Date: Wed, 10 Aug 1994 15:14:32 -0400
From: Ellen Johnson ellenj[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ATLAS.UGA.EDU
As part of my field work, I interviewed a white male from Middle Georgia,
in fact Baldwin County, who was about 75 and who had a bizarre use of
pronouns. Everything was "he", including an insect and a nursing mother
cat he showed me in his barn. I don't remember him ever using "it",
though I can't think of a use of "he" for an inanimate object right now.
At the time, Sali Mufwene suggested to me that this usage was like the
creole "i" or "im" for an all-purpose third person pronoun.
I've visited this area several times lately and haven't noticed it
again. My own Southern, though Atlanta-born, idiolect includes the use
of "it" for babies when I don't know (or remember) their sex, though I
have a sense that it might be offensive to some. For some strange
cognitive reason, I almost always refer to dogs as "he" and cats as
"she", slipping up even when I know better.