Boss' gender?

Subject: Boss' gender?
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 12:18:09 -0500

Tim Covil posed the problematic sentence <<I think you
should go to the boss and see what they think>> as a
hideous example of the singular "they". (By the way, "they"
has a long tradition of being used as a singular, so it's
not "wrong"; it _is_ sufficiently unfamiliar to modern
readers that you're usually well advised to avoid using it;
unfamiliar constructions look wrong and thereby distract
readers.)

The problem sentence is easy to reword in any of several
ways, to whit:
1. I think you should ask what the boss thinks.
2. I think you should go to ask the boss's opinion
3. I think you should go ask the boss about this.
There are more, but you get the point. And I haven't even
tried to reword this in the imperative or use the specific
sex of a known boss. (Terminology alert: "People have sex,
words have gender."--Miriam Bloom)

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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