IS Forum
Forum Index Register Members List Events Mark Forums Read Help

Go Back   International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Education
 


Welcome to the International Skeptics Forum, where we discuss skepticism, critical thinking, the paranormal and science in a friendly but lively way. You are currently viewing the forum as a guest, which means you are missing out on discussing matters that are of interest to you. Please consider registering so you can gain full use of the forum features and interact with other Members. Registration is simple, fast and free! Click here to register today.
Reply
Old 11th December 2019, 12:22 AM   #1
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
'They' enters the English language as a singular pronoun

Not sure I approve of this.

Quote:
Merriam-Webster has named "they" its word of the year.

The US dictionary also recently added a new definition of "they", reflecting its use as a singular personal pronoun for non-binary people.

Searches for "they" on Merriam-Webster's website were 313% higher this year than they were in 2018.

British pop star Sam Smith came out as non-binary in March, and in September confirmed on Instagram that their pronouns were "they/them".
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50735371


It offends the principle of differentiating between singular and plural. It jars to see a news report in which one person is described as 'they'. It is probably all right if the aim is to avoid revealing gender.

I have never really liked Merriam-Webster for the way it readily discards convention and correctness.
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 12:45 AM   #2
zooterkin
Nitpicking dilettante
Administrator
 
zooterkin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Berkshire, mostly
Posts: 47,970
Enters the language? That might have been news around 1300.
https://pemberley.com/janeinfo/austheir.html
__________________
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.Bertrand Russell
Zooterkin is correct Darat
Nerd! Hokulele
Join the JREF Folders ! Team 13232
Ezekiel 23:20

Last edited by zooterkin; 11th December 2019 at 12:47 AM.
zooterkin is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 01:01 AM   #3
Guybrush Threepwood
Trainee Pirate
 
Guybrush Threepwood's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: An Uaimh
Posts: 3,033
Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Enters the language? That might have been news around 1300.
https://pemberley.com/janeinfo/austheir.html
I think historic usage is generally with an indefinite antecedent ('If any attendee needs the bathroom, they can use the facilities on the ground floor'). The usage with a specified antecedent ( 'Sam Smith is an English singer, they were (was?) born in 1992') is a new usage.

I'm not an expert, so would be unsurprised to be proved wrong about that.
Guybrush Threepwood is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 01:10 AM   #4
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Enters the language? That might have been news around 1300.
https://pemberley.com/janeinfo/austheir.html
Lay people, such as journalists and copywriters will get it wrong. Jane Austen was using dialogue; nota bene: it is in quotation marks reflecting a child's speech. Good novelists will capture exactly how people speak and local vernacular. People's speech is often very different from standard correct English.

I thought you would have known this.

But then you did, didn't you?
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 03:56 AM   #5
catsmate
No longer the 1
 
catsmate's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 23,434
Meh. Languages change.
__________________
As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
catsmate is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 04:19 AM   #6
zooterkin
Nitpicking dilettante
Administrator
 
zooterkin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Berkshire, mostly
Posts: 47,970
Originally Posted by Guybrush Threepwood View Post
I think historic usage is generally with an indefinite antecedent ('If any attendee needs the bathroom, they can use the facilities on the ground floor'). The usage with a specified antecedent ( 'Sam Smith is an English singer, they were (was?) born in 1992') is a new usage.

I'm not an expert, so would be unsurprised to be proved wrong about that.
You may be correct that this is a new usage, when referring to a specific individual of known gender (no, I don't want to get into discussing the ramifications of that), but whilst that's what the quoted text in the OP talked about, that's not what the OP itself was complaining about. Use of 'they' and 'their' when referring to a single (possibly unspecified) person is pretty much as old as modern English.
__________________
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.Bertrand Russell
Zooterkin is correct Darat
Nerd! Hokulele
Join the JREF Folders ! Team 13232
Ezekiel 23:20
zooterkin is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 06:20 AM   #7
TragicMonkey
Poisoned Waffles
 
TragicMonkey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Monkey
Posts: 58,863
Is everyone clutching their pearls?
__________________
You added nothing to that conversation, Barbara.
TragicMonkey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 06:23 AM   #8
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 48,530
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Not sure I approve of this.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50735371


It offends the principle of differentiating between singular and plural. It jars to see a news report in which one person is described as 'they'. It is probably all right if the aim is to avoid revealing gender.

