January 24th, 2010

Gender Neutral Global Language

I've googled "gender neutral honourifics" and searched the community, and am afraid my google fu is too weak to really get at exactly what I'm looking for.

I'm working on building a science fiction story, one which I wish to employ some social advances on language- namely, that the common language for humans is far more gender neutral in respect towards fellow humans and encountered aliens. The problem is, I have no knowledge or experience in linguistics, nor do I have much of an idea of the evolution of language outside what I've learned from books like Bill Bryson's "Made in America."

Now, I'm already completely aware of current proposed gender neutrals- I've visited the various gender and sexuality related wikipedia and other encyclopedias.

What I want to know is this: Are there any currently existing languages in the world from which I can borrow gender neutral honourifics from? Something that might be a replacement for "Sir" and "Ma'am", and for "Mr." and "Mrs."?

And are there any neutral pronouns? I'm only slightly familiar with the Finnish word "hän" in that someone from Finland passingly mentioned that they use one word for "him" "her" "she" and "he," which is "hän," and that's why they always felt uncomfortable using anything other than "they" in English. :p


So yes, thanks in advance for every contribution. :)


Edit: I really appreciate all the input, and the more well advised advice on the entire idea of borrowing from other languages. You've all given me a lot to think about and consider, and in the end I might avoid entangling other languages. As for the people who did contribute their knowledge of other languaes, thanks for giving me some perspective.

Best man and wedding ring

I have a question about wedding protocol. I'm working on a story that takes place circa 1970 in California. The characters are not particularly religious, but they're having a church wedding (so far; I may change it to a civil ceremony). I would like to have the best man hand the ring to the groom to place on the bride's finger. However, everything I have read about who does what at a wedding has the best man handing the ring to the minister, who blesses it and then gives it to the groom. I need to know if this is always the way it is, or if it would be plausible for the best man to give it directly to the groom. And would he do this in a civil ceremony? I seem to remember seeing it done this way sometimes in movies or TV shows, but I'm not sure and I don't want to write something that just wouldn't happen.

I've tried Googling "wedding procedure," "wedding protocol," "best man's role in weddings," and "1960's weddings" (in case the time period might have some bearing on it), but nothing has told me whether this particular point is pretty much set in stone or not.

ETA: The denomination in question is Lutheran.

ETA 2: Thanks to everyone for the advice. It looks like most Lutheran ceremonies do include a ring blessing, but it also looks like it's not mandatory. I think I'm going to have my bride and groom ask not to have it included. Thank you all, again!

Tattoos in Ethiopia

 I'm trying to find out what the current cultural norm is regarding tattoos in Ethiopia.  I have a character traveling around the country--both in villages and big cities like Addis Ababa--who is highly tattooed, and I want to know what people would think and how they would react to her.  As it is, she's going to stand out as she's a single, white woman in an unfamiliar country.  Would reactions and responses change the more established she became?

All my searches for tattoos in Ethiopia (and its variants) have turned up articles about religious tattoos in Ethiopia, which is interesting but not relevant to the kind of tattoos my character has.  I'm assuming that tribal and religious tattoos are viewed much differently than colorful sleeves are.

Amnesia, coma, and recovery

Setting: present day USA
Main character: female, approximately 30, otherwise healthy and active.
Prior searches: I've looked up several types of amnesia on Wikipedia, "retrograde amnesia" and "retrograde amnesia and recovery" on Google, as well as what posts I could find on the subject in this community. I also followed the links from this post which was helpful.

The character in question undergoes brain surgery for a benign brain tumour, and is in a coma for a few days (3-4?) due to complications. When she wakes up, she can't remember the people she has previously seen on a daily basis or the most recent years of her life.

I'd like her to slowly regain her memory, piece by piece, and to have recovered completely by the end of four or five months.

1. I'd like her to remember her childhood, up to age 20 or so, but nothing specific after that except her professional identity, as she's well-known in her field (her job is lab-based). Is this realistic? (I know she probably won't be allowed to pop right back into the lab and get back to work, but her frustration over not being allowed to do her job is a factor in the story.) (To be clear, I know about the differences between episodic and semantic memory. I need her to remember her profession, and that she is well-respected in her field, as opposed to just remember how to do her job.)

2. Is it realistic that such a severe TBI that wouldn't leave any long term physical effects?

3. Is a complete recovery realistic after months of memory loss?

4. What other symptoms may correspond to this type of brain injury? I know sleep patterns can suffer, for example, so could she find herself struggling with insomnia for a while?

5. Also, when would she be allowed to get back to work? Would she need to be cleared by a neurologist, or psychiatrist, or both? Assume that she is functioning well independently and doesn't experience complications.

6. How long would she be kept in hospital? Would she be required to stay with family/have a friend stay with her, and for how long?

Thank you for any help/insight!