Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 10:15:42 -0800
From: Dan Alford dalford[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]S1.CSUHAYWARD.EDU
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