I have never really liked Merriam-Webster for the way it readily discards convention and correctness.
Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. They tell you how words being used, not how they should used.
theprestige is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 06:29 AM   #9
ahhell
Illuminator
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,353
Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Meh. Languages change.
Pretty much this, and in this case it isn't even changing that much.

Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Is everyone clutching their pearls?
Certainly some are.

I will editorialize. If you want me to call you they, sure, why would I care. If you want me to use some word that didn't exist 3 years ago, ok but I think you're a bit of a twit, I'll probably forgot on occasion, sorry about that. If you announce your pronoun when entering the room, I'll think you're a narcissist and a twit.
ahhell is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 06:31 AM   #10
Belz...
Fiend God
 
Belz...'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: In a post-fact world
Posts: 91,292
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Not sure I approve of this.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50735371


It offends the principle of differentiating between singular and plural. It jars to see a news report in which one person is described as 'they'. It is probably all right if the aim is to avoid revealing gender.

I have never really liked Merriam-Webster for the way it readily discards convention and correctness.
Not just for "non-binaries", whatever that means, but simply when you don't know the person's sex/gender.
__________________
Master of the Shining Darkness

"My views are nonsense. So what?" - BobTheCoward


Belz... is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 06:44 AM   #11
ahhell
Illuminator
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 3,353
Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Not just for "non-binaries", whatever that means, but simply when you don't know the person's sex/gender.
Hasn't that always been the case though? Everyone I know uses and always has used they rather than he/she in that case.
ahhell is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:10 AM   #12
Thermal
Penultimate Amazing
 
Thermal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: East Coast USA
Posts: 13,035
Originally Posted by Guybrush Threepwood View Post
I think historic usage is generally with an indefinite antecedent ('If any attendee needs the bathroom, they can use the facilities on the ground floor'). The usage with a specified antecedent ( 'Sam Smith is an English singer, they were (was?) born in 1992') is a new usage.

I'm not an expert, so would be unsurprised to be proved wrong about that.
If 'they' is a singular pronoun, it would presumably be 'they was'. But people will think that sounds hillbilly-ish, and continue with 'they were'. Guess we're going full-on Royal speaking, then, and start referring to ourselves in the third person.
__________________
We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don't -Frank A. Clark

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect -Mark Twain
Thermal is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:24 AM   #13
TragicMonkey
Poisoned Waffles
 
TragicMonkey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Monkey
Posts: 58,863
Originally Posted by Thermal View Post
If 'they' is a singular pronoun, it would presumably be 'they was'. But people will think that sounds hillbilly-ish, and continue with 'they were'. Guess we're going full-on Royal speaking, then, and start referring to ourselves in the third person.
One finds it's far fancier to refer to oneself thusly, rather than as a royal wee. Maximize one's fanciness, as the Caesars used to say. Fancinuum ad maximixus walrusidae. As true today as when it was written.
__________________
You added nothing to that conversation, Barbara.
TragicMonkey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:25 AM   #14
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 48,530
Originally Posted by Thermal View Post
If 'they' is a singular pronoun, it would presumably be 'they was'. But people will think that sounds hillbilly-ish, and continue with 'they were'. Guess we're going full-on Royal speaking, then, and start referring to ourselves in the third person.
Royals don't speak of themselves in the third person. "We" is the first person plural. The monarch uses "we" to refer to themselves as the personification of the nation and its citizens.
theprestige is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:26 AM   #15
Belz...
Fiend God
 
Belz...'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: In a post-fact world
Posts: 91,292
Originally Posted by ahhell View Post
Hasn't that always been the case though? Everyone I know uses and always has used they rather than he/she in that case.
I have no clue. I've been using it for a while but I know it from only a couple of years ago.
__________________
Master of the Shining Darkness

