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Old 13th December 2019, 06:28 AM   #121
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
It is a statistic that was in the newspapers some time ago.
Then please produce a reference. This is, supposedly, a site for skeptics. Handwaving and referring to 'common knowledge' doesn't cut the mustard, especially in the more formal sub-forums, such as this.
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Old 13th December 2019, 08:02 AM   #122
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Then please produce a reference. This is, supposedly, a site for skeptics. Handwaving and referring to 'common knowledge' doesn't cut the mustard, especially in the more formal sub-forums, such as this.
I don't store old newspapers. However, I found something similarly related which refers to the USA. 50% women have read one piece of literary fiction during the last year (2015) and 36% of men. In addition, only 30% of people leaving school before uni/college had done so.

Quote:
The 2015 data show that women (50 percent) are significantly more likely to read literature than men (36 percent). Whites (50 percent) are considerably more likely to read literature than blacks (29 percent) or Hispanics (27 percent).

But the biggest driver of literary reading appears to be education. About 68 percent of people with a graduate degree engaged in literary reading in 2015, compared to 59 percent with a bachelor's degree and 30 percent of those with only a high school education.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...erary-reading/

In effect 70% of those with only a high school education had not read a literary novel in the previous year.

The British study I saw said few people read literary fiction after leaving school. The biggest category of books sold are non-fcition and children are the biggest readers of fiction. The books people do read tend to be of the John Grishom type.
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Old 13th December 2019, 08:08 AM   #123
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Is everyone clutching their pearls?
Ewww, mollusk coprolites...
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Old 13th December 2019, 08:48 AM   #124
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
I don't store old newspapers. However, I found something similarly related which refers to the USA. 50% women have read one piece of literary fiction during the last year (2015) and 36% of men. In addition, only 30% of people leaving school before uni/college had done so.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...erary-reading/

In effect 70% of those with only a high school education had not read a literary novel in the previous year.

The British study I saw said few people read literary fiction after leaving school. The biggest category of books sold are non-fcition and children are the biggest readers of fiction. The books people do read tend to be of the John Grishom type.
How does this tie into your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past two hundred years?

What is your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past two hundred years?
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Old 13th December 2019, 09:04 AM   #125
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
How does this tie into your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past two hundred years?

What is your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past two hundred years?
The point being made there was that people rarely turn to literary fiction for rules of grammar.

Now a student of English will study the genesis of the written language since inception looking at Chaucer, Shakespeare, GBS and the various greats, such as Keats. These are the people that tend to be taken up by publishing houses to write literary novels. They know the rules, they often often break them for literary effect or as a nod to the initiated reader who recognises the literary allusion [for example, recognising a line from Shakespeare or Tennyson]. Some, write in dialect, as did a Scottish Booker Prize Winner, whose entire novel was in Glaswegian vernacular. Virgina Woolf wrote a stream of consciousness. James Joyce wrote a long rambling novel based on one day, Edward Lear wrote nonsense, ee cumming did away with initial capitals. Whilst all of these are master wordsmiths, you wouldn't refer an English language beginner to them as paragons of 'correct standard English'.

Better to learn the correct rule first and then you can go away and be creative.

At least when I did French and German at school we had to learn long verb lists off by heart and points of grammar, and do you know what? It means one can go away and use these building bricks confidently to construct one's own sentences. Sure, when you go to France or Germany nobody talks 'High German' or English schoolboy French. However, at least you know the rules and people can follow what you are saying. Imagine if the French decided one day we don't need all this, 'je suis', 'tu es', 'il est' blah blah, there will be plenty of people saying, sorry, but we like the logic, the building bricks, the nuances, the difference in form and meaning between one word and the next.
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Old 13th December 2019, 09:09 AM   #126
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
The point being made there was that people rarely turn to literary fiction for rules of grammar.

<respectful snip of supporting material>
I'm with you so far. How does this tie into your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past 200 years?

And: What is your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past 200 years?
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Old 13th December 2019, 09:30 AM   #127
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm with you so far. How does this tie into your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past 200 years?

