1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
I shall do my best to wipe out the influence of feminist ideology.

Holy Don Quixote, Batman!
Could you take time off from that enterprise to apply your powers to slowing climate change? (You might find the assistance of Superman helpful.)

Peter Duncanson, UK
(in alt.usage.english)
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.

For suitable definitions of "literate" and "educated", of course.

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >Now every hacker knows
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 > That the secret to survivin'Palo Alto, CA 94304 >Is knowin' when the time is free
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Persons are either male or female. If the sex of the person is unknown or irrelevant, use 'his', 'him', or ... 'him', or 'he' assume masculine gender. When encompassing males or females, the pronouns 'his', 'him', or 'he' assume indeterminate gender.

Is this is one of your "literate, educated persons", Franke?

Evan Kirshenbaum + HP Laboratories >Sometimes I think the surest sign
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 >that intelligent life existsPalo Alto, CA 94304 >elsewhere in the universe is that

http://www.kirshenbaum.net /
In any event, I shall do my best to wipe out the influence of feminist ideology.

Anyhow, you may be basing your whole petulant snit on a false premise.

Singular "they" predates feminism by a few centuries.Until recently, and for most of its long, well sanctioned use in English, neither sex nor gender had anything whatsoever to do with it. And even in most modern instances, it still doesn't.
But the real point is that it ... came to be standard. Once it is, it is. Period.

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

If "everybody doesn't agree," then no one agrees, and by definition it isn't standard. A sound point, but trivial. If all you meant was that SOME dissent keeps a usage from becoming standard, you are patently wrong. Dissent may slow down the process by which a given usage becomes standard, but rarely can the process be stopped in that fashion.
On the other hand, sheer stupidity can accomplish quite a bit. See below what I wrote in my prior post:
If some day people no longer know that "***" is ... irrelevant to what the word does and does not mean.

Perhaps you should be advocating stupidity.

Bob Lieblich
Perhaps you already are
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
WTF are you talking about?

Spelling error: "indeterminite." Feel free to claim it was a typo.

TGG has his madcap moments. I commit too many typos, some of which look like misspellings, to get away with much of the same.

Bob Lieblich
Determinate as the next guy
Out of curiousity, why "one of them" rather than "one of him"?

Good point, especially as a matter of rhetoric. I would accept "one of him"; in fact, on reflection, I prefer it. But I don't think the issue here is really quite the same; I think that this is another instance where the issue is grammatically-singular-semantically-plural. That is, the engineer present is only one from a whole universe of engineers; the referenced engineer is one of the whole population of engineers, one of those engineers.
"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.

But why does "his" carry the implication that the engineer is male? "His" is (or did) say nothing about the sex of the referent.

Yeah; I know; it's because English rarely uses anything other than natural gender. I wonder whether languages which have grammatical gender, applied as illogically as it seems to Mark Twain, get as upset over the use of one of those genders as the default.
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 ...[/nq]The interesting thing to me is that whereas I agree that the change in English has been stimulated by people with a political agenda and was made possible because we didn't teach the conventions of English well-enough to those without the agenda (generations of English-speaking Christian women seem not to have been terribly troubled about the prospects for their souls by the fact that according to the Creed the Lord Jesus Christ came "for us men and for our salvation"), and whereas I would have no difficulty saying "The Chairman summoned her aide..." if the chairman were female, I also do not find "they" when the sex is unknown to be extremely jarring.

Not nearly so jarring as the use of "her" when the sex of the referent is unspecified. I don't think...but, then, I wasn't around to ask them...that most women felt excluded by default "his" until people started telling them that they should feel excluded.

Apparently the majority of English speakers, including me, is less troubled by a grammatical misrepresentation of the number involved than they are by a grammatical misrepresentation of the humanity of the referent (it) or by a merely possible grammatical misrepresentation of the sex of the referent. Given the politics of our age, perhaps this is not surprising. Or else given the precedent of our adoption of singular "you".
Gary Williams
You poor dupe...

But the real point is that it no longer matters how or why a given usage came to be standard. ... resemblance to a racial slur will be of interest but irrelevant to what the word does and does not mean.

According to a recent Australian court case "white ***" is not a racial slur. Strangely enough, "black ***" is considered differently.

Rob Bannister
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
does not behave in that way" or "one would hope". If 'man' is used in a sentence, 'der' is used ... Plautdietsch redet andere Niederdeutsche Mundarten verstehen? Das heisst, gibt es sprachliche Übereinkunft?" "...man der..." in these quotes means "one who",

Not in the first example, which is just a genitive plural to go with "gedenken".

Rob Bannister
Show more