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Thar she blows!

So. Here’s an odd little thing about my life in 2016, presented for your commentary and analysis.

Your Humble Blogger works, as has been mentioned more than once in this Tohu Bohu, at the circulation desk of an academic library. At our library, it’s also the desk for course reserves (for folk not in tune with current academic library use, that’s textbooks restricted to in-library use) and it’s the reserves that make up the bulk of our traffic. Well, reserves and devices; we have calculators and laptops and headphones and chargers and tablets that go out a dozen times a day or more. We do check out a few circulating books every day, but the bulk of the transactions are not that.

Anyway, for the course reserves, we shelve them by department and course, so the smoothest transaction might be a student saying Can I have the text for Bio 122, by Campbell, please? That gives me all the information I need to find the book. Well, in this case it really is all the information, because the text is called BIOLOGY: the subtitle of some irrelevant kind so by giving me the course code the student has also effectively given me the title as well.

Or she might ask Do you have Rereading America on reserve? Well, all of us at the desk know that’s for English 110, because it goes out twenty times a day and has for years. But one of our newer student workers might not know that, and would respond What course is it for? This will often stump the student. Eventually, the student might say I think it’s, a, you know, writing? Surprisingly, this is enough. Is the Organic Chemistry lab manual in? Since I know that Orgo is Chem 244 (or whatever) and that the lab manual is the spiral-bound one (so the title isn’t visible and therefore wouldn’t have been helpful) so that’s plenty of info for me. Do you have the Sociology book? not so much. Although, sometimes by the middle of the day I know what assignments are coming due, and can say Seeing Sociology or Juvenile Delinquency or whatever. It’s one of the things I like best about my job, the accumulation of experience that allows me to come up with the orange book or the media textbook. A surprising number of students do not, four weeks into a semester, know the number of their courses, or the titles of their textbooks, or the names of their instructors. Some seem surprised at the idea that they might want to have committed any of that to memory. This year there has been a huge increase in the number of students who present us with the image of the textbook on their phone—not reading the information off their screen but turning the screen toward us and saying this book. And it’s often helpful. I know where the aforementioned orange book is, the butterfly book, the book with the bridge, even the purple book. Even the purple book with the yellow spine, I know where it is, because I remember not being able to find its purpleness.

Digression: Do any of y’all happen to know—Organic Chemistry isn’t really being called O-Chem, is it? That’s just wrong. End Digression.

Here’s my problem, though: when I dive into the stacks after being given the vaguest information and emerge holding a textbook, I often ask the student: Is this the right book? But actually, in my heavily jocose manner, I actually most often say Is this the fellow? It has (belatedly) occurred to me that I ought not gender our textbooks exclusively male, but I have not come up with a female identifier that trips easily off my tongue.

Is this the gal?

Is this the lady?

Is this her?

I’m not saying that any of them are wrong, or wouldn’t convey meaning, just that they don’t seem natural when I say them. It reads to YHB as what it is, a clumsy attempt to deliberately cross-gender my language, meaning that it’s clear to the person I’m speaking to that I still think of books as male even though I am saying it the other way. The obvious answer is to stop anthropomorphizing books, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon, either. What do y’all think, Gentle Readers?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


If it was me, I can imagine that I would say "Is it this puppy?". Cani-promorphize?

It seems a bit analogous to the shift I've been making from saying "you guys" to saying "you folks". So I'm wondering if there's a non-gendered word for a person that would fit... "is this the joker?"
"is this the sucker?"
"is this the kiddo?"

Possibly going for the profanity is not the correct solution:

"Is this the fucker?"
"It's this bastard, innit?"
"I got this sunovabitch right here."
"This book's your beee-yotch!"
"Check this shit out—BOOM!"
"Whoooo!" [shimmy]



Is this what Jesus would read?

People definitely sometimes call Orgo O-Chem, or at least they did 15-20 years ago. Similarly P-Chem for Physical Chemistry.

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