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Not if everybody doesn't agree. I, among many others, don't.

No single person, or even a fairly large group of people, can veto a usage that has become standard. Majority rules.

No. There are many cases where certain usages are retained as options. In any event, I shall do my best to wipe out the influence of feminist ideology.
No. There are many cases where certain usages are retained as options. In any event, I shall do my best to wipe out the influence of feminist ideology.

Bless. It's a shame to see someone working so hard to fight a losing battle, but feel free to stick at it.
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UC filted: Unfortunately, in plumbing and other mechanical contexts, the ... one is expected, or vice versa, is called a "gender-changer"..

In electrical applications, where the corresponding question arises with respect to male and female plugs, we duck the question. A sex changer is simply known as an "adapter".

"Gender changer", "gender bender", and a few others are also commonly heard in the US for such electrical adatpors. Googling, I find

"gender changer" plug 122,000
"gender bender" plug 11,000
"gender inverter" plug 4
"gender switcher" plug 3
"sex changer" plug 301
(Also "adaptor", by those who are uncertain of the spelling.)

Also "adapter" by those who are uncertain of the spelling, but happen to guess right.

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >I like giving talks to industry,
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >because one of the things that I'vePalo Alto, CA 94304 >found is that you really can't
Sentence in question: "You can all but hear the engineer ... that it's supposed to be "his" not "their". Thoughts? Citations?

It's too ambiguous and terribly awkward to use "their" in this sentence, IMHO. You could change it to "a coffee cup" and avoid the problem.

I disagree. "A coffee cup" loses the image that they are in such a hurry that they spilled their own beverage. It leaves me assuming that it's not the engineer's cup and, since it's "a coffee cup" rather than "a cup of coffee", or "someone's coffee", that it was probably empty, so why was it worth mentioning?
The sentence as it stands reads fine for me. "His" would work, too, if you're willing to carry the implication that the engineer was male.

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >He seems to be perceptive and
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >effective because he states thePalo Alto, CA 94304 >obvious to people that don't seem

(650)857-7572 > Tony Cooper

http://www.kirshenbaum.net /
I disagree. "A coffee cup" loses the image that they are in such a hurry that they spilled their own beverage.

Jesus, ERK, there's only one of them, a single engineer. Using "they" and "their" in this sentence is unsconscionable. And, besides, it gives me no such image. It would have to say "knocking their half- full {coffee cup / cup of coffee over}". You seem to be too anxious to defend the indefensible here. And what would it matter if the coffee and the cup belonged to someone other than the clumsy engineer?
It leaves me assuming that it's not the engineer's cup and, since it's "a coffee cup" rather than "a cup of coffee",

You seem to have misremembered the actual phrase in the OP's sentence, despite its being right there at the top of your post. It isn't "a cup of coffee" but "their coffee cup".
or "someone's coffee",

The original doesn't include "coffee cup filled with coffee" but only "coffee cup". Therefore, "a coffee cup" works just fine.
that it was probably empty, so why was it worth mentioning?

That's the writer's problem, but ours is whether to use "his" or "their" or "a".
The sentence as it stands reads fine for me.

Yeah, but you're a special case. It doesn't work fine for most reasonable native speakers of English. It's ugly and disturbing.
"His" would work, too, if you're willing to carry the implication that the engineer was male.

There is no need to carry that implication if one uses "a" or "her". Especially if the empty coffee cup is not worth mentioning in the first place.
Why is the writer reluctant to tell us whether the engineer is a man or a woman? Does it matter to the reader? I don't think it would matter. I think more readers would be disturbed by "their" than by either "his" or "her", and that the only readers who would be disturbed by "his" would be those who insist on "herstory" instead of "history" for idiotic ideological reasons.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor
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"Impatience is the mother of misery."
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Evan Kirshenbaum filted:
"Gender changer", "gender bender", and a few others are also commonly heard in the US for such electrical adatpors. Googling, I find "gender changer" plug 122,000 "gender bender" plug 11,000 "gender inverter" plug 4 "gender switcher" plug 3 "sex changer" plug 301

Some of those last may refer to a different sort of device altogether..r

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I disagree. "A coffee cup" loses the image that they are in such a hurry that they spilled their own beverage.

