Age of Pronoun

Writing | Friday, October 3rd, 2008 | 10 years, 11 months ago

I bought Age of Conan a little after its release in May of this¬ year,¬ but chose not to resubscribe because it was too bug-riddled to suspend my disbelief and lose me in the world.¬ I decided a couple of weeks ago to give it another go.¬ Things are almost perfectly stable now, though there are still some attributes and player professions that are unfinished (unstarted, perhaps) and have no effect.¬ The positives far outweigh the negatives and I’m having a pretty good time drinking in the sights and soundtrack.

The first improvement I noticed when I logged on for the first time in four months was that most of the help text and tooltips had been rewritten, for the better.¬ Many previously cryptically-described skills became clear to me for the first time, and that was really necessary for me to grasp the finer depth of this game.

As something (but not much) of a technical writer, one thing bothered me about the description of my necromancer Arecibo’s Frost Blast spell.¬ See if you can guess what it is.

Sorry, users of text-only web browsers.

When I began my co-op for my technical writing post-grad I was working on manuals for IT contractors.¬ ¬ A domain administrator was my occasional SME, and he once challenged me on an odd gender-neutral pronoun I’d pulled out of my posterior.¬ “Themself”.¬ Embarrassing, I know.

“Them is plural and self is singular.¬ That’s not a word,” he told me.¬ I felt sheepish; linguistically emasculated by a techie.

It took me a little while to remember this which explained the twinge I felt in my heart as I silently cursed the dummy who chose the pronoun them in place of “The necromancer”.

So what’s the correct gender-neutral pronoun? Seems a glaring omission.

P.s., I’m such an English dork.¬ This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about technical writing in video games.

P.p.s., Worst.¬ Blog entry title.¬ Ever.

P.p.p.s., You win a prize if you can guess why I picked my character name, Arecibo. Post your guess in the comments below.

>> ATH0 -- NO CARRIER <<


  1. To make is sound better, I would suggest using either ‘him’ or ‘her’, but to make it truly gender neutral, I would have to go with ‘it’. And ‘itself’ is a word.

    Why did people start using ‘them’ for gender neutral singular pronouns anyway?

    Comment by Mycroft — October 7, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

  2. “It” is a little too impersonal.. most people would probably take offense at the term. Heck, most pet owners take offense when I use that pronoun to describe their furrier family members (the non-human ones).

    Why “them”? Good question, but what else? I think traditionally writers just defaulted to “him” but in this enlightened age we try to avoid that.

    No guesses as to the origin of my character name??

    Comment by Brian — October 8, 2008 @ 9:32 am

  3. After the huge observatory?

    Comment by Mycroft — October 9, 2008 @ 2:34 am

  4. ‘Tis!! Give me time to think up an appropriate prize!

    Comment by brian — October 10, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

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