Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Hen: What’s in a pronoun?

Is it a boy or a girl? Normally, that excitingly anxious question is reserved for the imminent arrival of a new born baby. But it is nearly equally exciting when awaiting the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The announcement will come today at 1pm Stockholm time (7am EST).

The current buzz is focused not as much on who, but on whether the author is a man or a woman. The internet is awash with blips and blurbs about how it’s time for another woman. Only 12 of the 108 Nobel Literature Prizes handed out since the start in 1901 have gone to women.

With the raging debate (the use of a “raging debate” with any topic in Sweden always makes me giggle. No debate ‘rages’ in Sweden. Some controversial debates heat up to high simmer) over the usage of the constructed gender neutral preposition “hen” (see The Local’s article) I found the first applicable usage on the cover of yesterday’s SvD:

hen

The proponents for and against the introduction of “hen” in mainstream Swedish should not be waging war over a replacement of the traditional gender specific “han” and “hon” (he and she) but instead adding it to the language and ousting “man” (one) as the neutral and replacing it with “hen”.

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