Jesus, ERK, there's only one of them, a single engineer.

Yep. Out of curiousity, why "one of them" rather than "one of him"? I mean, I know why it works for me, but I'd think that it would grate on you.
Using "they" and "their" in this sentence is unsconscionable.

If you say so.
And, besides, it gives me no such image. It would have to say "knocking their half- full {coffee cup / ... here. And what would it matter if the coffee and the cup belonged to someone other than the clumsy engineer?

Just that it's presumably not the image that the writer intended.
It leaves me assuming that it's not the engineer's cup and, since it's "a coffee cup" rather than "a cup of coffee",

You seem to have misremembered the actual phrase in the OP's sentence, despite its being right there at the top of your post. It isn't "a cup of coffee" but "their coffee cup".

I didn't misremember. "Knocking over their/his/her/my/your/someone's coffee cup" implies non-empty to me. "Knocking over a coffee cup" implies an empty cup, one that hasn't yet been allocated to anybody. It's as benign as knocking a pencil off the table.
that it was probably empty, so why was it worth mentioning?

That's the writer's problem, but ours is whether to use "his" or "their" or "a".

If the writer meant, as he appears to have, to imply that the cup was the engineer's, he should certainly not use "a".
The sentence as it stands reads fine for me.

Yeah, but you're a special case. It doesn't work fine for most reasonable native speakers of English. It's ugly and disturbing.

I'd say that the ones who find it "disturbing" are the special case these days.
"His" would work, too, if you're willing to carry the implication that the engineer was male.

There is no need to carry that implication if one uses "a" or "her".

"Her" carries the implication that the engineer is female; "a" carries the implication that the cup was empty and not the engineer's. All are valid choices, but all change the meaning of the original sentence.
Especially if the empty coffee cup is not worth mentioning in the first place. Why is the writer reluctant to tell us whether the engineer is a man or a woman?

My take was that the writer was imagining the scene from listening to the record and so had no knowledge of whether the engineer was a man or a woman.
Does it matter to the reader?

Apparently it matters to you. You seem to be saying that if you don't know, you should guess or reword things so that you don't have to use a pronoun.
I don't think it would matter. I think more readers would be disturbed by "their" than by either "his" or ... who would be disturbed by "his" would be those who insist on "herstory" instead of "history" for idiotic ideological reasons.

And I disagree. I think that most people, professional editors aside, would read right past "their" without noticing it, and that many who are far less extreme than the ones you describe would read "his" as saying that the writer had decided that the enginner was male (which is, of course, the writer's prerogative), but which appears to be an implication that the writer didn't intend.

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1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >to display clothes aren't hired forPalo Alto, CA 94304 >their sex appeal. They're hired

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http://www.kirshenbaum.net /
Yep. Out of curiousity, why "one of them" rather than "one of him"? I mean, I know why it works for me, but I'd think that it would grate on you.

Good question. I should have said "There's only one, a single engineer", I know, but I probably used "of them" because I was thinking of the group of engineers you were talking about.
Using "they" and "their" in this sentence is unsconscionable.

If you say so.

Well, I did say so. But that's merely a style judgment. I still think it's unconscionable for an educated native anglophone to use "they" and "their" in this sentence, though.
And, besides, it gives me no such image. It would ... the cup belonged to someone other than the clumsy engineer?

Just that it's presumably not the image that the writer intended.

We can't deal with the writer's unrealized intentions when critiquing a piece of writing; at least, we can't if we don't know what the writer's intentions were. You're just projecting here. You're probably right, but I think it's irrelevant to any critique of what was actually written.
You seem to have misremembered the actual phrase in the ... It isn't "a cup of coffee" but "their coffee cup".

I didn't misremember. "Knocking over their/his/her/my/your/someone's coffee cup" implies non-empty to me.

You're projecting. There's no difference between knocking over an* empty or *my empty coffee cup. The consequence of that knocking over is what's important. If it was full of coffee, then the coffee spilled onto the floor. If the coffee cup was ceramic, then it broke. Which did the writer intend? Can you come to any conclusion based on an equally substantial lack of evidence? You're asking me to take your word on faith. You know I have none, so it's pointless.
"Knocking over a coffee cup" implies an empty cup, one that hasn't yet been allocated to anybody. It's as benign as knocking a pencil off the table.