And: What is your argument about the usage of the singular 'they' over the past 200 years?
Oh come on. So someone spotted Jane Austen using it. It doesn't mean 'they' as singular has been the standard English for 200 years. If that was the case, how come Merriam-Webster have only just added it now?

Sure, people say it, but more out of carelessness, local vernacular or a decision to conceal the gender, but then, people say a lot of things that aren't standard. As an example, it is common to see people and publications (although not so much) use a comma before or after a conjunction, which is is incorrect as the conjunction ('and', 'or,' 'but', 'unless', 'yet', etc.,) is all you need ceteris paribus.
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Old 13th December 2019, 10:38 AM   #128
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Oh come on. So someone spotted Jane Austen using it. It doesn't mean 'they' as singular has been the standard English for 200 years. If that was the case, how come Merriam-Webster have only just added it now?
They didn't.

They only added the use of the previously quite common singular they in reference to non-binary people. This has been pointed out many times in this thread.

Of course most posters don't actually read posts in threads after they start posting in them so referring to the actual posts in a thread is an awful way to keep up with the topic of the thread.
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Old 13th December 2019, 10:47 AM   #129
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
I don't store old newspapers. However, I found something similarly related which refers to the USA. 50% women have read one piece of literary fiction during the last year (2015) and 36% of men. In addition, only 30% of people leaving school before uni/college had done so.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...erary-reading/

In effect 70% of those with only a high school education had not read a literary novel in the previous year.

The British study I saw said few people read literary fiction after leaving school. The biggest category of books sold are non-fcition and children are the biggest readers of fiction. The books people do read tend to be of the John Grishom type.
I am just doing the math in my head, but I'm thinking this is well over 100 million English speakers a year reading fiction. Clearly almost nobody is doing this.

Just for reference only 30% of American adults own a gun and you would think we are armed to our teeth.

Also, if not literature, what sort of English writing do you think best reflects the language and its norms? Surely not legal documents, I doubt many folks here would enjoy indemnity clauses or patent claims as the standard for discourse. Technical writing? The press? Who do you find is the standard bearer in this war against the degradation of our language?
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Old 13th December 2019, 11:01 AM   #130
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
As an example, it is common to see people and publications (although not so much) use a comma before or after a conjunction, which is is incorrect as the conjunction ('and', 'or,' 'but', 'unless', 'yet', etc.,) is all you need ceteris paribus.
Not necessarily. It's context dependent, at least the way I learned grammar in school.

If you're going to make the old elitist argument that the English language is degenerating because people are too stupid and lazy to learn it correctly, you should probably make sure you don't make so many mistakes yourself. Or you could just accept both that there might be acceptable conventions you're not aware of in the language, and that linguistic prescriptivism doesn't work for English.

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Old 13th December 2019, 11:03 AM   #131
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Originally Posted by ArchSas View Post
If you're going to make the old elitist argument that the English language is degenerating because people are too stupid and lazy to learn it correctly, you should probably make sure you don't make so many mistakes yourself. Or you could just accept that linguistic prescriptivism doesn't work for English.
That would really cut into the popcorn sales.
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Old 13th December 2019, 11:32 AM   #132
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
It is a statistic that was in the newspapers some time ago.
Find it.
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Old 13th December 2019, 11:33 AM   #133
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
As an example, it is common to see people and publications (although not so much) use a comma before or after a conjunction, which is is incorrect as the conjunction ('and', 'or,' 'but', 'unless', 'yet', etc.,) is all you need ceteris paribus.


Uhhh.... what??

The position of a comma in relation to a conjunction is entirely dependent upon the sentence construction. What you've written above is utterly ignorant and incorrect. The following are common-usage* placements of a comma before and after a conjunction:

He looked up and, seeing the car approaching, went to open the door.

He looked up, having already put the kettle on in anticipation, but still could not see the car approaching.


Both of the above written sentences would have significant trouble conveying the idea that I was trying to communicate were it not for the commas in those places. See:

He looked up and seeing the car approaching went to open the door.

He looked up having already put the kettle on in anticipation but still could not see the car approaching.



