6
   

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

 
 
maxdancona
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 11 Jul, 2012 04:10 pm
@McTag,
So you would say "To each one's own."

It is still ridiculous.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  4  
Reply Thu 12 Jul, 2012 02:46 am
@ehBeth,
ehBeth wrote:
Setanta wrote:
to supplant the third person.


does this mean I should put every third poster on ignore?


Couldn't hurt . . .
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Thu 12 Jul, 2012 07:27 pm
@McTag,
You don't really expect Set to actually discuss a language issue, even one he raises, in any detail, do you, McTag?
McTag
 
  2  
Reply Fri 13 Jul, 2012 06:51 am
@JTT,

Sometimes silence can be comforting.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Thu 13 Dec, 2012 08:01 pm
@dupre,
Quote:
A. Yes, you saw it at 2.98 (note 9) in the fourteenth edition, but there was some regret at having written it, and we decided not to second the idea in the fifteenth edition. Though some writers are comfortable with the occasional use of they as a singular pronoun, some are not, and it is better to do the necessary work to recast a sentence or, other options having been exhausted, use he or she. For a fuller discussion of this issue, see paragraphs 5.43 and 5.202–6 in CMS 15, including the entry for “he or she” under the “Glossary of Troublesome Expressions” at paragraph 5.202


Grammar buffoons, absolute grammar buffoons.

Quote:

February 02, 2005

THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE --- AND GRAMMAR

...

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is an unparalleled resource for those engaged in publishing, particularly of academic material. But the Press decided to farm out the topic of grammar and usage, and the writer they selected was Bryan A. Garner, a former associate editor of the Texas Law Review who now teaches at Southern Methodist University School of Law and has written several popular books on usage and style. His chapter is unfortunately full of repetitions of stupidities of the past tradition in English grammar — more of them than you could shake a stick at.

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001869.html
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2012 04:16 am
@JTT,

http://assets.amuniversal.com/1f72d840208e01300299001dd8b71c47
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  2  
Reply Tue 25 Mar, 2014 09:01 pm
http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2012/01/05/dogma-and-evidence/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en



January 5, 2012 by Geoffrey Pullum

Comments (48)
Dogma vs. Evidence: Singular They
I promised I would return to the vexed topic of using they or them or their with singular antecedents. Your holiday homework was to re-read the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest and comment. Richard Grayson (see the Comments (63)) saw the point immediately: Lady Bracknell remarks that at her last reception she wants music “that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when everyone has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much” (underlining is mine). Everyone is the subject; the verb form has shows singular agreement; yet the pronoun she chooses is they.

The conclusion I draw is that singular they is fully grammatical, at least with quantifier-like antecedents such as everyone, nobody, etc. If Lady Bracknell is not the most intimidatingly formal speaker of Standard English in all of literature, I don’t know who is. We can’t dismiss her for lack of breeding. If Lady Bracknell uses a construction, I say it’s grammatical. (Or do you want to dismiss Oscar Wilde as unable to write grammatical lines for her to utter?)

One could say something similar about the real-life Lord Byron, who wrote contemptuously of Cambridge University: “Nobody here seems to look into an Author, ancient or modern, if they can avoid it.” The -s on seems shows singular agreement with nobody, which is the antecedent of they. Do the pedants really want to say that Lord Byron couldn’t make his pronouns agree?

One could go on. Shakespeare? Yes, he used singular they. Jane Austen? Large numbers of examples throughout her books. Who else? Perhaps the most telling example is that although Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style preaches against singular they, when E. B. White got back to his own excellent writing he wrote lines like “But somebody taught you, didn’t they?” (that’s from Charlotte’s Web).

What baffles me is how reluctant educated people are to take such facts as evidence. This is what I meant about Mary’s reaction to my usage. I’m not arrogantly assuming personal authority (though the commenter who uses the name “clarity_please” thinks I am, and others agree). Remember, I’m the one who pays attention to evidence from Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron and Jane Austen and E. B. White and huge numbers of other fine writers, not the one who pig-headedly insists on unquestioned dogma.

I’m not bossing Mary around concerning how to use her native language (that really would be arrogant); she doesn’t have to use they anywhere she doesn’t choose to. I’m just commenting on her amazing unwillingness to take anybody’s writing as evidence about what is grammatical, rather than as grounds for (however implausibly) calling the writer ignorant or careless. She clings to a sort of faith-based grammar: She thinks there are rules that we should follow even if native-speaking grammarians and fine playwrights and novelists disregard them—even if nobody in the world follows them (recall her remark: “No way shall I ever be convinced to change this in my writing or listening”). Why such a resolutely and hermetically theological view?

Some people clearly have an oversimplified misconception of the rule: “They must always refer to a group of entities” or something of the sort (“clarity_please” seems to have such a view). They write trying to explain to me, as if I were in elementary school, that “simple arithmetic” should tell me I am wrong. They seem not to realize that trying to suck grammatical truths out of naive conceptions of meaning is like trying to get blood out of a turnip. But they just stick with their misconceptions against all evidence, Wilde and Byron and Austen and White and Pullum be damned.

Some people may think I am pushing some kind of modern political correctness to avoid the apparent sexism of “Everyone should bring his own lunch,” but they are simply uninformed: singular they antedates modern feminism by hundreds of years. What I’m saying here has nothing to do with expungement of the apparent sexism of putatively sex-neutral he. It’s simply that I never cease to be amazed at such determined refusal to look at the evidence for English sentence structure the way we typically look at the evidence for, say, anatomical structure.

Normal people don’t say “No way will I ever accept the existence of a furry creature with a beak”: The discovery of the duck-billed platypus settles it against that opinion. When the topic is grammar, it seems that for some people nothing can ever settle anything.

[A brief update: For the people who have asked me why they takes plural agreement: "singular they" is an abbreviatory name, and it does not imply anything about agreement. They always takes the plural agreement form, regardless of its meaning; and everybody always takes the singular agreement form. That does not mean it's a contradiction for they to have everybody as its antecedent. Consider Everybody hopes that they are going to be the lucky one. The main clause subject everybody requires the singular form hopes; the subordinate clause subect they requires the plural form are; semantically, they expresses a bound variable; everything is as it should be. The sentence is fully grammatical.]

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Comments (48)

McTag
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Mar, 2014 03:49 am
@JTT,

Perfectly sensible and clear, convincing, uncontrovertible, just a little longwinded. He must have been being paid by the word.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Mar, 2014 08:35 am
@McTag,
Better than long winded and wrong like the prescriptivists, right? I wonder if Roberta and Frank have read it.
0 Replies
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2014 03:24 am
@Roberta,
I'm pretty sure that when Alexander Pope wrote "the proper study of mankind is man" he did not mean to exclude womankind from that study.

(Sorry for being nine years late with my contribution to this thread, but I just now discovered it, thnx to a tip from JTT on another thread. Smile)
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2014 09:36 am
@Lustig Andrei,
Quote:
I'm pretty sure that when Alexander Pope wrote "the proper study of mankind is man" he did not mean to exclude womankind from that study.


Of course not, Merry, there was no sexism in those days.

Nine years and you can't even bother to address the central issue. Rolling Eyes
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2014 12:30 pm
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

Nine years and you can't even bother to address the central issue. Rolling Eyes


Seems to me the issue has been quite adequately addressed by other posters. I was merely commenting on a specific point made by my friend Roberta.

I do wish you'd quit stalking me, JTT.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2014 12:38 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Sorry, I forgot, Merry. You're the language fluff guy.
0 Replies
 
 

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