang ang sa akin. ... used this usually in texting, slow letters and emails and blogs...... example.... I like the person I saw sitting in one of the benches of the city hall....not so obvious, right?

Vince wrote on January 19, 2009 at 11:10 PM:

Tripper, yup, the pronoun game is one thing discreet guys learn to play. Playing it such that it isn't obvious that you're playing it is a bit harder.