"My views are nonsense. So what?" - BobTheCoward


Belz... is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:36 AM   #16
TragicMonkey
Poisoned Waffles
 
TragicMonkey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Monkey
Posts: 58,863
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Royals don't speak of themselves in the third person. "We" is the first person plural. The monarch uses "we" to refer to themselves as the personification of the nation and its citizens.
And the reptilian hive mind.
__________________
You added nothing to that conversation, Barbara.
TragicMonkey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:38 AM   #17
TragicMonkey
Poisoned Waffles
 
TragicMonkey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Monkey
Posts: 58,863
Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
I have no clue. I've been using it for a while but I know it from only a couple of years ago.
I've always used "they" in speaking of unknown gender because it sounds too prissily English teacher old-fashioned to say "he", and too cumbersome to say "he or she".
__________________
You added nothing to that conversation, Barbara.
TragicMonkey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:39 AM   #18
Thermal
Penultimate Amazing
 
Thermal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: East Coast USA
Posts: 13,035
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Royals don't speak of themselves in the third person. "We" is the first person plural. The monarch uses "we" to refer to themselves as the personification of the nation and its citizens.
They know. They have heard the Royals speak for decades. But it's more fun to lampoon the pretense.
__________________
We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don't -Frank A. Clark

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect -Mark Twain
Thermal is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 08:58 AM   #19
mumblethrax
Species traitor
 
mumblethrax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 2,636
Originally Posted by Guybrush Threepwood View Post
I think historic usage is generally with an indefinite antecedent ('If any attendee needs the bathroom, they can use the facilities on the ground floor'). The usage with a specified antecedent ( 'Sam Smith is an English singer, they were (was?) born in 1992') is a new usage.

I'm not an expert, so would be unsurprised to be proved wrong about that.
That's probably the most common usage today, but it's not strictly true historically.

Originally Posted by Shakespeare
There's not a man I meet but doth salute me
As if I were their well-acquainted friend
It does sound a bit strange to me sometimes, probably because we're unaccustomed to using morphologically plural constructions with apparently singular third person singular pronouns. But we'll probably get over it, like we did when thou disappeared from most dialects of English.
mumblethrax is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:03 AM   #20
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 48,530
Originally Posted by Thermal View Post
They know. They have heard the Royals speak for decades. But it's more fun to lampoon the pretense.
I don't think it is a pretense. Though, in these days of constitutional monarchy, the significance is largely vestigial.
theprestige is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:15 AM   #21
Thermal
Penultimate Amazing
 
Thermal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: East Coast USA
Posts: 13,035
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I They don't think it is a pretense. Though, in these days of constitutional monarchy, the significance is largely vestigial.
FTFY.

They meant the pretense of assuming the Royals speak of themselves thusly.

Also, not sure the peasantry felt the Royals spoke for them. Although they may have felt some kind of crude affiliation. Not being a British serf, hard for them to say authoritatively.
__________________
We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don't -Frank A. Clark

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect -Mark Twain
Thermal is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:22 AM   #22
Varanid
Master Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 2,284
I'm surely in the minority, but this irritates me to no end.
Why don't we just come up with a gender-neutral term instead?

I have no issue with any sexual orientation/identity a person chooses, but I refuse to call a single person "they" unless there's a legitimate reason to suspect that "they" are multiple entities.

I'll just use your name. Yes, it will be very awkward. I hope you hate it.
__________________
"I love the poorly educated" -- Donald Trump
Varanid is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:31 AM   #23
TragicMonkey
Poisoned Waffles
 
TragicMonkey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Monkey
Posts: 58,863
Originally Posted by Varanid View Post
I'm surely in the minority, but this irritates me to no end.
Why don't we just come up with a gender-neutral term instead?

I have no issue with any sexual orientation/identity a person chooses, but I refuse to call a single person "they" unless there's a legitimate reason to suspect that "they" are multiple entities.

