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Sentences like "Everybody is required to show THEIR ID when ... a singular subject and verb and end up with plurals?

Troll?

De facto, if not in intent. All "singular they" does is roil the waters of the usage groups. As Eric Walker has observed, you'd think that by now the language would have come up with a solution better than "they." But it hasn't. After that, it's all a matter of reiterating our chosen positions. So each poster who comes along and brings up the issue can count on a whole bunch of postings contradicting one another, along with much more heat than light. Just what a troll is supposed to be after.
AEU seems to be developing a resistance to "singular they" postings, and even AUE seems to have a case of "singular they" fatigue. We can but hope.
This is a meta-posting, of course, and therefore doesn't count.

Bob Lieblich
They-ing what he wants to they
On 11/20/03 5:42 PM, in article
Those are passive, which is just as bad as singular they.

The thing about the whole mess that baffles me most is that despite just about everybody's recognizing a serious defect ... than any yet suggested for a neutral personal singular pronoun have been happily adopted to meet needs far less obvious.[/nq]I think the answer is really quite simple. Unlike nouns, it is extremely difficult to introduce new pronouns to a language. New nouns, like "radio" or "television" are adopted to label new things which were never known before, or new concepts that were not distinguished before. Pronouns are much more abstract; they don't serve as labels for a given thing, they serve as general substitutes for their antecedents. Pronouns are not so much lexical items as syntactical elements.

Pronouns must flow trippingly off the tongue, one cannot stop and think about them midsentence as: "Everyone must bring (oh, what's that newfangled word for "he or she"?, oh yes, tam) tam (now, what was I saying?)...". Even "they", which came to English from Old Norse, was in use by native speakers of that tongue who lived in England among English speakers, and who eventually adopted English as their native tongue, bringing "they" into that language.

Those English-speaking communities who hadn't used "they" were able to adopt it because they heard others using it regularly, not because they decided that it would be a good idea to adopt a new term.
Auxiliary verbs display a similar phenomenon. Can you imagine anyone proposing to substitute say, "yax" for "have" as an auxiliary? After all, is not "I have determined" ambiguous? Why does no one argue that we need such a substitute, since a sentence like "I have netted birds in the field behind my house" is inherently ambiguous? Do you have netted birds in the field or have you been netting birds there? Isn't auxiliary "have" every bit as crippled and flawed as singular "they"?
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The thing about the whole mess that baffles me most is that despite just about everybody's recognizing a serious defect in the language

Not "everybody", just a small, vociferous group of subscribers to this newsgroup.
that one eentsy-weentsy little term, almost certainly one syllable, would resolve happily, no one has ever been able to conjure any such term that could gain the least shred of popular support.

Exactly. They have failed because it is utterly pointless trying to introduce something new to replace something that has been and accepted part of the English language since time immemorial and before?
We are left with the seriously crippled and highly inflammatory singular "they":

A more crass summation of singular "they" I have yet to see. Do get a life, and learn to live with it.
why, one must wonder, the invariable resistance to some devised term?

Because it is unnecessary, and the vast majority of English speakers live quite happily with the language we already have.

If something happens to evolve, naturally, that serves the purpose of singular "they" equally well as "they" already does, that's OK, but till then "they" will do nicely thank you.

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The thing about the whole mess that baffles me ... have been happily adopted to meet needs far less obvious.

I think the answer is really quite simple. Unlike nouns, it is extremely difficult to introduce new pronouns to a ... field or have you been netting birds there? Isn't auxiliary "have" every bit as crippled and flawed as singular "they"?

Well, that was a bit hasty and unedited.
I'd meant to discourse more fully, and had written and rewritten, but ended up without finding a final fulfilling finish. So, let us sayu that the auxiliary "have"; which word, after all, really means "possess": can you deny it?, is no less flawed and crippled than is singular "they": I have gone? I possess gone? What can this mean? Would it not be far better to have a word for the auxiliary which could not be confused with the straight verbal meaning of "have"?The inherent confusion erupts most fully when auxiliary "have" is used with verbs which may also serve as nouns. I fear that, despite long and desperate thought, my feeble brain cannot find itself diverted from but one particular word which points to very different meanings in its verbal versus its nominal usage (and now I must brave the sophomoric snickering of the adolescent). It happens to be the opposite of "go" in its verbal usage, while its nominal is, shall we say, a rather sticky issue.

