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> Singular "they" (as in "Everyone was blowing their nose"), which
> has been used in English since the time of Chaucer, has gained
> popularity recently as a result of the move towards gender-neutral
> language. Prescriptive grammarians have traditionally (since 1795,
> although the actual practice goes right back to 1200) prescribed
> "Everyone was blowing his nose."
> Proposals for other gender-neutral pronouns get made from time to
> time, and some can be found in actual use ("sie" and "hir" are
> the ones most frequently found on Usenet). Cecil Adams, in _Return
> of the Straight Dope_ (Ballantine, 1994, ISBN 0-345-38111-4) says
> that some eighty such terms have been proposed, the first of them in
> the 1850s.
> Discussions about gender-neutral pronouns tend to go round and
> round and never reach a conclusion. Please refrain.
I don't have a firm opinion about this either way. I'd rather not use 'his'
when I mean 'his or hers'. I'd rather not say 'his or hers' at all if I can
avoid it. I'd rather use a generally accepted pronoun, but there isn't one.
Using 'them' or 'their' is one way to write around these problems -- there
are others. I try to use whatever seems best in the circumstances, so that
how I say it does not distract the reader from what I say. It's cold
comfort to know that both the usage and the dispute go back at least to
Good writing and correct writing are not usually incompatible. Those rare
times when I can't do both, I gulp, turn my wife's picture to face the
wall... and write wrong.
Stuart Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Voice: +61 9 328 8288
Functional Software Fax: +61 9 328 8616
PO Box 192
Leederville, Western Australia, 6903