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New Poll - Unknown Gender Pronouns

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5:09 pm, Jun 29 2019
Posts: 9912


This week's poll was suggested by Nekomikoto. It deals with scanlator woes and how to translate a character with an unknown gender. Doesn't really apply here, but when addressing a group, I always say "you guys" even if the majority is female.

You can submit poll ideas here
http://www.mangaupdates.com/showtopic.php?tid=3903

Previous Poll Results:
Question: Do you like reading standalone oneshots at the end of the volume that are unrelated to the main series (i.e., different characters)?
Choices:
No - votes: 1218 (42.1%)
Yes - votes: 1675 (57.9%)
There were 2893 total votes.
The poll ended: June 29th 2019

Almost down the middle. And to all the complainers, I purposely didn't put a "I don't care" option

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Post #770085
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8:16 pm, Jun 29 2019
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I chose ‘they/them’, but a better option IMO would be to use the character’s name instead of pronouns until the gender is clarified.

Post #770086 - Reply to (#770085) by hkanz
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9:32 pm, Jun 29 2019
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Quote from hkanz
a better option IMO would be to use the character’s name instead of pronouns until the gender is clarified.

Continuing in my Japanese studies, that's seems to be how the language works by default. Unless you're being casual or rude, you're only suppose to use "you" when you cannot identify the target.

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12:09 am, Jun 30 2019
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My choice would be "Any, according to case".

One should take care when dealing with this problem. Sometimes, the author is deliberately masking the character's gender (let's use the name "A-san" ) to later reveal an opposite gender to the one that we first thought. As we all know, this language technique is unique to Japanese, which doesn't normally use explicit singular pronouns.

Now this isn't always the case. Other times there is no surprise at all, and simply a matter of us not being able to identify A-san in the first place. The key is for the translator to identify whether the ambiguity is deliberate or not, and to preserve the author's intentions. Because each case is unique, it wouldn't be a good idea to rely on only any one of these techniques listed as the default method. For example, the case "can't tell from appearance" is very different to "character has only been mentioned but not seen yet".

Scanlators should use a combination of techniques. One is to mirror the author, for example by using A-san's name when the author does. Another is to rearrange the sentence subject-object-verb order so that A-san is not the subject, or by seizing the opportunity to refer to the unidentified A-san as someone else, like as a group member. Capitalise on those that minimise any opportunity to use explicit singular pronouns at all.

But if one must use a pronoun, use the one the author wants you (or the other characters) to think. Do you know A-san's gender? Should you know A-san's gender by now? How many chapters has it been since A-san's first appearance? Is the situation a gender-bender comedy or a nitty-gritty thriller? Does the author want you think that A-san is a boy to reveal her later as a girl? (Vice versa.) Have you held off long enough on using "he/she/they" ("it" is a no-no unless A-san is a pet or animal) to afford slipping in a pronoun? Or is it safe to use A-san's name again?

"Any, according to case", because as you can see every story is different. "They/them" will ruin a comedy, but may be appropriate for the no-nonsense; conversely, maybe "he/she" risks inciting an English-speaking flame war for such a serious narrative.

Or perhaps ask a native Japanese reader what they think.

Post #770091 - Reply to (#770086) by Transdude1996
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12:45 am, Jun 30 2019
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Quote from Transdude1996
Continuing in my Japanese studies, that's seems to be how the language works by default. Unless you're being casual or rude, you're only suppose to use "you" when you cannot identify the target.


The poll isn't about addressing someone directly though, it refers to when someone is being talked about, e.g. 'he went to the store'. A scanlator/someone with more knowledge about Japanese could clarify this, but I believe the issue is that in Japanese a name can be introduced in a first sentence and following sentences can be written without names/pronouns, but English requires that name or pronoun... like in Japanese it could be said 'Yukari is my friend. Goes to park on Saturdays. Loves ramen', but proper English sentence structure would require 'Yukari is my friend. She/he/they goes to the park on Saturdays. She/he/they loves ramen.' So the question is what pronoun should be used for Yukari when the gender has not yet been specified. My apologies if this is wrong ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Post #770093 - Reply to (#770090) by Erazen
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3:25 am, Jun 30 2019
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I answer They/them but was mostly thinking in cases it was deliberately masking, even if sometimes it's just because of sentence structure that you can miss knowing the gender.

