Date: Thu, 11 Aug 1994 14:37:55 -0500


Subject: Re: you


1) My mother taught me to use "it" for babies regardless of sex; she

herself used "it" for a baby until about the time it started to walk and

talk--at which time she referred to it as "he" or "she." I offended people

here in Middle Georgia--well, women (because men never asked about my baby

except to express sympathy for the chaos at home)--when I referred to my

infant daughter as an "it." Anybody else's momma teach them/him/her the

same use of "it/him/her"? Was this some bizarre pronoun calque from


Wayne Glowka

No, not at all. Until recently the pronoun of choice for infants seems to

have been "it." You find this in everything from newspaper stories to

fiction to supreme court decisions. I've even seen it in linguistic

elicitation tests (which were testing something else besides pronouns). I

was initially startled by this, since it seemed so inhuman. After 3

children, I think it's the parents who become its, not the kids.



Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Department of English 217-333-2392

University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321

608 South Wright Street

Urbana, Illinois 61801