If you say so. And, by god, you did, didn't you. But you can't defend it as being anything more than an idiosyncratic view of things.
That's the writer's problem, but ours is whether to use "his" or "their" or "a".

If the writer meant, as he appears to have, to imply that the cup was the engineer's, he should certainly not use "a".

But it doesn't seem to matter whether it was or wasn't the engineer's. Maybe the engineer has a lover who left that knocked-over cup in the room with the fader.
Would you be more or less upset over breaking a cup or spilling a cup of coffee onto the floor just because it was yours rather than someone else's? Why (not)? (In no more than 25 words).
Yeah, but you're a special case. It doesn't work fine for most reasonable native speakers of English. It's ugly and disturbing.

I'd say that the ones who find it "disturbing" are the special case these days.

You're wrong about that. We may be special cases when compared to the illiterati, but not when compared to literate, educated persons. Anyway, it's purely politics, AFAICS.
There is no need to carry that implication if one uses "a" or "her".

"Her" carries the implication that the engineer is female;

Not necessarily. It also carries the implication that the writer didn't want to use either "his" or "their" or "a" and that the writer might just as easily have been a feminist male or a feminist female or a non-feminist female as a writer who wanted to tell the reader that the engineer was a woman. Hey, if you can make *** up, so can I.
"a" carries the implication that the cup was empty and not the engineer's.

You can't defend that with any evidence but your own twisted version of what "a" means. Anyway, there are two implications. You can't even get your number concord right when it has nothing to do with singular they/their/them or other PC language, it seems, so why should I accept these implications you are trying to hoodwink me and the rest of your readers into accepting as valid? Just a quirk, ERK.
All are valid choices, but all change the meaning of the original sentence.

But because there's no evidence that the meaning is at all consequential, what does that matter?
Especially if the empty coffee cup is not worth mentioning ... us whether the engineer is a man or a woman?

My take was that the writer was imagining the scene from listening to the record and so had no knowledge of whether the engineer was a man or a woman.

Imagination is about creating fictions out of such material.
Does it matter to the reader?

Apparently it matters to you. You seem to be saying that if you don't know, you should guess or reword things so that you don't have to use a pronoun.

It matters only insofar as all engineers are either male or female (in one way or another), but it doesn't matter in any other way. And using "her" instead of "his" (or vice versa) just prevents me from having to take an antiemetic when I read "their", yes.
I don't think it would matter. I think more readers ... insist on "herstory" instead of "history" for idiotic ideological reasons.

And I disagree. I think that most people, professional editors aside,

Most people are illiterate. Professional editors are very fussy about little things like pronouns. How can I agree to "professional editors aside"?
would read right past "their" without noticing it, and that many who are far less extreme than the ones you ... male (which is, of course, the writer's prerogative), but which appears to be an implication that the writer didn't intend.

Yes, the writer did not intend to imply that the engineer was a man or a woman, the evidence for which is in the writer's use of "their".

For the first time you have provided concrete evidence from the text to support your interpretation of the writer's intentions. Every other claim you've made was based on projections of what you would have intended if you had been the obviously inept writer of that sentence. The funny thing here is that I don't need that concrete evidence pointed out to me. It's there on the page. What I need is concrete evidence of your other claims, which are obviously personal fabrications your own fictions in place of the writer's failure to provide them. What makes that any different from changing the wording to satisfy my desire that singular "their" not be used here? You've rewritten that part of the story to suit your own fictive tastes.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor
Native speaker of American English; posting from Taiwan. Unmunged email: /at/easypeasy.com
"Impatience is the mother of misery."
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Persons are either male or female. If the sex of the person is unknown or irrelevant, use 'his', 'him', or 'he'. If the reference is to a traditionally female role (wet nurse, nun, etc.,) then use 'hers', 'her', 'she'.
The pronouns 'his', 'him', or 'he' are to be understood as encompassing both males and females (both sexes). When referring to males, the pronouns 'his', 'him', or 'he' assume masculine gender. When encompassing males or females, the pronouns 'his', 'him', or 'he' assume indeterminate gender.
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