The Wit and Wisdom of Cornellians

The right of Big Red Bears to babble shall not be infringed

The Wit and Wisdom of Cornellians

The right of Big Red Bears to babble shall not be infringed

The Zir Decade and the First Great Awokening

It is telling that descriptions of the first two Great Awakenings are limited by the use of nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Not a single pronoun, the most important part of speech, has been or needs to be used to describe them. This keen awareness of the importance of pronouns gives great insight into why the first two Awakenings can be memory-holed and why the last two Awakenings are of such great importance.

The First Great Awakening, which took place between the 1730s and 1770s, was described, without a single pronoun as  a period when spirituality and religious devotion were revived. Led by Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Gilbert Tennent,  and George Whitefield, it paved the way for the war of independence.  Big deal!

The Second Great Awakening, which took place between 1790 and 1840, was described, without a single pronoun, as a wave of enthusiastic religious revivals that set the stage for social reform movements, such as abolition of slavery and women’s rights. Whatever a woman is.

Then came the the Great Awakenings that were free of nouns, adjective, verbs, and adverbs. They were so heady and magnificent that they only needed pronouns to describe them.

The Third Great Awakening, which is how Tom Wolfe described the “Me” Decade of the 1970s, was the first of the Great Awakenings based on pronouns. The Third Great Awakening led to a culture of narcissism, where one had an excessive preoccupation with one’s own appearance and needs. Wolfe characterized the Third Great Awakening by the sentence, “Let’s talk about Me!

The Fourth Great Awakening, the greatest awakening of all, started in the current millennium. We prefer to call it the First Great Awokening. It is all about pronouns. But not the traditional pronouns, which are used as a substitute for an antecedent noun that is clearly understood, and with which it agrees in person, number, and gender–but inclusive pronouns. The traditional subject pronouns (I, we, you, he, she, it, they) and object pronouns (me, us, you, him, her, it, them) are relatively straight forward, but their straightness is their limitation. They do not apply to the burgeoning legions of transgender, genderqueer, and other gender-nonconforming people.  According to a Cornell University website,

[s]ome people don’t feel like traditional gender pronouns (she/her, he/him) fit their gender identities. Transgender, genderqueer, and other gender-nonconforming people may choose different pronouns for themselves. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. 

Accordingly, new pronouns are needed. Indeed, consistent with the religious fervor that is currently accompanying the First Great Awokening, there are Holy Days. The Holy Day known as International Pronouns Day, is celebrated annually on the third Wednesday (hump day) in October. In addition, places of worship known as colleges, universities, and other nonprofit organizations evangelize the inclusive pronouns. A short list are given in the following chart:

If you have any questions on how to use and pronounce the pronouns so you too can join the First Great Awokening, please check out Cornell’s Diversity and Inclusion webpage on Gender Inclusive Pronouns. And then, “Let’s talk about zir!”


  1. Ralph Hammann

    Thanks for the devastating enlightenment!

  2. Richard G Johnston

    I am offended more effort is not made to recognize people’s preferred adjectives. To create a more inclusive environment that goes beyond just pronouns, we should encourage people to wear signs made from recycled cardboard stating the individual’s preferred adjectives. The note on my office door states “My preferred adjectives are sexy, smart, funny, athletic, musical, handsome, and especially humble.”


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