My biggest pet peeve in the last two years is the term “Latinx.” It is the most ignorant neologism that I can think of from the last round of language revisions in the past few years.
I teach Latin, and so I am used to a gender structure to language. But I didn’t start out the way. My primary language is English, and most words in this language are genderless. What gender would you attach to “English” if you could? The only gender left in English is those words that are intrinsically gendered: man, woman female, etc. and pronouns.
All the “Latinx” junk comes from the fight over pronouns. It came to the attention of some that when we spoke of a Latina, or Latino, we were using gendered language, and that is bad because the general term is “Latino”, the masculine form. Not only that but there suggests permanency to gender if all the nouns you use have a gender. El perro, la gata, even the word “the” carries this gendered aspect.
This is why I claim that the transgender moment can only have the power that it has in English speaking areas. Almost all other languages have gender attached to everything with a name. You can’t walk up to a perro in Chihuahua and call it a perra without its owner correcting you. But in San Diego, a dog is a dog. We have to impose gender on objects in English, so it seems an imposition to have gender at all.
The one vestige of gendered English remaining is the pronouns. Therefore, they are under attack by those that want to assume gender is an imposition. When I call someone a “he”, I gender him, in their language. In all the Romance languages, I don’t gender anyone, their gender is there, and I use it. “El” and ‘ella” don’t have the same creative power. In those languages, you are recognizing what is there with the correct form.
So here is the perversity of “Latinx”. The anti-colonialist studies groups in our higher echelons, the same ones that claim for themselves the mantle of cosmopolitanism, the cultured lovers of other cultures feel icky when they are forced to use gendered language. Their first (oftentimes only) language dispenses with gender almost completely. In their writings, they dispense with it in totality, using “they” in the (shudder) singular. But their allies in intersectionality, the poor immigrants, can’t do that. So what do these cultured wonder people do? They forced through a linguistic change on their allies. They force them to de-gender their gendered language. “We will call you Latinx instead of those icky gendered names, so uncivilized and barbaric!”
The upshot of this movement is that we have a bunch white, English speakers going to another culture, finding a part of their culture they find barbaric and forcing a change from above in all academic writing. If that isn’t the very definition of colonialism, I don’t know what is.Published in