Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When "definite" pronouns become "indefinite"

(My grammatically astute dog, Zeus, gave me a knowing wink as my wife let fly with another mysterious pronoun.)

Last night, Management said to me "Why do you think SHE does that?"

I looked around the room to see if there was a SHE anywhere in sight.  None.  Our dog Zeus is a male.  Our daughter left home 20 years ago.

I replied: "Who are you talking about?"
Mgt.: "Angelina Jolie"
Me: "Why does she do what, and what are you talking about?"
Mgt: "Why doesn't she talk to HIM?"
Me: "What do you mean?  I saw Angelina with Brad Pitt at the Golden Globe Awards on tv the other night, and they seemed  fine with one another."
Mgt.: "No.  Why doesn't she talk to her father, Jon Voight?"
Mgt. again: "You know.  I really love that man."
Me: "I had no idea you liked Voight that much.  He is a good actor."
Mgt.: "No. I love Obama.  He is such a great family man."
Mgt. again, as she stares at the floor on the other side of the kitchen: "Isn't he cute?"
Me: "Well, I like the guy, but I don't think of my President as cute."
Mgt.: "No silly.  Zeus.  The way he puts his head on his crossed paws and watches us talk."
Me: I looked at Zeus and I swear he gave me a knowing wink; this IS an articulate dog with a pretty good command of the English language.

What the hell!!  This is no way to live.  Constantly having to guess to whom the pronoun refers in every sentence.  What ever happened to nouns, or better yet, proper nouns, like a person's name?  Management is trying to have a conversation with me, and complains that I don't talk enough.  But this "conversation" becomes an interrogation of her by me to keep my head above water, as the "its", "his's", and "they's" fly about the room like confused moths searching for the sun.  And once I figure out which SHE or HE Management is talking about, she shifts gears and is on to a new set of celebrities, or politicians, or relatives to whom she is referring.  This is a real problem, especially as I continue to age and my brain cells disappear or harden into little nuggets.

So, more often than not, when Management asks me "Why is HE doing that?", I simply say with all the earnestness I can muster, "I really don't know honey.  Life is a mystery."  Of course, Management doesn't begin to appreciate fully how much of a mystery it really is to those of us on the receiving end of those damn indefinitely defined definite pronouns.

(For a classic and comical rendition of the pronoun problem, starring Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, go to this Youtube video.)