Re: Boss' gender?

Subject: Re: Boss' gender?
From: Tim Covil <covil_t -at- WIZTEC-USA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 14:40:31 -0400

Geoff wrote:
>By the way, "they" has a long tradition of being used as a singular, so it's
not "wrong".

My reply:
I can't argue with your premise. However, I can argue that your premise
fails to lead to your conclusion. You don't really believe that "a long
tradition" lends a practice justification, I'm sure. If so, we'd still
be hazing cadets at the Citadel here in S.C., and we damn sure wouldn't
be admitting women. It may be true that "they" isn't wrong, but not
BECAUSE it has a long tradition.

What does "wrong" mean, anyway? You said that "they" looks wrong to the
reader. If it "looks wrong" and is therefore inadvisable to use, then
what is the differentiation between it and something that is "REALLY

>From: geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca[SMTP:geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca]
>Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 1997 8:57 AM
>To: Tim Covil; techwr-l -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu
>Subject: Boss' gender?
> 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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