* Note, there's no such thing as "correct", only "common usage". The rules of grammar, syntax and sentence structure were not handed down from the (non-existent) deities.


ETA: Pah! Ninja'd by ArchSas!

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Old 13th December 2019, 11:36 AM   #134
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
I don't store old newspapers. However, I found something similarly related which refers to the USA. 50% women have read one piece of literary fiction during the last year (2015) and 36% of men. In addition, only 30% of people leaving school before uni/college had done so.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...erary-reading/

In effect 70% of those with only a high school education had not read a literary novel in the previous year.
Still moving the goalposts, I see.

Quote:
The British study I saw said few people read literary fiction after leaving school.
Find it.
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Old 13th December 2019, 11:53 AM   #135
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
I am just doing the math in my head, but I'm thinking this is well over 100 million English speakers a year reading fiction. Clearly almost nobody is doing this.

Just for reference only 30% of American adults own a gun and you would think we are armed to our teeth.

Also, if not literature, what sort of English writing do you think best reflects the language and its norms? Surely not legal documents, I doubt many folks here would enjoy indemnity clauses or patent claims as the standard for discourse. Technical writing? The press? Who do you find is the standard bearer in this war against the degradation of our language?
The US population is 380m is it not? And only 100m reading fiction during the year (I was referring to literary fiction BTW). I get through about 30 a year plus all the non-fiction, mostly history.

What do I think is a good reference? The standard structure of grammar. For example, Finnish has no article ('the' or 'a') - doesn't need it - no gender pronoun differentiation (one word for both: 'hän') - again, not needed - no future tense (context conveys this) BUT like all the languages I know of, it does differentiate the plural from the singular. This is because it is IMPORTANT.
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Old 13th December 2019, 11:59 AM   #136
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
They didn't.

They only added the use of the previously quite common singular they in reference to non-binary people. This has been pointed out many times in this thread.

Of course most posters don't actually read posts in threads after they start posting in them so referring to the actual posts in a thread is an awful way to keep up with the topic of the thread.
And that intrudes on the proper meaning of 'they' whether used colloquially as a singular or in its proper sense.

'They' has long been a solution to avoid assigning gender but to designate it as 'transgender' will throw up problems in meaning. So, if someone calls you 'they' what do they mean?
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:02 PM   #137
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Originally Posted by ArchSas View Post
Not necessarily. It's context dependent, at least the way I learned grammar in school.

If you're going to make the old elitist argument that the English language is degenerating because people are too stupid and lazy to learn it correctly, you should probably make sure you don't make so many mistakes yourself. Or you could just accept both that there might be acceptable conventions you're not aware of in the language, and that linguistic prescriptivism doesn't work for English.

...which is why I qualified it with ceteris paribus. Of course here are exceptions, such as when conveying time or a new clause.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:03 PM   #138
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Oh please someone point out that Chinese doesn't differentiate plural from singular!
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:04 PM   #139
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Find it.
I used to have three Sunday newspapers and two dailies, plus FINANCIAL TIMES at work (for the spot rates). These days, I just have the one broadsheet (TURUN SANOMAT). I throw them out for recycling every other day.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:05 PM   #140
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
The US population is 380m is it not? And only 100m reading fiction during the year (I was referring to literary fiction BTW). I get through about 30 a year plus all the non-fiction, mostly history.
What's your obsession with fiction? The same English language gets used in non-fiction too, you know.

