Date: Sat, 17 Feb 1996 01:23:38 -0500


Subject: Re: silly rules of grammar

On Fri, 16 Feb 1996 RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM wrote:

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,

and why. snip

" '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

mindless prescriptivism!

When I left work there about an hour ago, it was the Fort Lauderdale

Sun-Sentinel (published by the Sun-Sentinel Company, a Chicago Tribune



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