I'll just use your name. Yes, it will be very awkward. I hope you hate it.
Because "they" is already in widespread use and has been for centuries. Adopting a new word is a difficult task and would take decades to spread, even if it faced zero opposition. "They" is far less irritating than the proposed "ze", for example.
__________________
You added nothing to that conversation, Barbara.
TragicMonkey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:39 AM   #24
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 48,530
Originally Posted by Varanid View Post
I'm surely in the minority, but this irritates me to no end.
Why don't we just come up with a gender-neutral term instead?
Natural language doesn't work that way.

I mean, sooner or later, if a gender-neutral term is needed, one will emerge. Right now, it looks like it's going to emerge by expanding the usage of "they".

But outside of technical jargon with obscure meanings and specific applications, simply coming up with a new term for everyone to use isn't really a thing.
theprestige is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:54 AM   #25
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Not just for "non-binaries", whatever that means, but simply when you don't know the person's sex/gender.
The convention is to say 'he' and use the singular verb.


You might say 'they' to conceal the gender or it is important you avoid using 'he' (i.e., in an unsolved crime) but generally speaking it is not correct.
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 09:57 AM   #26
TragicMonkey
Poisoned Waffles
 
TragicMonkey's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Monkey
Posts: 58,863
Question

Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
The convention is to say 'he' and use the singular verb.


You might say 'they' to conceal the gender or it is important you avoid using 'he' (i.e., in an unsolved crime) but generally speaking it is not correct.
The convention is whatever the most people do. I'd say "they" has been the convention for some time now, outside of the schoolmarm population.
__________________
You added nothing to that conversation, Barbara.
TragicMonkey is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:00 AM   #27
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Natural language doesn't work that way.

I mean, sooner or later, if a gender-neutral term is needed, one will emerge. Right now, it looks like it's going to emerge by expanding the usage of "they".

But outside of technical jargon with obscure meanings and specific applications, simply coming up with a new term for everyone to use isn't really a thing.
Do what the Finns do. Just have one word for 'he' and 'she'. (Hän.)
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:07 AM   #28
bruto
Penultimate Amazing
 
bruto's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Way way north of Diddy Wah Diddy
Posts: 27,224
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Lay people, such as journalists and copywriters will get it wrong. Jane Austen was using dialogue; nota bene: it is in quotation marks reflecting a child's speech. Good novelists will capture exactly how people speak and local vernacular. People's speech is often very different from standard correct English.

I thought you would have known this.

But then you did, didn't you?
Jane Austen used "they" in other than dialogue. I don't know where you were looking, but you should look again, and remember that at least some attributions will be in quotation marks because they are quoted from Austen, not because they are quotations in her work.

She habitually uses "they" where a statement tends to be general rather than specific to a single person, and might refer to either sex. She assiduously avoids "his or her" and similar constructions, and inserts "their" instead, generally to the advantage of her style. It is because this is such a frequent occurrence in her writing that Austen is often brought into such arguments.

e.t.a. while I'm at it, I'll address the prestige here: while it's true these days that the rule is for dictionaries to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, this has not always been presumed. The introduction of Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary was, at the time, accompanied by a storm of controversy when this change was made official. Up until that point, MW at least considered dictionaries to be at least in part prescriptive, following changes in language with some reluctance, and noting when usage was substandard, vernacular, and the like.
__________________
I love this world, but not for its answers. (Mary Oliver)

Quand il dit "cuic" le moineau croit tout dire. (When he's tweeted the sparrow thinks he's said it all. (Jules Renard)

Last edited by bruto; 11th December 2019 at 10:13 AM.
bruto is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:11 AM   #29
CORed
Philosopher
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Central City, Colorado, USA
Posts: 9,995
It's been a fairly common usage for some time. It does fulfill the need for something that English lacks: A non-gender-specific singular personal pronoun, which is often needed, whether for non-binary people, or just when the gender is unknown or all-encompasing. The downside is that it introduces some ambiguity in the meaning of "they", which may or may not be resolvable by context.

