1. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    which do you use?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cacian, Jan 25, 2012.

    which prounouns do you use to refer to babies/objects and animals say.

    are these correct?

    the baby was asleep. He looked peaceful.

    the boat is being prepared to sail. It will leave at noon.

    the cat is asleep. It usually does around this time.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes.

    In English, people are masculine or feminine, objects are neuter. There are sonme exceptions. Certain people will refer to a baby as "it", and certain other people refer to sailing vessels as "she". Still others give ascribe masculine or feminine nicknames and pronouns to their cars. These exceptions give the reader or observer insights into the person's character.

    In traditional English, a person whose gender is unspecified or undefined is referred to with masculine pronouns. For example, "the reader" is an abstract person who could be male or female, and traditional English dictates teh reader be referred to as "he". However, since the rise of the Women's Liberation movement in the last half century, that tradition has been challenged. Some prefer to address it by saying "he or she", some choose "he" or "she" randomly in a given context, some stick with the traditional rule, and some use the gender-neutral plural pronoun "they". There have even been attempts to create a gender-neutral but non-neuter pronoun such as "sie", but those have not met with any real acceptance.
     
  3. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    yes that is what most confuses me and I am not sure why we tend to do that.
    I am not sure that all mode of transports are though..like a lorry or an helicopter/aeroplane which is again confusing.
    in French it is the opposite because the word person is feminine 'la personne'.
    I did notice that in letters/envelopes titles such as this
    Master only apply to junior boys, but for girls you just Miss I think.
    The importance of boy/man over girl/woman is significant here so I am not surprised an unspecified person is/was refered to as he.
    ''they'' and 'us' is fairly common I think.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, ships and large boats are frequently (correctly) referred to as 'she', not 'it', especially in naval or shipping terms.
    Other forms of transport are 'it'.
    You also refer to babies or animals by their gender (he/she) if you know what sex they are, only 'it' if you don't.
     
  5. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Cogito:
    I didn't know that it was masculine for generic group of people. I usually go with "he or she" he/she or they.

    Just for trivia, is English the only language that doesn't assign gender to objects(other then ships, and some times planes)? (I know Spanish does.)
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ Turkish has no gender at all for anything, including people--there is only a kind of 'it' generic term, so we can't say, e.g. "He is going" what we say is really just "going" (because the 'it' bit is only necessary for emphasis). If you want to make it clear that a man/woman/boy/girl is going, then you have to add that, i.e. "Man is going." (we don't use articles, either!)
    You can make it specific by saying 'That man is going'. I expect there are other languages that have the same thing.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I hate having to use constructs like "he or she" and "him or her" all the time. They're amazingly clumsy. And "he/she" is even worse, because you can't even read it aloud without sounding like an idiot.

    I don't like using "she" as a gender-neutral pronoun, because it sounds like I'm going out of my way to be politically correct. It calls attention to itself too much. So I find myself using the traditional "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun. I grew up with it, and it's the only one that sounds right to me. I wish English had a traditional gender-neutral pronoun that doesn't rile feminists, but there isn't one.

    And the British habit of referring to a baby, and even a young child, as "it" is just intolerable to me. I couldn't bring myself to refer to any human being, no matter what his age, as "it".
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can always use the plural form: "People like extreme sports. They enjoy the adrenalin rush." kind of thing. I don't think I have ever written a paper using 'he' to speak generally. Never needed it, and would never accept it. I point it out to students also, and they never use it or have problems wanting it. The feminists of the 70s really taught us some good lessons and made us aware of these kind of truly annoying divisions. Hats off to them.
    I never liked having to refer to my baby girls as "le bebe" when I spoke French, but he/she/it doesn't have the same meanings outside English, really.
     
  9. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    yes I agree and what I cannot even bare is when an actor talks about themselves/refer to themselves by she/he.
    I find it quite weird.
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    ''bebe'' is masculin in French for some reason, at least English is neutral.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    latin-type languages [italiano, espanol, francais, portugues, Ἑλληνικῇ/hellenike] all assign gender to nouns, though i don't have a clue why they would have evolved that way, as it makes no sense to me that a pen should be feminine [especially given its shape!] and a wall masculine... and so on...

    i don't think germanic languages do, nor most of the other tongues spoken around the world...
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^ Ha, it's sometimes quite arbitrary. In e.g. German it's the opposite: pen is masculine & wall is feminine.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, German has three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and every noun is attributed with one of these. Objects may be of any gender, and a synonym for the object may have a different gender. Most nouns referring to people match the gender of the person, but not all. Notablly, a young girl is "das Mädchen", a neuter noun.
     

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