With the current debate around modern pronouns, why is no-one talking about epicene pronouns?

The question of pronouns has become a hot topic over the last decade or so as our language moves towards greater gender-neutrality. To use a pronoun in conversation, without first knowing which pronoun the individual you are addressing identifies with, is now regarded as poor etiquette. However, it may surprise you that two gender-neutral epicene pronouns– ‘ou’ and ‘a’ – were used in regional English dialects from as early as the middle ages, and remained prolific in some parts of northern England till as late as the 19th century. There are even some modern English equivalents that have been directly derived from these former pronouns. By James McKean Epicene pronouns are not associated with any specific gender and can be used in reference to all – they may also be referred to as gender blind, gender-neutral, or unisex pronouns. Everyday epicene pronouns include they, them, theirs, but can also include more specific nouns, such as cousin, lifeguard, or violinist. The latter of which have reduced masculinity to allow for feminine usage, as opposed to much more gender-defined nouns, such as fireman, stewardess, and actress – although many of such nouns are now considered to be gender-biased, they can still be heard in conversation today, and although subliminally, have a specific gender attached to them. Origin of Gender-Neutral Pronouns Epicene pronouns are useful today for those who do not feel that they can identify with the pronouns they were assigned at birth – i.e. she/her he/him. In recent years, this has opened a lot of room for debate over identity, as, generally, people feel it brings up concerns over how we interrelate. However, they strive to introduce gender-neutral, or epicene pronouns into our language is not exactly a recent phenomenon. You could look at a pronoun such as ‘they’ and find it has been used to refer to someone singularly since the time of the Middle English language. Examples of ‘they’, in reference to individual character, are evident in the Canterbury Tales, which Geoffrey Chaucer started writing in the year 1387. From this point, ‘they’ and ‘them’ gender-neutral pronouns can be found littered through works by Shakespeare, Austin, and Dickens. The influence of these works introduced ‘they’ into the public consciousness as a gender-neutral term – if somebody wanted to reference someone whose gender, for whatever reason, was unclear, they definitely would have used ‘they’ or ‘them’. The English language underwent huge changes throughout the 17th century, as Early Modern English turned into Modern English; many of the formerly established grammar rules were uprooted, including pronouns. As time went on, this epicene pronoun was lost, and replaced with male pronouns in the case of an uncertain gender, which became the norm from around the start of the 18th century.   Historical pronouns Gender-Neutral Pronouns in English Dialects It wasn’t only high-end authors who were using gender-neutral pronouns in the Middle Ages- commonfolk were too, but with their regional twists. Most commonly, the epicenes ‘(h)a’ and ‘ou’ were used prominently throughout the country. ‘(H)a’ is the most interesting one, with the ‘h’ part being silent, as it was simply a combination of the two Anglo-Saxon pronouns, ‘he’ and ‘heo’ (meaning she). It was used to refer to several things, including they, it, he, and she. ‘Ou’ was used in combination with the word ‘will’ to express that he/she/it will do something. Examples of ‘ou’ can be seen in the 14th-century writings of John of Trevisa, a famous Cornish translator who wrote in Middle English. It is unknown when these two epicenes died out, but they were recorded in 1789 by writer, William H. Marshall, to be still in use throughout England. Contemporary Equivalents Dennis Baron, renowned linguistic professor of the University of Illinois, argues that some regional epicenes are direct language descendants of the ‘ou’ and ‘(h)a’ pronoun. In Yorkshire, the pronoun ‘hoo’, although predominantly used when referring to a female, also has a gender-neutral quality to it, and is sometimes used in reference to men. This is comparable to West Country English, which often uses the epicene ‘er’. How Gender-Neutrality is Developing There are, of course, plenty of new modern equivalents – pronouns that are not derived from older forms of English and are entirely new words. These words include ze, zir, per, and hur. Changing such words as ‘sister’ and ‘brother’ to ‘sibling’, and ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ to ‘child’, were easy transitions. However, complications arose when changing such words as ‘niece’ and ‘nephew’ to a gender-neutral term – so, the new epicene word ‘nibling’ has been developed. There are a few collective terms that are, too, being developed into more inclusive words. For example, ‘mankind’ has become ‘humankind’, ‘men’ has become ‘people’, and ‘congressmen’ has become ‘people of congress’. Plus, the old gender-neutral ‘they’ has made a comeback, and as of 2019 is considered by the Merriam-Webster dictionary to be grammatically correct to use in reference to a ‘single person whose gender identity is non-binary.’ Conclusion Epicene pronouns is not a new concept to the English language – they are traditional! The Middle English language was full of them, many of which we lost during the transition from Early Modern English to Modern English.

What are the limits of rollercoaster design?

