Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 10:15:42 -0800


Subject: Re: "them" singulars

"They/them/their" as singular goes back to Chaucer. It doesn't eradicate.

I agree with Birrell Walsh -- the best of a bad set of choices, and look

at all the well-attested history behind it. Now, excuse me, why was it we

didn't want to use these forms anyway

I remember reading once that Meillet or one of those dead French linguists

had uncovered a substratum of animacy below/before the sex-gender distinctions.

English handles animacy really badly, which is another reason I don't find

the plural/singular conflation a problem, and why I for one wouldn't mind

if ikind of went away. He/she merely draws attention to genitalia and

secondary sex characteristics in a way that makes people from other languages

and cultures wonder why they have to pay so much attention to sex in order to

just speak English properly. He/she vs it tends to invoke a "living/dead"

contrast. And then, to top it all off, we have a great big gaping hole in

that pronoun set -- any living creature whose genitalia we're not interested

in or can't immediately tell (neighbor's new baby or dog, a tree, a whale, a

bug, a star we label 'IT', as if the creature is dead! I contend our

pronoun systems is subtly complicit in it-ting Mother Earth to death because

of this basic lack of formal respect. Note this is different from Romance

languages where masc/fem/neut are applied to all objects and beings equally,

without absolute dependence on sexual characteristics.

So gimme them they's and their's!

-- Moonhawk (%- )

"The fool on the hill sees the sun going down and

the eyes in his head see the world spinning round"

-- John Lennon