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  1. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    Singular "They" gets official approval

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Iain Aschendale, Aug 26, 2016.

  2. Mike Kobernus

    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    It kinda makes sense, rather than using the much more clumsy, 'he or she' 'he/she' etc.

    And language is, after all, a living thing which changes over time. I think I am okay with it....Be daring!
     
  3. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've used 'they' to mean 'I don't wanna designate the sex of this person' but always felt odd doing it, like I was committing some kind of grammatical faux pas, labeling myself as a dumb hick who doesn't know better. And since I did grow up in a small town, I'm a bit sensitive about that last part.

    If they're going to decide something by committee like that, I'd much rather they give us a new word to use, a word that from the git-go is gender neutral and we can all be on the same page right from the start and there won't ever be any confusion.

    If they'd announced the word 'te' as a substitute, I'd be all for it. It takes the 't' from 'they' and melds it with the 'e' from 'he' or 'she.' It could also be seen as taking the 't' from 'it' and therefore could be completely asexual as well as non-specific to living or non-living creatures.

    And I also leave you with this unrelated thought...

    An English teacher once told me that when you're in front of a class of prepubescents, never say he-she-it really fast. The laughter won't die down until the bell has rung and you'll be in it when parents find out. ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016
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  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, and one more thing concerning language by committee...

    In Quebec, they hate it when English words get introduced to the Quebecois version of French. So much so that they started a watchdog committee to counteract these infiltrations. As a result, it's considered proper to say 'le parking' in France, but it has to be 'stationment' in Quebec. 'Pop' must be 'boisson gazeuse.' Also as a result, these people have become known as The Language Police. They are both feared and ridiculed.

    And no one ever stops to think that if not for the natural evolution of language in the hands of ordinary people, all of us of European descent would be speaking Latin.
     
  5. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was a little confused by this article. Initially, and given the title, he's suggesting the gender-neutral 'They' should be included as part of the group which should be done away with. But then later he's celebrating because some American society has ruled its use as correct.

    It's a bit of a non-event this because no one was offering an alternative anyway.
     
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    ... and there's also the simple fact that English, as a language, accepts no ruling body as its governor, no matter the self-stylings of Webster in AmE and the OED in BrE. I agree with @OurJud in that it's a bit of a red herring. The American Dialectal Society hasn't approved the usage; they've accepted the inevitability of linguistic flux. The only people with the power to approve or deny a language change are The People.
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Spanish in the New World is also governed by an academy somewhere in Spain called the Real Academia Española. Dictionaries aren't considered "real" without the academy's seal on the front cover. All of this is ridiculous in that Spanish spoken in the street is wildly different from Puerto Rico, to Buenos Aires, to Lima. The academy has no real power, nor should it.

    Or perhaps P.I.E. with all its wonderfully tongue-cramping consonant clusters. :ohno::-D
     
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  8. Dr. Mambo

    Dr. Mambo Contributing Member

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    "Singular 'they' gets approval..."

    Well it hasn't got my approval. It sounds fine in conversation, but it's always seemed very clumsy to me in writing.
     
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  9. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm so glad someone has said this because it gives me a reason to ask the one question I've been wanting to ask regarding this.

    Presumably, in that you don't like its use, you refuse to do so in your writing, so tell me - how would you refer to a group of people of mixed gender, in general terms?

    Using the article's example, how would you say: “Every student should do the best they can.”

    Would you simply get the statement across with a different sentence structure?
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Except, the singular "they" has a long history. It's relatively recently, in historical terms, that it was regarded as "incorrect". So I see this as the elimination of a hypercorrection. (I may be misusing the word hypercorrection. I'm using it anyway.)

    This seems to contradict your earlier point. The singular "they" is a natural part of the language of ordinary people, and until recent, also of literature. Only recently (again, historically recently--a century or two) did prescriptive academics try to kill it.
     
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  11. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    In non-fiction I use s/he, as in "Every student should do the best s/he can."

    In fiction... well, I'd just use 'they' because I don't have a problem with it.
     
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  12. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Neither do I, but I'd go one step further and say there simply isn't an alternative that would make any sense. 'He/She' or 'S/he' in fiction would stick out like a sore thumb, so what's the alternative? There isn't one.
     
  13. Dr. Mambo

    Dr. Mambo Contributing Member

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    "Students should do the best they can."
     
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  14. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, but they is commonly used in circumstances of unknown gender or neutral/mixed gender. It kind of already is decided by the people, isn't it?
     
  15. Sifunkle

    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Now if someone drops a decree on the correct reflexive pronoun and tidies up any plurality mismatch with verbs, they is in my good books; a writer can't decide that sort of thing for themself.
     
  16. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To me, this is automatically wrong because I can't pronounce it. How do I read this aloud? If I can't read it aloud, then it's just wrong as far as I'm concerned.
     
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  17. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe you say "he or she" or "he/she" "s/he" is just a shorthand for it.
     
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  18. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "He or she" is exactly the kind of clumsy construction we're trying to get away from. I assume you mean to say that "he/she" should be pronounced "heeshee." I find that silly. "S/he" pronounced "heeshee" or even "sheehee" is hard to explain to a kid. "The slash is silent, except that it adds a whole new syllable to the word." All these convulsions just to avoid using "they." Why not just use "they"?
     
  19. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    As Oscar says, you read it aloud as, she-he. It's not complicated.
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer they, but he or she or heeshee is perfectly usuable and decent.
     
  21. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    'They' fits in some constructions. "Every student does their own thing" works fine for me. "Each student does his/her own thing" also works for me.
     
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  22. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    So in actual fact 'they' is not the problem word. It's the use of a preceding, singular noun that should be avoided. Problem solved, yes?

    But then it sounds like you're referring to a trans-gender.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016
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  23. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, it happens. If I didn't contradict myself from time to time, I'd have no one to argue 'live' with. :)

    But seriously, ordinary people, left to create their own version of a language, added pronouns to street Latin to replace the more cumbersome forms. They did this because they felt it was necessary to distinguish between males and females (as well as inanimate objects) when speaking in the third person. The 's/he' form, and now 'they' as a singular pronoun, have been decided from the outside, as it were.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016
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  24. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    And I sometimes waste hours trying to figure out how not to use a pronoun at all so I can be PC without being obvious. :)
     
  25. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'll have to elaborate on that P.I.E. thing. It doesn't Google.
     

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