Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 18:36:48 -0800
From: SETH SKLAREY crissiet[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IX.NETCOM.COM
Subject: Re: silly rules of grammar
Here is one more good example of why it makes sense for speakers of English
to use "they" as the indefinite pronoun of singular reference (rather "he"or
From the *South Florida Sun-Sentinel," 15Feb96, 9B/1-2: "POMPANO
BEACH--Police are trying to figure out who would want to kill James Maxwell,
"Maxwell, 40, who owned a commercial fishing boat and an electronics
company, was killed outside his upscale waterfront condominium at 8:10
Tuesday night, police spokeswoman Sandra King said.
" 'It was a hit,' King said. 'Whoever killed him waited for him a great
deal of time and, when he showed up, they emptied their gun.' "
" . . . neighbors saw a white man, about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a
medium build . . . hanging around Maxwell's home Tuesday night."
If the "police spokeswoman Sandra King" had chosen to say either ". . . he
emptied his gun" or ". . . she emptied her gun" would have implied that she
knew more about the shooter's identity than she did. The use of the
gender-neutral "they . . . their" not only avoids this trap, it also allows
for the possibility that more than one person was involved in the killing. In
this case, "they . . . their" also eliminates a potential confusion of "he"
the victim and "they" the killer(s).
The good sense of ordinary speakers of the language once again triumphs over
I agree that there should be a better way. Police spokespersons used to be
former journalists or TV or Radio people who had some knowledge of syntax
crissiet[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ix.netcom.com