An older convention was to use "he" for the non-specific gender. This can also be ambiguous, and some would say that it's sexist. "It" could work, but that word is typically used for inanimate objects, or sometimes for animals.

It would, IMO be better to introduce a new word, but efforts to do that have failed to gain much traction. Using "they" as a singular does seem wrong to me, but complaining about it would likely be about as useful as shouting at clouds. As others in the thread have pointed out, langauges change. It doesn't annoy me nearly as much as misuse of the word "literal".
CORed is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:18 AM   #30
Belz...
Fiend God
 
Belz...'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: In a post-fact world
Posts: 91,292
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
The convention is to say 'he' and use the singular verb.
No.

Quote:
You might say 'they' to conceal the gender or it is important you avoid using 'he' (i.e., in an unsolved crime) but generally speaking it is not correct.
How about you're talking about someone without knowing their gender, such as someone on the internet?
__________________
Master of the Shining Darkness

"My views are nonsense. So what?" - BobTheCoward


Belz... is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:19 AM   #31
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by bruto View Post
Jane Austen used "they" in other than dialogue. I don't know where you were looking, but you should look again, and remember that at least some attributions will be in quotation marks because they are quoted from Austen, not because they are quotations in her work.

She habitually uses "they" where a statement tends to be general rather than specific to a single person, and might refer to either sex. She assiduously avoids "his or her" and similar constructions, and inserts "their" instead, generally to the advantage of her style. It is because this is such a frequent occurrence in her writing that Austen is often brought into such arguments.

e.t.a. while I'm at it, I'll address the prestige here: while it's true these days that the rule is for dictionaries to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, this has not always been presumed. The introduction of Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary was, at the time, accompanied by a storm of controversy when this change was made official. Up until that point, MW at least considered dictionaries to be at least in part prescriptive, following changes in language with some reluctance, and noting when usage was substandard, vernacular, and the like.
That was likely the editors and proofreaders at the publishers who like to use 'house rules'.
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:20 AM   #32
mumblethrax
Species traitor
 
mumblethrax's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 2,636
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Do what the Finns do. Just have one word for 'he' and 'she'. (Hän.)
A friend in high school tried teaching me a bit of Hungarian. I remember remarking that it was nice that Hungarian didn't have gendered pronouns, and his response: "Yeah. Don't worry, we make up for it by being sexist in about a million different ways."

I tend to think people invest far too much power in this stuff.
mumblethrax is online now   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:25 AM   #33
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
No.



How about you're talking about someone without knowing their gender, such as someone on the internet?
Think about it. It is rare you need to know a person's gender.

Don't forget, subject pronouns (he, she, it, they) are usually preceded by a noun or proper noun.

For example: The boy kicked the ball. He then ran down the wing.

Nine times out of ten you already know to whom you are referring when you start using the term, 'he' or 'she'. And nine times out of ten it is not information needed.

Think of German with der, die and das. Who needs that stuff?
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:30 AM   #34
Dr. Keith
Not a doctor.
 
Dr. Keith's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 21,964
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
That was likely the editors and proofreaders at the publishers who like to use 'house rules'.
Are you really trying to strip Austen of her authorship?

Bold. Completely wrongheaded, but bold.
__________________
Suffering is not a punishment not a fruit of sin, it is a gift of God.
He allows us to share in His suffering and to make up for the sins of the world. -Mother Teresa

If I had a pet panda I would name it Snowflake.
Dr. Keith is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:33 AM   #35
Dr. Keith
Not a doctor.
 
Dr. Keith's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 21,964
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Think about it. It is rare you need to know a person's gender.

Don't forget, subject pronouns (he, she, it, they) are usually preceded by a noun or proper noun.

For example: The boy kicked the ball. He then ran down the wing.

Nine times out of ten you already know to whom you are referring when you start using the term, 'he' or 'she'. And nine times out of ten it is not information needed.

