Re: Evolving language or laziness?

Subject: Re: Evolving language or laziness?
From: Tony Ioven/Voice Processing Corp <Tony_Ioven/Voice_Processing_Corp -at- VPRO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 1996 09:01:08 -0600

Lorraine.Lawford-McWilliams cites . . .
>> Me and John are going to the store.
>> Do you want to come with John and I?

>>Then there's "there's", which can take singular or plural objects for
>>many speakers.

>>This is obsolete. Our evolving language dictates that there's and theirs
>>may be used interchangeably. Thus theirs no simply rule for how people
>>use they're there's.

And then comments . . .
>> In Britain and Ireland such writing would be generally be considered
incorrect.

To which I add . . .
Let me assure you, Lorraine -- this kind of writing is generally considered
incorrect here in the colonies, too.

But in at least one instance, the old rules applying to singular/plural
agreement really do seem to be evolving. More and more, it seems acceptable
to use a plural pronoun where a singular pronoun has been required. In other
words, it seems to be becoming more acceptable to use a pronoun such as "their"
to avoid using the politically incorrect "his," or the politically correct but
wordy "his or her."

Here's an example. I'm working on a speech-enabled telephone "receptionist"
which uses recorded speech to prompt a user for information. The following
prompt is played when the user wants to call someone:

"Who do you want to call and where do you want to call them?"

This is an interesting prompt. "Who" is used (and in my opinion, correctly so)
instead of the grammatically correct "Whom" because "Who" is more colloquial.
But using "them" to refer to an individual bothers me. As I've told the
powers-that-be here -- I may be overweight, but I don't deserve to be referred
to in the plural. But I seem to be the only one here who's bothered by this
particular example of language evolution.

I'm interested in hearing your opinions.

Tony Ioven
tioven -at- vpro -dot- com


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