Date: Sat, 5 Nov 1994 10:42:00 -0600 From: Katherine Catmull Subject: Re: "them" singulars > Furthermore, I am unwilling to apologize for it. The use of a plural > pronoun to stand for a singular referent in order to achieve gender > ambiguity seems to me to be heavy PC. I don't think this is the case. It has been commonly used in informal speech throughout my lifetime at least. When I taught freshman English, well before "PC" (I don't like that term, but that's another subject) was an issue, it was one of the most common mistakes in student papers. I think the problem is that we need a gender neutral singular pronoun, and English speakers are grabbing the handiest possibility. I believe the singular "they" is in the throes of becoming common usage. I have no problem with that. > For one thing, although in the mists > of history there may have been some male dominance suggestion in the use > of "him" as a generic for "human being," in the case in question "him" is > certainly a generic form. To demonstrate this one need only suppose that > it was intended as masculine. It leads to amusing sentences, though, such as one I recall that went something like this: "Whether a patient is in the hospital for heart surgery, a broken bone, or to give birth, he . . ." If "he" were truly a gender-neutral pronoun, there would be no problem with this sentence, when clearly there is. > Furthermore, the situation is easily avoided by either > changing "person" to the plural form, or using the (admittedly somewhat > awkward) "him/her." If "he" were truly a gender-neutral pronoun, why would this be necessary? > We already find ourselves in a situation in which > grammatical structure has broken down to the extent that millions of > Americans are unable to say clearly what they mean. This has not been my experience. Kate Catmull kate[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]