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Fine-Tuning 16, The Generic "He" and How to Avoid It

 
 
Roberta
 
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 06:59 pm
When a person makes a mistake, he should admit his error, learn from it, and move on.

There is nothing wrong with the English in that sentence. At least I don't think there is. But that sentence is not politically correct. If you don't care, so be it. But if you do, read on.

Every publishing company I've worked for has established guidelines to avoid sexist language. Here is an extremely bare-bone extrapolation of those guidelines (some of which go on for pages).

You could simply change the sentence to read,

When a person makes a mistake, he or she should admit his or her error, learn from it, and move on.

Now it's PC but damned awkward. Try the plural.

When people make mistakes, they should admit their error, learn from it, and move on.

If you have many such sentences, you can use the generic he sometimes and the generic she other times.

What you cannot do is: he/she and s/he.
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 07:59 pm
Hey, Roberta. The Chicago Manual of Style in the fifteenth edition rescinded their previous stance on using "they" as a neutral-gender, singular pronoun, in other words, they now suggest "they" as the neutral-gender pronoun, even in the singular. At least that's what their web site indicated a few months ago. I have not found the reference yet in the new edition.

Personally, I prefer "she" as the neutral-gender pronoun, since all people start as females in the womb, and later, I think at about six weeks, the males exude--what?--a hormone which makes them males. This is why males have nipples, a leftover from their female selves.

Therefore, all people are or were females at some point. And "she" should be an adequate pronoun to cover all people.
0 Replies
 
nextone
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:13 pm
Re: Fine-Tuning 16, The Generic "He" and How to A
When a person makes a mistake, he or she should admit his or her error, learn from it, and move on.

Now it's PC but damned awkward. Try the plural.

When people make mistakes, they should admit their error, learn from it, and move on.
.[/quote]

Nit-picking , Shouldn't the plural be ".... they shold admit their errors, learn from them and move on."
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:14 pm
One can do the s/he thing on-line, of course, where anything goes. But one really ought to eschew the use of "you" for the third person singular indefinite.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:20 pm
No, they should admit their errorS, if they made mistakes.
All this is troublesome and I agree with being tired of he and him. I have seen books written by men who used she and her all the time, apparently in some kind of atonement, and that bothered me too. I suppose I like the plural slightly better, as in People who admit their mistakes can gain new insight by doing that.

A dilemma with horns, eh?
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:23 pm
I have to admit an underlying attraction to how it was when I first read a lot, that he or him meant anyone of either sex...

I wouldn't mind it, politically, if it was understood in the population at large to really mean either a man or woman.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:23 pm
http://www.gamers-forums.com/smilies/contrib/icw/013.gif
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nextone
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:28 pm
And what do you write when an hermaphrodite makes a mistake?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:29 pm
One eschews taking notice of hermaphrodites for fear of offending the other guests at one's tea parties . . .
0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:38 pm
dupre, I haven't seen this in the CMS, and I don't want to. Have the editors there they lost their minds? Doesn't always using "she" as the generic third person singular pronoun create the same problem as using "he," but in reverse?

Nextone, If you're talking about "a mistake" in a general way, I think it's ok to retain the singular. (I have found myself ruminating about this kind of thing mid-manuscript.) However, making "mistakes" plural would be fine too--probably better.

Setanta, "You" as the third person singular? Bring out the barf bags.

Osso, Yes, a horned dilemma. No easy answers. This has been one of the banes of my editorial life for a long time. Changing things to plural is usually the best way. But these kinds of statements can go on and on and on. And I'm pluralizing and pluralizing and pluralizing.

Alternating is ok. But you have to have enough of these kinds of sentences to make it feasible.
0 Replies
 
nextone
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:53 pm
Setanta wrote:
One eschews taking notice of hermaphrodites for fear of offending the other guests at one's tea parties . . .


Never eschew with an open mouth (Cuz if you do you'll not get invited to any more tea parties.)
0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 08:55 pm
Nextone, I'm inclined to break the rules for hermaphoditic errors. How about he and/or she?
0 Replies
 
nextone
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 09:02 pm
Your call, friend.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 09:04 pm
Your observations on etiquette are profound, Oh Thou Diminutive Avian, i learn at your feet . . . er, talons . . . you have talons?
0 Replies
 
nextone
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jul, 2003 09:29 pm
Living with all these cats and dogs, talons are a bird's best friends after wings.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2003 03:07 am
After cogitating about the hermaphrodite situation, I've decided that the only reasonable thing to do is to ask the next hermaphrodite I meet which third person singular pronoun he and/or she prefers.

I'm of two minds about boids. As the person behind the avatar, I love dem boids. Smile And the avatar loves dem boids too. Twisted Evil
0 Replies
 
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2003 04:31 am
PC is silly, and it's high time we grew out of it.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

It was good enough for King James, and it's good enough for me.

As man embraces woman, as they say, the masculine should signify all.
Male, female, and undecided.
That's my opinion. Why complicate things unnecessarily?

McT
0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2003 05:46 am
McTag, When I was a little girl and learning about the Declaration of Independence in elementary school, I couldn't understand why it said that "All men are created equal." "What about me?" I wondered and asked. Although I'm sure that someone explained to me that "men" in that context referred to men and women, I wasn't happy about it.

The fact is that, from my perspective, the generic "he" is exclusionary. I agree with you that trying to avoid it complicates things. Where we differ is that I don't think it's unnecessary. As I suggested in my first post on this thread, some people are bothered by the generic "he" and some aren't. Either way is okay with me.
Walter Hinteler
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2003 07:00 am
English is not the only language that works the way of she/he - German is quite similar, along with others.

('man' in German means 'one', and is used similar as in English. Sounds, however, identical to 'Mann', which means 'man'.
So I used to reply, when someone adressed me "one shouldn't do that" (Man tut das nicht'), "woman neither" ('Frau auch nicht').
Which actually didn't amuse lots of female colleagues. [I did this during the time, I was teaching "anti-sexistic boys work and emanzipating girls work" Shocked ])
0 Replies
 
dupre
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2003 09:48 am
Just want to be clear that the Chicago Manual is asserting "they" as a generic pronoun.

It is I who is promoting "she" for the reasons I previously listed.

And, no, I don't think it's the same problem in reverse.

Since all people are conceived as females originally, and all people retain some of their female attributes, "she" should cover all, hermaphrodites included.
0 Replies
 
 

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