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  •  Gender neutral words (8+ / 0-)

    I know the pronoun question festers.

    But why don't people use the gender neutral words we have?

    We use boy and girl more than child
    Man and woman more than person or adult
    Spouse is rare... we have husbands and wives
    Parent is rare.... we have mothers and fathers
    Sibling is very rare... we have brothers and sisters

    •  There is ONE gender-neutral idiom (9+ / 0-)

      that has gained enormous ground, to the horror of grammarians:  the singular "they".  

      As in, "there's this person I'm dating, and they said..."

      While this usage still hints at the closet, I also hear it from individuals who have nothing to hide. While it's true that grammatically it is less clear and specific, it is also a spontaneous and naturally evolving figure of speech.

      Language changes and grows, and not always in the approved ways.   I say we roll with it!

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 02:47:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ack!! (5+ / 0-)

        And it is grammatically wrong, because "they" is plural!!!

        (Sorry. I go nuts correcting that 10 times a day when I grade.)

        •  It is a non-standard usage, certainly (8+ / 0-)

          and in that sense still unacceptable for formal written work.  However, I predict that it is here to stay!

          But then, I also feel there is a valid place in grammar for the southern dialect, "you-all" or "y'all" as a perfectly proper and useful second-person plural.  That one is MORE clear than the standard form, yet somehow mysterioulsy not okay!

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 02:54:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  When I lived in Arkansas... (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sarahnity, cfk, lgmcp, plf515, kyril

            ...I learned that Go! Fight! Win! had six syllables.

          •  Singular "they" lacks precision (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cfk, lgmcp, rserven, plf515, geomoo, kyril

            Because it's loose grammar, it isn't the sort of usage that leads to clear, critical thought. It's more appropriate for water-cooler chats.

            Curiously, it has a lengthy provenance. Thomas Jefferson commented that English is flawed by the lack of a neutral pronoun, so this isn't a recent dilemma. I just finished up a manuscript and my author had gone through difficult contortions, using "he or she" to skirt the issue in most cases, and by changing to plural subjects in many cases we were able to smooth some of that out.

            Generally speaking, language users arrive at population-wide, agreed-upon solutions to linguistic conundrums, and perhaps singular "they" will become acceptable. Careful writers can't go there yet.

            Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

            by The Raven on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 03:30:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Homage to "y'all" (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Moody Loner, lgmcp, rserven, plf515, kyril

            I agree enthusiastically about the functionality of the word "y'all."  I came north at a time when people who said "youse guys" with a straight face laughed uproariously at the hick word "y'all."  It is a gender-neutral solution to a grammatical problem.  It was trashed, along with Southern friendliness, in the mocking use of the phrase, "Y'all come back, y'hear."  Power has shifted since those days, and not all to the good.  If we must put up with Southern religious fascism, let's at least bring the word "y'all" along with it.

            Uh, is this off thread?  Sorry.

            The only frame change that matters: the corporate media = propaganda machine. Americans must find their news elsewhere.

            by geomoo on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 03:48:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Far too much of standard English grammar... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Raven, lgmcp, rserven, geomoo

          ...is based on Latin models which really don't apply to English--simply because of the influence of Latin grammars on the early grammarians of English. Take the split infinitive, for example: there is absolutely no reason to try to purge it from the language; grammarians simply decided that it was incorrect, because Latin infinitives are a single word ("amare") rather than formed out of two words ("to love"), and therefore the English infinitive with "to" must be considered a single word.

          I write for a living, and I really wish I could use "they" for "he or she" and could split infinitives, without someone emailing me and correcting my grammar. Anyhow, sorry for the digression: this happens to be a pet peeve of mine.

          "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." Nancy Pelosi

          by StupidAsshole on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 03:32:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is nothing wrong (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rserven

            with a "split infinitive," for the very reason you give. In fact, "correcting" it can ruin the clarity of a sentence.

            However, I'd argue long and hard with you about misusing "they" as you seem to suggest.

            I'm an editor and former college-level English instructor, and I will fight acceptance of that as the norm until my dying breath.

            •  I hate to say it (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rserven

              But you are probably fighting a losing battle.  Language changes as it is used, and I'm afraid you are trying to hold back the tide with a broom.  The fact is, up until fifty years ago or so, we really didn't need a gender neutral pronoun too often in our society.  If you were talking about an unknown person, in most cases it was very clear by the action you were describing whether that person was male or female.  Nowadays with gender roles less well demarcated, that's no longer true and we need a gender neutral pronoun in many more cases and the only solutions that classical grammar offers us "he/she" or "one" are not popular with the people who are actually using the language.  Faced with this deficit, people are going to pick the best solution they can find and grammarians are going to have to cringe and get over it.  

              If it makes you feel any better, I really lament the replacement of the word "fewer" with "less" that is so prevalent nowadays.  It may drive me crazy, but I can tell this battle is lost as well.

              Frugal Fridays, where the cheap come to chat.

              by sarahnity on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 04:49:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Also prepositions at the end of sentences (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sarahnity, rserven

            When Winston Churchill was criticized for ending a sentence with a preposition, he said

            That is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put

      •  I try to avoid that one... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elise, lgmcp, plf515, kyril

        ...but try to choose my words and diagram my sentences very carefully. :-)

    •  I'll tell ya this -- (7+ / 0-)

      as an MA student, I was told that one can use "she" consistently throughout one's work when talking about a theoretical reader, spectator, etc. I do it, but it makes me really conscious of when I am saying something that isn't completely positive about my female reader/viewer.

      See, it's the pronouns that are the problem. I've thought about using "hir," but that brings with it another set of problems... Sigh. I really wish academic language would, like, solve this problem.

      Oh, FWIW, many of my grad school friends call their boy/girlfriends "partner" regardless of the gender or sexuality involved.

    •  I had a wierd "Pat" moment yesterday (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sarahnity, Moody Loner, cfk, lgmcp, rserven, kyril

      I'm having lunch, reading a book, and across from me are two women and a young child. And this kid - I'm guessing 5 years old, max - is just adorable. Really cute. But the hair, clothing, and appearance gave no clues as to gender. I'm sure you've seen kids like that.

      As I left, I wanted to make a comment to the mother, and, in searching for a pronoun found myself lost. So I said:

      "You have such a lovely child."

      She beamed at me and I was off the hook.

      Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

      by The Raven on Fri Jul 27, 2007 at 03:33:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The instant it took you... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, kyril

        ...to find that phrase is unfortunately, in another situation, the same instant in which transpeople are in danger.

      •  Some people don't take time (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sarahnity, The Raven, lgmcp, rserven

        they just blurt the first thing they think.

        My daughter was one of those unfortunate children who had very little hair for her first two years.

        Even when we would dress her in all pink, with lots of ruffles and lace, people would stop me and say, "Oh, what an adorable little boy you have!"

        We finally gave up and did gender neutral yellows and greens for a while, and would just smile and nod at the compliments rather than trying to correct the commenter.

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