Singular "they"

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
My fellow grammar-minded RFers, what are your thoughts on this phenomenon? Is there a better alternative?

I've been playing around with neutral "he," which has largely gone out of style. "He/she" was a staple in old essays of mine. Which do you default to?
 

Jonathan

Well-Known Member
My fellow grammar-minded RFers, what are your thoughts on this phenomenon? Is there a better alternative?

I've been playing around with neutral "he," which has largely gone out of style. "He/she" was a staple in old essays of mine. Which do you default to?
Not that I can think of. But others would know better. One of my professors in college, 20 years ago, was HUGE on never using masculine pronouns ("He") to refer to an individual not otherwise gender designated. So, in one of my exam essays, I did so at first using "He" but then later used "She" in the same grammatical scenario.

It was funny: When she graded my essay she at first screamed on paper "Don't Use Gender Exclusive Language!!!" but then when she saw my later use of "she," she wrote something along the lines of "OK, by bad, I see what you did there."

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, "They" is about as good as anything I can think of. It is certainly better than "It."
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Not that I can think of. But others would know better. One of my professors in college, 20 years ago, was HUGE on never using masculine pronouns ("He") to refer to an individual not otherwise gender designated. So, in one of my exam essays, I did so at first using "He" but then later used "She" in the same grammatical scenario.

It was funny: When she graded my essay she at first screamed on paper "Don't Use Gender Exclusive Language!!!" but then when she saw my later use of "she," she wrote something along the lines of "OK, by bad, I see what you did there."

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, "They" is about as good as anything I can think of. It is certainly better than "It."
I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to grammar, so even though it's becoming accepted by more and more in academia to use singular they, it just doesn't sit well with me. I guess another alternative might be using a lot of "one," but that sounds stuffy.

When one does this, one also does that

PS Oxford Commas are necessary, and there is no convincing me otherwise :lol
 

JoyJoyJoy

Well-Known Member
I watched a show with a 'they'. Conversation concerning 'them' was a bit confusing to me, I always associate they/them as plural.
It sounds absurd. I don't think I can use they instead of he/she.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
I watched a show with a 'they'. Conversation concerning 'them' was a bit confusing to me, I always associate they/them as plural.
It sounds absurd. I don't think I can use they instead of he/she.
Even in situations where gender isn't concerned, singular they is becoming more popular. For example, "when someone decides to get food, they often buy fast food" you still conjugate as if it were plural, but it supposedly functions as parallel to a the original singular "someone"
 

Kaatje

Listening for that trumpet sound
I’m old school. I use “he” and “him” for a male and “she” and “her” for a female.
As of how to call a confused person, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

I’m never aspiring to be Political-correct. Just trying to be Biblical-correct....
 

mattfivefour

Administrator
Staff member
Growing up in a classical household in England during the 1940s and early 50s, I was a grammar Nazi. Winston Churchill was one of my heroes. I fought long and hard to preserve the King's English (and then the Queen's English) as it was spoken by the BBC. I was a purist until I finally woke up to the fact that language is a living thing it is not fixed it mutates as do societies and the individuals who comprise them. so now I try to focus on preserving that which is necessary and letting the rest to go with the flow . For example, I realize that many people today do not use the subjunctive mood to express hypothetical concepts such as possibility, opinion, or belief. Instead, they more often use the conditional tense in the indicative mood. So, hopefully I communicate well, expressing myself accurately, without creating a barrier with my audience.

As to the singular "they", I agree it can be awkward at times and should be avoided where possible. But sometimes it works. And when someone comes across such a situation, they should use it.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Police reports often say "that individual". lol
It works, but it's also clunky...


. For example, I realize that many people today do not use the subjunctive mood to express hypothetical concepts such as possibility, opinion, or belief. Instead, they more often use the conditional tense in the indicative mood.
Just a reminder there is always someone better than me, even at the things I do best in :lol


As to the singular "they", I agree it can be awkward at times and should be avoided where possible. But sometimes it works. And when someone comes across such a situation, they should use it.
This is the situation I was questioning when i wrote the OP
 

JoyJoyJoy

Well-Known Member
On TV contest shows, the announcer will often use a singular they....for example...."The winner of this round is an individual who shows exceptional skill in their use of truffles. They have created a dish worthy of ( I don't know, a trip to somewhere). And that person is......

But I think the announcer does that specifically to keep the suspense up and not use he/she. In this case, it's ok?? I am fine with it.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Should be "even the things in which I do best." :p :lolsign
Just having a little fun with you. I did fairly well in grammar and writing in college but not outstanding at all. I once asked my prof. why I needed to read Shakespeare for a nursing degree, my patients would not care if I ever read Shakespeare or not. lol
Hey I said the things I do best in, not the things in which I do perfectly
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
The topic of dangling participles will have to be another thread :lol but I've always liked the response commonly attributed to Winston Churchill where he says after being corrected about a dangling participle, "this is the sort of errant pedantry up with which I will not put"

Whether Churchill said it or not, it's still funny
 

mattfivefour

Administrator
Staff member
With respect to Garson O'Toole, Jonathon Owen, and Ben Zimmer, all of whom (unconvincingly, I might add) debunk the story, I believe Mr. Churchill made the comment. There was very little that he did, said or wrote that I did not follow like a hawk. One of my earliest memories is me standing at the side of a road in London as Winston Churchill passed by and shouting, "Hooray for Mr Churchill, the Bulldog of Britain!" at the top of my little lungs, and the reaction of the people around me.

Btw, Churchill would most likely have used the adjective arrant, not errant in the context of that quote. While etymologically both were at one time variants with essentially the same meaning, by the 1600's they had diverged entirely. Errant meant straying off course; today we would use it to mean erroneous; whereas arrant meant utter or thorough, and today (if ever used) would mean unmitigated, complete, or total.

Now how is that for arrant pedantry! :lol.

The fact is that, since words are merely vessels in which we convey ideas and grammar is the technique for organizing them into meaningful groups, we should simply use whatever method works to enable us to communicate in terms our audience can grasp.
 

DanLMP

Well-Known Member
For example, I realize that many people today do not use the subjunctive mood to express hypothetical concepts such as possibility, opinion, or belief. Instead, they more often use the conditional tense in the indicative mood. So, hopefully I communicate well, expressing myself accurately, without creating a barrier with my audience.
And that mumbo jumbo right there is why I never bothered trying to figure out grammar. o_O
 

JoyJoyJoy

Well-Known Member
With respect to Garson O'Toole, Jonathon Owen, and Ben Zimmer, all of whom (unconvincingly, I might add) debunk the story, I believe Mr. Churchill made the comment. There was very little that he did, said or wrote that I did not follow like a hawk. One of my earliest memories is me standing at the side of a road in London as Winston Churchill passed by and shouting, "Hooray for Mr Churchill, the Bulldog of Britain!" at the top of my little lungs, and the reaction of the people around me.

Btw, Churchill would most likely have used the adjective arrant, not errant in the context of that quote. While etymologically both were at one time variants with essentially the same meaning, by the 1600's they had diverged entirely. Errant meant straying off course; today we would use it to mean erroneous; whereas arrant meant utter or thorough, and today (if ever used) would mean unmitigated, complete, or total.

Now how is that for arrant pedantry! :lol.

The fact is that, since words are merely vessels in which we convey ideas and grammar is the technique for organizing them into meaningful groups, we should simply use whatever method works to enable us to communicate in terms our audience can grasp.
I remember having to diagram sentences in school. If I had to diagram yours, I would just pack up my books and go home:ahaha
Wonder if that's still taught??
 
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