Post #770094 - Reply to (#770091) by hkanz
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4:02 am, Jun 30 2019
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Quote from hkanz
A scanlator/someone with more knowledge about Japanese could clarify this, but I believe the issue is that in Japanese a name can be introduced in a first sentence and following sentences can be written without names/pronouns, but English requires that name or pronoun... like in Japanese it could be said 'Yukari is my friend. Goes to park on Saturdays. Loves ramen', but proper English sentence structure would require 'Yukari is my friend. She/he/they goes to the park on Saturdays. She/he/they loves ramen.'

From what I've learned, you are right in how the Japanese language structures itself, but you're thinking about it too much if you think that writing, in English, requires the sentences to always be grammatically correct. Very rarly is English speech actually correct, itself, unless it's prepared before hand. And, even then, incorrect grammer can be used as a tool in writing. During my one year of college, my English professor actually recommended that I make a sentence grammatically incorrect as it added "power" to the paper. But, that's starting to head down a different trail.

Bringing it back to the topic of refering to others, the example you used of how it would be structured in Japanese still sounds "correct" in English even though it grammatically isn't. Stating "Yukari is my friend. Goes to park on Saturdays. Loves ramen." is the type of thing you'd say if you're casually talking about Yukari, or making a list of details, and the reason it "sounds" correct is because it can also be percieved as "Yukari is my friend, goes to the park on Saturdays, loves ramen,...". And, you'd only bring in the pronouns when you need to be more formal or making it a part of an explanation. "She/he/they goes to the park on Saturdays. She/he/they loves ramen." Depending on the context, either way can work, or stating it one way is more preferable than the other.

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Post #770095 - Reply to (#770094) by Transdude1996
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4:38 am, Jun 30 2019
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I agree re: your comments on incorrect grammar, but I think we’re getting into the weeds here - while there could be numerous options for rephrasing or taking creative license with grammar, the poll hasn’t provided specific text to discuss, so I’m taking the question as ‘if a pronoun must be used, what should it be’.

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9:26 am, Jun 30 2019
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None of the above even if the manga isn´t about LGBT+ themes. Just use the name you have and fudge grammar as much as possible while setting an editor´s note. Which remind me. The official German version of HxH misgendered Kurapika in at least the first volume. Hups. So yeah, never rely on visuals with manga. And good luck figuring out which of the Sekiro bosses are women without wiki to give another recent example.

Gender and sex aren´t the same too, so I´ll just link to the obligatory ContraPoints on Pronouns and call it a day. And watch Pose by FX.

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10:30 am, Jun 30 2019
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The only issue with they/them is that it can also be plural, and can add confusion to a script.

i.e. - "They went to the store" could mean both "one person went to the store" as well as "a few people went to the store" depending on the context.

Without that context, it's impossible to know how many people somebody is referring to using "they", so a translator should tread carefully when using it.

A good thing to remember is to use other nouns beforehand which you can refer back to using the pronoun "they"...

i.e. - "Seiji-san left the house earlier. They went to the store."

Singular nouns like "that person" can work, or even just the person's name. Just be sure you understand how pronouns work in English, so you know exactly which noun the pronoun is referring to.

Hope this helps. 😀

Last edited by vigorousjammer at 10:35 am, Jun 30

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Post #770110 - Reply to (#770098) by residentgrigo
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1:55 pm, Jun 30 2019
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Just use the name you have and fudge grammar as much as possible while setting an editor´s note.

While I appreciate the effort not to assume gender I feel like this option just makes sentences needlessly clunky. And it doesn't really help when you need to use object or possessive pronouns. i.e. Yukari always takes Yukari's bag with Yukari when Yukari goes to Yukari's mother's house. A sentence like this actual becomes really difficult to understand because one could assume that there are multiple people named Yukari.

So I would say they/them is the best option although it's not grammatically correct. Or even just choosing one of the gendered pronouns and putting a note that the gender is unknown at this time. English is just really frustrating when it comes to these issues.

