Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 18:36:48 -0800 From: SETH SKLAREY 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 >"she"): > >>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. > "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 >mindless prescriptivism! 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 and grammar. Seth Sklarey crissiet[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] > >