One would like to know that when one means the verbal perfect, that that intended meaning can be delivered without the slightest risk of shock to the sensibilities of the more delicate among us. Such could be achieved by the simple expedient of substituting "yax" for auxiliary "have", thus reserving a more robust and immediately obvious "have" for use, with this noun and others, to communicate what might be desired among the less savory, and lower, orders of our society.
Isn't auxiliary "have" every bit as crippled and flawed as singular "they"?

Yes, I suppose it is.
I do fail, however, to see how that might be a justification for advocating acceptability of the singular "they". We already have a common messy ambiguity, so let's add another?

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Isn't auxiliary "have" every bit as crippled and flawed as singular "they"?

Yes, I suppose it is. I do fail, however, to see how that might be a justification for advocating acceptability of the singular "they". We already have a common messy ambiguity, so let's add another?

We already survive without our eyes exploding and our toes dropping off with auxiliary "have", and we are no worse off with singular "they".

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On 11/21/03 12:08 PM, in article
Isn't auxiliary "have" every bit as crippled and flawed as singular "they"?

Yes, I suppose it is. I do fail, however, to see how that might be a justification for advocating acceptability of the singular "they". We already have a common messy ambiguity, so let's add another?

Is auxiliary "have" considered messy and ambiguous? I've never before encountered such an opinion. It's often enough presented as the "perfect" tense of English; without the slightest hint that these provoke any confusion with straight verbal "have".
Is auxiliary "have" considered messy and ambiguous? I've never before encountered such an opinion. It's often enough presented as the "perfect" tense of English; without the slightest hint that these provoke any confusion with straight verbal "have".

What hints and opinions you may have received, about English or any matter, are things quite beyond my control.
You put forth
I have netted birds in the field behind my house.
as ambiguous. Do you no longer find it so? Or do you think it so nearly unique that like ambiguities will be rare correspondingly as that form is rare?
In fact, we make shift in English with many forms that are less than ideal, often strikingly less (as a simple example, the inability to tell the present read from the past read "I read in the papers" till some context clarifies); that we are able, when careful, to communicate more than well despite those flaws is scant reason to artificially introduce yet another of significance.

Cordially,
Eric Walker
My opinions on English are available at
http://owlcroft.com/english /
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
On 11/21/03 10:24 PM, in article
Is auxiliary "have" considered messy and ambiguous? I've never before ... hint that these provoke any confusion with straight verbal "have".

What hints and opinions you may have received, about English or any matter, are things quite beyond my control. You ... Or do you think it so nearly unique that like ambiguities will be rare correspondingly as that form is rare?

I admit, it took a bit of thinking to come up with something that might be ambiguous. And in the end, I don't think it's particularly convincing as an ambiguity. "I have netted birds in the field behind my house"? I daresay anyone with half a brain could come up with an equally "ambiguous" statement for just about any feature of English or of any other language with which they might be familiar. Such statements are ambiguous only in isolation, normal context would make the meaning clear. You might as well say that a stop sign is ambiguous because you can find them on walls in people's dens as well as on the corner at an intersection.
In fact, we make shift in English with many forms that are less than ideal, often strikingly less (as a simple example, the inability to tell the present read from the past read "I read in the papers"

I pronounce them differently. That English orthography fails to distinguish them is a defect of that orthography, not of the language.
till some context clarifies); that we are able, when careful, to communicate more than well despite those flaws is scant reason to artificially introduce yet another of significance.

Singular "they" is as far from being an artificial introduction to English as it could possibly be. It is a native feature of English, and it follows a very strict rule, though now some may wish to extend its range. It's the prescription of singular "they" that has been artificially introduced, and it has had some success in the one field in which it might, formal writing. Its use in normal daily speech has not been much affected.

It takes the same effort and isolation to come up with an "ambiguous" example of singular "they" as it does with auxiliary "have". And if such an ambiguity does occur in the normal course of writing or speech, there's a simple expedient. Expand and clarify. Make one's meaning clear with further exposition.
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