Rollercoasters are getting faster and taller, with ever higher g-forces for their riders. Have we now reached the limits of their design? By Phil Taylor The thrill of a fun fair or a theme park can be unrivalled for many people. The excitement builds up as you queue for a roller coaster as you see the ride whizzing around in front of you, flying in all sorts of directions much to your amazement. It has been this way for generations and the formula does not need to change, however, rollercoaster designers are always looking to push the boundaries. So, what can they do and what can they do next? The first rollercoaster in the world was Promenades Aeriennes, opened in Parc Beaujon in Paris on July 8, 1817. This sparked a lot of imitators to take the lead of the Promenades Aeriennes and the popularity of a roller coaster was born. 200 years has gone by in the rollercoaster world, and they have kept people hungry for more by adapting the thrill and making sure that the design of rides does not become repetitive. Roller coasters when they first arrived on the scene would follow a similar layout of a cart following a rail and reaching high speeds. Roller coasters were seen as a place for the upper class as they could afford to visit the theme parks and pay to ride the attractions. However, in Copenhagen, Tivoli gardens opened to the public aiming to attract the middle class. The theme park was able to make more permanent fixtures and try out new styles of rollercoasters away from what was becoming the normal style of a drop and loop round, they were able to incorporate more loops round and more turns. Roller coasters have adapted massively and become much safer with the advancement in technology. From wooden rollercoasters which were predominantly used at Blackpool Pleasure Beach to steel rollercoasters first used at Disneyland, rollercoasters are constantly changing. Since the first roller coaster opened in 1817 there are currently over 2,400 roller coasters across the world, and this do not even include defunct roller coasters! Rollercoaster manWhat should I know about roller coasters? To understand the thrill of a roller coaster you must understand what people want when they want to go on a roller coaster. People want to have the thrill of speed alongside the element of surprise alongside the element of not being in control but also feeling safe. It is a tough thing being a designer for roller coasters as they must consider what way they want to go in giving the rider the perfect experience so that they want to ride it all day. However, rather than trying to go for the full package each time, designers will report to a certain specification of the ride. For example, they may be designing a roller coaster that is aimed at families it needs to have enough exciting element to keep the child entertained but not too quick that they will be petrified to ever go on a rollercoaster again! There are also more thrilling rides that have many adaptations. There are two different coasters wooden or steel but then there are 37 different variations such as dive coasters, spinning coasters and hyper coasters. These give the rider more thrills as they experience different types of G. So what are the different types of G? +Gx is gravitational force exerted on a rider’s body from chest to back or sudden acceleration, pushing a rider back into their seats. -Gx force is exerted from back to chest, pushing the rider forward.  Gy – A lateral gravitational force that is exerted on the rider’s shoulders, such as during a lateral roll. +Gz is gravitational force that is exerted on the body of the coaster, such as during a recovery from a dive or the pull into an inside loop. -Gz is a force exerted vertically as rider push into dives. What are the fastest rides in the world?
  • Formula Rossa: 149.1 mph, Ferrari World on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi
  • Kingda Ka: 128 mph, Six Flags Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey
  • Top Thrill Dragster: 120 mph, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
  • Red Force: 112 mph, PortAventura, Salou, Tarragona, Spain
  • Dodonpa: 112 mph, Fuji-Q Highland, Yamanashi, Japan
  • Superman: Escape from Krypton: 100 mph, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California
What are the tallest rides in the world?
  • Kingda Ka, 456 ft (139 m), Six Flags Great Adventure,
  • Top Thrill Dragster, 420 ft (130 m), Cedar Point
  • Superman: Escape from Krypton, 415 ft (126 m), Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Red Force, 367.3 ft (112.0 m), Ferrari Land, Spain
  • Fury 325, 325 ft (99 m), Carowinds, United States
  • Steel Dragon 2000, 318.3 ft (97.0 m), Nagashima Spa Land, Japan
  • Millennium Force, 310 ft (94 m) , Cedar Point, United States
What are the limitations? Designers are always trying to better what has come before it and always wanting to top the limitations in technology.  Falcon’s Flight, which will not open until 2023 will reach speeds of 155 mph but also reach 525 feet so therefore it would also include the world’s biggest drop. However, physicist Kevin Hickerson says coaster could technically do more in comparison to planes and trains, “In terms of the physics of going fast, that’s something that roller coasters haven’t really peaked at,” Hickerson says. “Trains and airplanes go way faster.” “Although coasters can definitely go faster, they’re limited by the acceleration those higher speeds would require. Roller coasters reach their peak speeds in a matter of seconds. The achieved acceleration is what causes g-forces, which allows riders, like astronauts in space, to feel as an increased or decreased sense of their mass. These g-forces can be deadly but they are also well understood by physicists, so roller coasters are built according to strict standards that keep them well within safe levels.” Rollercoaster extremeWhat does a designer say? John Wardley, who can be credited with many designs such as Nemesis at Alton Towers, Vampire at Chessington World of Adventure and Stampida at PortAventura, echoes the sentiment that there are limitations and things have to be considered meticulously, “Designing rides is a serious business which requires much restraint, dedication and self-discipline. It is fun and exciting work, but most of your time is spent doing calculations, preparing budgets, solving problems and attending planning meetings. The designs of amazing terror machines which I get sent by enthusiasts may seem wonderful in the fantasy-world of the enthusiast, but frequently ignore the realities of: Safety, Reliability, Capacity, Cost-effectiveness, Wide appeal, Local planning restrictions” So there are limitations but there is also room for more with technology improving constantly. Be prepared to be thrilled even more in the future!

