Friday, May 06, 2011

Pro-Nouns and Anti-Semantic

Over at Slate today, the estimable Dana Stevens gave an almost begrudging thumbs-most-of-the-way-up to the new Mel Gibson movie, The Beaver. The film's release, you may recall, was delayed to provide some breathing room between us, the movie-going public, and the stink of Gibson's latest odious transgressions.

In any case, the movie is directed by Jodie Foster, who also performs in the film, and about whom Steven writes:
It's notoriously hard for an actor to direct his or herself on-screen, which may account for the lack of warmth in Foster's scenes with Gibson.
The problem here is that, while his and hers go together like Mel Gibson and raging misogynist anti-Semite, the reflexive pronouns are, of course, himself and herself. (True, hisself is a variant in some dialects, particularly those featured in movies where Jackie Gleason plays a sheriff, but not in Standard Written English.)

So how do we solve this? Some people--those with a sense of panache and derring-do--see an opportunity here to deploy a sexy suspended hyphen, like so: "him- or herself." But if that seems too risquĂ©, we can also go with the stodgy but serviceable "himself or herself." Or, we can simply avoid the whole pickle by recasting the sentence: "It's notoriously hard for actors to direct themselves on-screen...especially when playing opposite a volatile misogynist anti-Semite."