Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

How the informal pronoun You made English a language of arrogance and contempt

Holier-than-thou political correctness may backfire!

The English, You is for everyone. There is no difference between speaking to friends, superiors, or servants. They’re all your You’s.

The same for the word Dear. Dear is your partner, your children, your boss, and your workers. And even G^d.

You would think: Such egalitarian societies. But they’re not. Not the UK and not the US. The differences between rich and poor are enormous. The rich prove the superiority of their societies; the poor don’t matter.

How does that go in other languages?

Many European and world languages seem to differ in this from English.

In German, the polite pronoun of those above you is Sie; the rest is Du.

In France, the polite pronoun of those above you is Vous; the rest is Tu.

In Dutch, the polite pronoun of those above you is U; the rest is Jij.

In Italian, the polite pronoun of those above you is Lei; the rest is Tu.

In Spanish, the polite pronoun of those above you is Usted; the rest is Tu.

To address someone as dutujij, or  in a formal context is terribly rude.

But still, Dutch culture produced the most egalitarian society imaginable.

I raised my kids with Jewish/Dutch norms. They always use at least two words speaking to their father—one is for dogs. They call me Father, not by a moniker. I didn’t ingrain that for me, but rather so they’d grow up knowing to give respect. Now in their twenties, they’re still very respectful to me. And it does feel nice. But I’m also among their best friends. It’s a respect that doesn’t create distance or coldness. Of course, I showed them a lot of respect too. Don’t expect fruits from trees you forgot to plant.

The West probably speaks the most disrespectfully to elders, but at least the above languages use the personal pronouns Sie, Vous, U, Lei, Usted!

Modern Hebrew only has At(a), but you can still use classical Hebrew to show extra respect: Atem/n (plural) or the third person: Is the Rabbi busy?

Yet, G^d can only be addressed in the second person informal singular, though there’s the third person to proclaim His exaltedness (in Blessings).

Israeli society is, like the Dutch one, quite egalitarian. Don’t be surprised when your CEO shows up in jeans and a T-shirt. Going to a desk job interview in a necktie you signal I only know how to dress but not work!

English used to have Thou for friends and You for notables. But, political correctness of long ago began prescribing You for everyone. And now, the Biblical Thou sounds for notables, but was once for close ones, like G^d!

So perhaps, enforcing equality doesn’t work and even backfires. When there are options to give honor, people may forgo that honor. But when everyone is ‘the same,’ that just signals: forget about respect, dignity, generosity, and empathy. A warning about modern political correctness?

My previous critical posts about English you find here and here and here.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is (partly) generated by AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * If you don't know the Dutch, get an American peek behind the scenes here: * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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