Re: Sexism and Pronouns

Subject: Re: Sexism and Pronouns
From: "Huber, Mike" <Mike -dot- Huber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 15:36:53 -0500

I find it amusing that the third person plural keeps getting
"demoted" to singular for political reasons. Last time, it
was "you," which used to be third person plural/formal,
with "thou" being the familiar. "Thou" kind of went away
because it was considered demeaning and as collateral
damage to the religious wars.

I understand the southern US "you all" is now used as
the formal singular.

(My spell-checker just rejected "thou.")

From: Marci Andrews[SMTP:Marci_Andrews -at- NOVELL -dot- COM]
Sent: Monday, December 11, 1995 1:58 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list TEC
Subject: Sexism and Pronouns

In response to the following:

Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 00:45:12 -0500
From: Craig Patchett <PappasWest -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Subject: Re: Sexism and Pronouns
In fact, I would have to say that the secret to any kind of successful
with another human being (and writing is such a relationship) is the
understand each other's perspective. To ignore the other's perspective,
to try
conform it to your own, or to ridicule it is to destine the relationship

I couldn't agree more.

This is an audience awareness problem, rooted in social upheaval, whose
solution has become an emotional issue for many. Because so many members
our tech writing audience are bothered by the use of the masculine
pronoun in
contexts where it represents both genders, we whose trade is
must acknowledge the fact and either address a fuller audience or
address only those who either don't care or don't want to include the
gender in pronoun usage.

Pronoun usage is not a trivial thing. It is a pebble at the foot of a

The history of English shows that pronoun usage changed radically between
the Old and Middle English periods, and then again, but not so
between the Middle and Modern English periods. Pronoun usage hasn't
changed much since then, though much other usage has. During most, if
of that time, people have been protesting against many of the changes
has undergone. Most of the big changes were probably very emotional
for the people who wanted the language to stay the same.

English changes. Social upheaval and common usage dictates what the
language will become. I predict that "they" will evolve to mean the
well as the plural third person. Any other predictions out there? (But
predictions are off-topic...)

Marci Andrews
Editor at Novell, Inc.
former PhD candidate studying Old English at University of Oregon
<mandrews -at- novell -dot- com>

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