Re: Gender

Subject: Re: Gender
From: "David M. Brown" <dmbrown -at- BROWN-INC -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 26 Sep 1998 20:25:49 -0700

Jeff Hanvey wrote:
> I say we should allow "they" in the singular to avoid the gender
> issue; it's used in spoken English anyway, and sneaks into written
> English by those who haven't learn[ed] the rule. It could be just
> another quirk of our language.

I must say that I find such usage repugnant, but it does have precedent
in English literature. In "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage" Fowler

...the OED quotes examples from Fielding ("Everyone in the
house were in their beds"), Goldsmith, Sydney Smith, Thackeray
("A person can't help their birth"), Bagehot ("Nobody in their
senses"), & Bernard Shaw. It also says nothing more sefere of
the use than that it is 'Not favoured by grammarians"...

He also goes on to say that the grammarians are likely to have their
way, and that "few good modern writers would flout the grammarians so

I'm with Fowler on this point. Unfortunately, his solution brings us
back to the original problem:

...the right shortening of the cumbersome 'he or she',
'his or 'her', &c., is 'he' or 'him' or 'his', though the
reference may be to both sexes.


David M. Brown -- Brown Inc.
dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com
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