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Gender and sex aren´t the same too... And watch Pose by FX.
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Yes and yes.

Post #770111 - Reply to (#770098) by residentgrigo
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2:14 pm, Jun 30 2019
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Quote from residentgrigo
Gender and sex aren´t the same too

That is true. Gender just applies when you consider whether something nonbiological or nonexistening is masculine or feminine or neutral (Such as with language, not all languages have a "sexually neutral" structure like English does), meanwhile sex is whether a biological being is either male of female (Or a hermaphrodite, as is the case with plants, worms, and slugs).



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Post #770112 - Reply to (#770098) by residentgrigo
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3:43 pm, Jun 30 2019
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Quote from residentgrigo
None of the above even if the manga isn´t about LGBT+ themes. Just use the name you have and fudge grammar as much as possible while setting an editor´s note.


In my case, when I suggested this poll, we never find out the char's name until after the appearance (and can subsequently infer the gender) was revealed. For context, this was a mysterious person in a black robe running around attacking people. 😕 (So addressing by name would not apply). At one point we even had "he escaped!" but we didn't want to use any pronouns until gender was confirmed... (cause it was revealed later that it was a girl) making it sorta tricky to phrase it haha

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6:48 pm, Jun 30 2019
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Very much depends.
Use what the original uses
...and if it uses gender neutral pronouns, which English doesn't have: Avoid using pronouns! (if this means fudging the grammar, so be it. Also, where applicable, using the persons name instead, could also work)

I abhor the over-/mis-use of they/them.
Don't use plurals, when referring to individuals (unless you're using a "majestic plural", though AFAIK that is only used when speaking in First Person. Hence why it is more usually known as the "royal we" )

"It" is rather problematic, as it tends to imply that what is referred to, isn't human. Therefore it should be avoided, though IMO it is far preferable, to "they".

P.S. This does rather remind me of Komi-san wa Komyushou Desu., where one person is referred to as "he/she" and occasional a mix of "he" and "she" (often with both "he" and "she" being used, in the same sentence. I wonder what the original Japanese is, on that issue... maybe I'll try to find some raws of the stuff I've already read. I should be able to manage to read 'em well enough).
(both the gender and sex of the person are intentionally kept as a complete mystery)

P.P.S. I get the impression that the distinction between gender identity and physical sex (and how it is the gender identity, and gender identity alone, that determines whether someone is a man or a woman. Not their body), doesn't particularly seem to be one that most people in Japan, even among the LGBT+ community, seem to fully get. I like Japan, but they sure do seem to be significantly behind, on social issues (actually a whole bunch of things, but probably more so on social issues)

Post #770118 - Reply to (#770112) by Nekomikoto
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8:12 pm, Jun 30 2019
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You could go with "the intruder vanished" or something like that. Cape comics have a similar issue, where mysteries people constantly show up or stand in the shadows/off panel and are then addressed in the most neutral way possible. Rocksteady´s Arkham Knight just appeared in DC comics canon but turned out to be a teen girl instead of Jason Todd. Here she is:
https://static0.cbrimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Arkham-Knight-Teaser-Image.jpg?q=50& fit=crop&w=738&dpr=1.5
THIS is a woman below the age of 20. She has an athletic female stature under the suit and uses a voice modulator. The actual character is... whatever and the design is from the game but boy of boi does she look cool.
The female Firefly from Gotham further just came to comics but the writer was upfront about that despite the unisex suit, as she is the protege of the male one. So any day-and-date translation team wouldn´t have run into gender confusion issues there.
DKR 3 lastly starts with Cerry Kelly (now 19) impersonating the semi-retired Batman. See how common all of this can be and I didn´t even need to branch out of Batman canon of the last 3 years! Which reminds me of Mystic. How is one to address her when she turns into a man (she identifies as female but her sexuality is as fluid as can be). Hm.

PS: Mystic was almost Nightcrawler´s father instead of mother but that topic was too dicey for 90s Marvel in the end.

Last edited by residentgrigo at 8:35 pm, Jun 30

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