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(in re Jane Austen)
Lookit: You can't have it coming and going: she wrote well, and so could presumably handle correcting a simple grammatical error with grace; or she could not repair a simple grammatical error with grace, in which case she did not write well. You pick.

How about: She wrote well, and therefore what appears to you to be a grammatical error is in fact a standard usage that she adopted?

The alternative is that she wrote well but goofed every time she used singular they. Yet she felt need to "correct" it. Why do you feel the need to correct her or have her correct herself?

Bob Lieblich
Who wishes he wrote anywhere near as well as Austen
On 11/23/03 2:40 PM, in article
Perhaps you would try an experiment for us by correcting ... three sample sentences and inviting our comments on your improvements.

Did I feel myself her equal as a writer, I might; but, as I do not and have, I hope, never ... she could not repair a simple grammatical error with grace, in which case she did not write well. You pick.

This makes mincemeat of the idea that "grammatical English" is derived from the usage of respected authors. It's not as if Austen used singular "they" only once or twice, or limited it to characters who might have been expected to use "ungrammatical" language. She used it regularly, in her own voice as narrator.
What your "lookit" boils down to is "we choose what is 'grammatical' from among the works of respected authors, but even they can be ungrammatical when they do not follow our preferences".
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Sentences like "Everybody is required to show THEIR ID when ... a singular subject and verb and end up with plurals?

They are no more absurd than the use of "you" for both the singular and the plural. It has been ... years, with its origin going back another 300 at least, and causes problems for nobody but the ignorant and over-pedantic.

No, you're wrong. The "you" never causes a disagreement in number like the everybody/they combination does.
Sentences like "Everybody is required to show THEIR ID when THEY cross the gate." or "Anyone who calls will have ... a new pronoun and possessive adjective that would resolve that issue. Why don't we simply pick up the neutral IT?

Why? Because it's not real English, it's just something you dreamed up.
(in re Jane Austen)

Lookit: You can't have it coming and going: she wrote ... in which case she did not write well. You pick.

How about: She wrote well, and therefore what appears to you to be a grammatical error is in fact a ... (no?) need to "correct" it. Why do you feel the need to correct her or have her correct herself?

That is a mish-mash of mis-statements.
One: how a particular author wrote, or writes, some point of grammar is immaterial unless a substantial fraction preferably, if one is going to argue the matter on that basis, a substantial majority of that author's peers in ability in that era wrote that same way. Why do you suppose Austen is commonly said to have had a weak grasp of grammar? Because she wrote the same way as her peers or because she wrote differently from them? Because her uses were standard or because they were nonstandard?
Two: I feel no "need" to "correct" her: she, like all dead authors, has left what she has left, and that's that. It has brilliant parts, it has mundane parts, and it has poor parts; one's judgement of her quality depends on one's judgement of their proportions. Nor do I feel a "need" to have her correct herself; my assertion is that had someone schooled her in the conventional grammar of her era, she would have been delighted to receive the instruction, and would have written to that form with a willing heart and hand (and produced results otherwise equal in merit to those we have).
Unfortunately for her and her peers, the Great And Powerful Descriptivism had not yet arrived on the scene, so she and they still nurtured that silly, wasteful idea, that there is a good and sound way to cast one's thoughts into words and that its name is grammar. Poor fools. Well, we at least know better.

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

Yes, I suppose it is.

Wrong. Singular they causes NUMBER DISAGREEMENT. It is not comparable to the auxiliary "have", nor to the singular/plural "you". It is a unique problem.
Singular they causes NUMBER DISAGREEMENT. It is not comparable to the auxiliary "have", nor to the singular/plural "you". It is a unique problem.

See, on the tourist map that's on the wall just outside where I am, there's a little call-out box that says "YOU ARE HERE".
Now, does that mean just one person is there? Or a group? I can't tell which it means until someone reads it and then I can count how many people are there and then I can go "Ah! 'You' in this instance means just that one American tourist with the large SLR camera!" But what if his wife is in the gift shop just across the street? Hmmm. Does that "you" and that "are" refer to her, too? Surely they arrived and are travelling as a group, aren't they? Or maybe it really is just one person, as only one person will read it and then turn around to the rest of the group and disambiguate that "you" and that "are" with a "Hey, guys, WE are here on the map!" Ugh. Such confusion, such a mess!See how the "YOU ARE HERE" callout is totally ambiguous and meaningless until come context is applied? The same goes for singular "they". The environment you us it in will always make the number apparent. -A straggler from a tourist group stops me in the street and asks where the rest of his party has gone to. Fortunately, they passed me five minutes earlier and I overheard one of them say where they were going. We consult the map, I point, and I say "They should be here" jabbing my finger at the location on the map.

He thanks me and sets off, knowing whereabouts the people (plural) are. -Another tourist stops me in the same street at the same wall-mounted map and in broken English manages to ask me that "I was supposed to meet my partner in the cathedral cloisters but I don't know where that is!" So, we consult the map, I point to where the cloisters is to be found on there, and because I don't have any clue if "the partner" is a male or a female, I can say "Ah, if you're meant to meet your partner at the cloisters, then they should be waiting for you...

there!" jabbing my finger at the required location on the map. That tourist then trundles off towards the appointed meeting place, knowing full well that there will only be one person waiting there for him.
No confusion, once the full environment and context is presented and processed (since no utterance is EVER made in real-life without a context).
But what's the point? I've seen your frantic "the sky is falling" rantings here before, so I guess I've just wasted ten minutes of my life typing this. Ho hum.

johnF
"He heard her musical pants."
heading for ch. XVIII, A Pair of Blue Eyes , Thomas Hardy (1872)
Singular they causes NUMBER DISAGREEMENT. It is not comparable to the auxiliary "have", nor to the singular/plural "you". It is a unique problem.

See, on the tourist map that's on the wall just outside where I am, there's a little call-out box that says "YOU ARE HERE".

They've got those maps in Big Basin now, all along the Skyline to the Sea Trail, all the way from HQ to Berry Creek Falls.
Like this one . But on every one of them, the little "call-out box" (so that's what they're called!) and its concomitant Big Red Dot has been effaced, presumably by those who, like I, believe that one has no business being out there if one can't figure out one's location without such aids, leaving a large silver scar. I mean, there's a signpost at every intersection in consideration of the omnipotent!
Tourist maps in the wilderness (well it would qualify in the East)! Pfui!

(I hear they've got bears down there, now, too!
Must've been quite the sight to see them crossing the GG Bridge.)
Turkey in Santa Cruz! Hey I once saw a whole flock of the buggers on Mt. Tam.
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On 11/27/03 11:07 AM, in article
Yes, I suppose it is.

Wrong. Singular they causes NUMBER DISAGREEMENT. It is not comparable to the auxiliary "have",

Right! Auxiliary "have" causes SYNTAX DISAGREEMENT.
nor to the singular/plural "you". It is a unique problem.

Very unique. In fact, it's probably the most unique problem of all.
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