Dive Bar – Bringing Back the Ancient Beers

Everyone knows that X marks the spot. Hidden treasure troves that could entice any pirate of the Caribbean lie across and beneath the waves. But what if we could drink the same rum that Captain Jack Sparrow adored so much? Well thanks to the efforts of a single diver off the Scottish coast, we are recreating the flavours of ancient beer. By Andrew Cook Just off the Scottish coast, a ship has lain on the seafloor since 1895. Forgotten along the seabed for almost 100 years, the Wallachia lay untouched and undisturbed in the darkness as the ocean floor gradually moved in to claim it. Layers of silt began to cover the decks and gradually made their way inside through the gigantic tear in the starboard side, until sediment and tiny denizens of the deep made it their home. Now, thanks to an intrepid diver named Steve Hickman – we are redefining the future of brewing. The Lost Cargo The Wallachia is, or rather was, a single crew cargo steamer owned by William Burrel & Son of Glasgow. Among her regular tasks was to make runs between Glasgow and the West Indies. Unfortunately for her, during a foggy morning with little visibility in 1895, she was accidentally rammed by a 1,406 ton Norwegian steamer named Flos speeding out of the mists. Fortunately for us, she was filled to the brim with earthenware jars that survived more or less intact. Among this precious cargo included hundreds of samples filled with beer from McEwans. The British Empire effectively functioned on such brews during this period, after all it was the great Queen Victoria who decreed “Give my people plenty of beer, good beer, and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them.” Remember that the next time someone says that the Empire was built on tea! Dive Bar beer The Recovery Efforts Steve Hickman is a dive technician and amateur diver, and a regular at the site of the Wallachia. Since the 1980’s he has been braving the depths and exploring the near-impenetrable visibility of the silt-filled holds. Using only a small, netted bag, his recoveries that he has brought to the surface include whisky, gin and beer. But the real game-changer has only appeared recently. Despite the cold, dark conditions that make it so ideal for preserving yeast and other bacteria, many items from the depths are damaged, meaning that the original states have not always been maintained. Even under perfect conditions, many bottles have a tendency to explode when brought to the surface due to changing pressures. Recently, however, a team from Brewlab and the University of Sunderland have managed to extract liquid yeast from some samples retrieved from the depths. And they resemble nothing of the beers of today. The New (or Ancient) Kind of Yeast Even the most fervent alcohol aficionado could be forgiven for not understanding the complexities of brewing, so bear with us as we dive right in.
Beer underwater
Not all beer underwater is welcome!
As a nation of heavy-drinkers, our breweries have fallen into the habit of using yeasts primarily from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae family. (Don’t ask us to say it out loud – we have no idea how to!) And only a very small minority of sour beers nowadays use strains from the Brettanomyces family. But the treasure trove from the Wallachia not only contains the aforementioned yeast strains, but also from the Debaryomyces strain. This mix of yeast strains, both common and unheard of, mean that ancient beers were filled with vastly varied flavours and notes that we currently do not experience drinking at the pub with our mates nowadays. Of course scientists also discovered tremendous amounts of bacteria within the beers, proving that ancient brewing was incredibly unhygienic, but naturally they are leaving those parts out of the recreation process! The Initial Results Preliminary bottles have been produced in an effort to recreate the bottles of the 7.5% Stout retrieved from the Wallachia. Strong hints of coffee and chocolate wrapped up in a low-carbonated, dark beer that by all accounts goes down far too well. Now Brewlab are undergoing in-depth microbiology experimentation to investigate the possibilities of other yeast strains in brewing processes. Could the same beer be vastly changed via fermentation with a different yeast strain? Could the processes become more efficient? What qualities will be available in the future? This is not limited to only the brewing industry either. The possibilities of recreating ancient bread, of culinary experts inventing vastly different pizza bases – and even the future of pharmaceutical companies creating new compounds in different conditions is at stake. The chemicals being created via different varieties of yeast could possibly lead to incredible breakthroughs in life-saving medicine for future generations. The End of a Legacy All of this and more, from the hands of one diver in a shipwreck off the coast of Scotland. However time is running out for the Wallachia. As the days go by, the incessant ebbs and flows of the tides are wearing down the ancient walls of the Wallachia as the seabed tries to claim her prize and drag it down to Davy Jones’ locker. Within the next 20-30 years, it is more than likely that the remaining pieces of the Wallachia will disappear from memory, and the treasure trove of yeast strains will be scattered and lost forever. Until such time, we must remember that truly, through beer, all things are possible.