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Posted Jul 6, 2010 3:38 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but I was more struck at the suggestion that using "she" was illegitimate, when in actual usage it plainly isn't.
Posted Jul 6, 2010 9:25 UTC (Tue) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582)
Posted Jul 6, 2010 10:44 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Jul 6, 2010 10:54 UTC (Tue) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582)
Of course, you can use plural they if you make all references plural. This is usually awkward and sometimes impossible.
Posted Jul 6, 2010 11:36 UTC (Tue) by nye (guest, #51576)
Possibly you should have looked it up before proceeding.
When you talk about using the 'plural they', you are of course obliquely referring to the fact that 'they' remains morphologically plural in all (correct) uses, however its usage to refer to a singular subject is well established.
It has been the preferred style for decades, an accepted style for centuries, and an existing style in English since so long ago that the language is barely recognisable.
If you can present an example sentence where using 'he' or 'she' is grammatically correct, but 'they' is not, then I would be interested to hear it.
Posted Jul 6, 2010 11:56 UTC (Tue) by farnz (guest, #17727)
"Singular they", as used by authors from Shakespeare onwards, is things like "they see fit" and "they merge a patch". It's simply the same pattern as "singular you"; or art thou one of the people who insisteth that "you" must be reserved for the plural form, and who joketh about "you sees fit" and "you merges a patch"?
Posted Jul 20, 2010 17:10 UTC (Tue) by pdundas (subscriber, #15203)
I joke / thou jokest / he joketh, et ceterea...
Posted Jul 20, 2010 17:17 UTC (Tue) by pdundas (subscriber, #15203)
Posted Jul 6, 2010 23:49 UTC (Tue) by csamuel (✭ supporter ✭, #2624)
Posted Jul 16, 2010 7:48 UTC (Fri) by dododge (subscriber, #2870)
For further reading they reference Jespersen's "Progress in Language", which discusses it in more detail and gives many more examples. You can find scans of the 1909 2nd edition at books.google.com, with the relevant text in section 24 on pages 27-30.
Posted Jul 6, 2010 11:06 UTC (Tue) by farnz (guest, #17727)
Traditionally, in English, you use the plural form as a highly respectful singular. So, for 1st person, you have the "royal we" - or use of 1st person plural for a singular entity. For second person, we've completely lost the 2nd person singular (thou), in favour of always using the 2nd person plural in its role as the respectful 2nd person singular. We also use 3rd person plural as a respectful 3rd person singular in English.
Arguably, the fix to the existing habit of subconsciously sexist language is not to just flip the sexism round some of the time, but to make the same move for 3rd person as we've made for 2nd person - drop he/she/it when referring to a singular entity (except when gender is important), and use the 3rd person plural form ("they are" instead of "he/she/it is") in its traditional role as a respectful singular.
So much grammar correction, so little correct!
Posted Jul 7, 2010 21:22 UTC (Wed) by baldridgeec (guest, #55283)
Posted Jul 7, 2010 21:26 UTC (Wed) by farnz (guest, #17727)
Except that the modern English usage of "one" places it as a variation on the first person, not the third - one tends to use it not to mean "an unidentified individual", but to mean "an individual from the set that I would cover if I were to use we".
Posted Jul 7, 2010 21:51 UTC (Wed) by baldridgeec (guest, #55283)
(Rereading this before submission, I realize that you could just quote the above paragraph and respond with "QED." :) More meat follows below.)
I assume that that sort of observation (that it coincides with an individual from the first person plural set) stems from the fact that one does not often pose arguments which prescribe the behavior of groups which exclude oneself - that doesn't mean it can't happen though.
One may believe that one's computer is powered by hamsters on exercise wheels, but one would be incorrect. :)
Posted Jul 8, 2010 10:20 UTC (Thu) by farnz (guest, #17727)
It's a difficult one (the joys of a language defined by usage, not prescribed by an academy); in my experience the use of "one" is either a "posh way of saying I", or "this is what should happen in an ideal world, not necessarily what anyone in particular does". Singular they feels slightly weird, but doesn't come with that baggage.
Of course, this is all based on past experience - and continued use of "one" as a gender-neutral singular would change the implications. If only programming languages had a similar habit of changing to adapt to what is meant, not what it used to mean :)
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