Think of German with der, die and das. Who needs that stuff?
A language that only works well nine times out of ten is like a bridge that only gets you nine tenths of the way across a river.

You are wrong about this issue, and your inability to seek out the facts and truth about the common usage of "they" as a singular pronoun in English for quite sometime is borderline weird for someone who espouses to have some strong feelings about the issue.
__________________
Suffering is not a punishment not a fruit of sin, it is a gift of God.
He allows us to share in His suffering and to make up for the sins of the world. -Mother Teresa

If I had a pet panda I would name it Snowflake.
Dr. Keith is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:34 AM   #36
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
Are you really trying to strip Austen of her authorship?

Bold. Completely wrongheaded, but bold.
Not at all, except it was quite usual for publishers to change things to conform with their 'house rules'.
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:36 AM   #37
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
A language that only works well nine times out of ten is like a bridge that only gets you nine tenths of the way across a river.

You are wrong about this issue, and your inability to seek out the facts and truth about the common usage of "they" as a singular pronoun in English for quite sometime is borderline weird for someone who espouses to have some strong feelings about the issue.
You obviously didn't have a similar education to mine.
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:39 AM   #38
theprestige
Penultimate Amazing
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 48,530
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Do what the Finns do. Just have one word for 'he' and 'she'. (Hän.)
How would you propose implementing that?
theprestige is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:48 AM   #39
Dr. Keith
Not a doctor.
 
Dr. Keith's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 21,964
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Not at all, except it was quite usual for publishers to change things to conform with their 'house rules'.
Yes, but her usage stood out at the time. There is no evidence that it was 'house rules' for her publisher. Unless you can find some evidence to support your claim I would prefer that you retract it as wild speculation.

Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
You obviously didn't have a similar education to mine.
I don't really know. My education emphasized researching issues that were important to me or my concerns. If I care about something I dig into it and do the research necessary to develop an informed position about that thing. I don't just assume that what I was taught in school is right and plow forward without question. If I did I would have not made it very far at all in this world.

What did your education emphasize?
__________________
Suffering is not a punishment not a fruit of sin, it is a gift of God.
He allows us to share in His suffering and to make up for the sins of the world. -Mother Teresa

If I had a pet panda I would name it Snowflake.
Dr. Keith is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Old 11th December 2019, 10:57 AM   #40
Vixen
Penultimate Amazing
 
Vixen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Suomi
Posts: 20,193
Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
Yes, but her usage stood out at the time. There is no evidence that it was 'house rules' for her publisher. Unless you can find some evidence to support your claim I would prefer that you retract it as wild speculation.



I don't really know. My education emphasized researching issues that were important to me or my concerns. If I care about something I dig into it and do the research necessary to develop an informed position about that thing. I don't just assume that what I was taught in school is right and plow forward without question. If I did I would have not made it very far at all in this world.

What did your education emphasize?

To be frank, it is expected that literary novelists can do whatever they like. Look at James Joyce with Ulysses or Thomas Pynchon with V. It seems pretty silly to me to seek these out as guardians of correct English grammar usage. IMV if you are an English/Creative Writing graduate and you thoroughly understand the rules then you have poetic licence to break them. Ditto music and art.

However, to come out with a new rule that music can be any old thing you want it to be and point to the Sex Pistols as an example of the 'new music' then real musicians who have studied the art for years might be offended even if they themselves add a few twinkly flourishes to their renditions.

Rules are made to be broken. But first you should know them.
__________________
Blott en dag, ett ögonblick i sänder,

vilken tröst, vad än som kommer på!
Vixen is offline   Quote this post in a PM   Nominate this post for this month's language award Copy a direct link to this post Reply With Quote Back to Top
Reply

International Skeptics Forum » General Topics » Education

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 11:10 PM.
Powered by vBulletin. Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum began as part of the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF). However, the forum now exists as
an independent entity with no affiliation with or endorsement by the JREF, including the section in reference to "JREF" topics.

Disclaimer: Messages posted in the Forum are solely the opinion of their authors.