Quote:
What do I think is a good reference? The standard structure of grammar. For example, Finnish has no article ('the' or 'a') - doesn't need it - no gender pronoun differentiation (one word for both: 'hän') - again, not needed - no future tense (context conveys this) BUT like all the languages I know of, it does differentiate the plural from the singular. This is because it is IMPORTANT.
It's the native speakers who use the language in their daily lives, year after year, generation after generation, that decide which words and and grammar are important. All the "standard" structure of grammar tells you is what was important to some people at some point, and the convention got codified. But people don't pay attention to the code. They pay attention to the convention. And the convention evolves over time, as what's important to the native speakers evolves over time.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:08 PM   #141
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
I used to have three Sunday newspapers and two dailies, plus FINANCIAL TIMES at work (for the spot rates). These days, I just have the one broadsheet (TURUN SANOMAT). I throw them out for recycling every other day.
Was that before or after you started wearing an onion on your belt, Grandpa Simpson? Nobody cares about your newspaper subscriptions. Nobody cares about your excuses for why you can't find the citation you're using to support your argument. All they care about is that you can't find the citation you're using to support your argument. Either find a better citation, or find a better argument. Or find a better excuse.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:10 PM   #142
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Was that before or after you started wearing an onion on your belt, Grandpa Simpson? Nobody cares about your newspaper subscriptions. Nobody cares about your excuses for why you can't find the citation you're using to support your argument. All they care about is that you can't find the citation you're using to support your argument. Either find a better citation, or find a better argument. Or find a better excuse.
Unlike some people, I am not dependent on Google for my knowledge base.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:14 PM   #143
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What's your obsession with fiction? The same English language gets used in non-fiction too, you know.


It's the native speakers who use the language in their daily lives, year after year, generation after generation, that decide which words and and grammar are important. All the "standard" structure of grammar tells you is what was important to some people at some point, and the convention got codified. But people don't pay attention to the code. They pay attention to the convention. And the convention evolves over time, as what's important to the native speakers evolves over time.
Not my obsession with fiction. Peeps pointed out we should look to Jane Austen and I said literary authors are not necessarily conventional.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:15 PM   #144
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Oh please someone point out that Chinese doesn't differentiate plural from singular!
So if you want to say your feet are cold, do you have to point at both of them...?
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:15 PM   #145
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Unlike some people, I am not dependent on Google for my knowledge base.
That would be better than depending on unsupported - and apparently unsupportable - assertions, which is where you're at right now.
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:17 PM   #146
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Not my obsession with fiction. Peeps pointed out we should look to Jane Austen and I said literary authors are not necessarily conventional.
On the other hand, publisher house rules are probably pretty conventional.

Are you now going to argue that Austen's publisher invented an idiosyncratic house rule for her, because reasons?
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Old 13th December 2019, 12:26 PM   #147
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
...which is why I qualified it with ceteris paribus. Of course here are exceptions, such as when conveying time or a new clause.
A qualification that I didn't take seriously because it's nonsensical to the application. Ceteris paribus means "other things being equal," and is usually a qualifier that the results of a prediction should only be expected barring other influences. For example, something like "if I fire half my workforce, my production will go down, ceteris paribus." It doesn't really have anything to do with the point you were making, for hopefully obvious reasons. Mostly because those aren't exceptions, those are standard conventions of English.

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Old 13th December 2019, 12:56 PM   #148
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As has been abundantly pointed out, what is new in the MW definition is not the use of "them" to refer to singular people whose sex is not relevant, but to refer to people whose sex is not binary. The two are related but not the same. Other sources, such as the OED, have long recognized the singular use of the word. Look it up. It's the second sense of the word as defined in the OED, and yes I have a "dead tree" version before me as I write this. And if you should happen to look it up you'll find references far older than Austen. In fact I don't think Austen is cited at all, perhaps because her usage was long accepted by then. Henry Fielding is, though. The Oxford Universal Dictionary , which has long been a much shorter derivative of the once rare OED, contains the same definition as the OED. I don't know how far back it goes, but my edition is from 1933.

For those not aware of the history here, the original Oxford English Dictionary was a huge undertaking in many volumes, and prohibitively expensive until some time in, I think, the 1970's, when photocopying technology allowed it to be printed in a "fine print edition," with tiny type, fitting into two rather bulky tomes. It came in a slip case with a little drawer on top for a magnifying glass. The Book-of-the-Month Club latched onto this, and at various times offered the fine print edition as a bonus for membership.

I would note that the 1918 first edition of the MW New International Dictionary does not contain reference to a singular "they," suggesting that either the usage was less common in the United States, or that MW's then prescriptive sense of lexicography was more overbearing than that of Oxford.

Dr. Johnson is a bit ambiguous. He refers to the primary sense of "they" as plural, but then in his literary attributions uses a quotation from Shakespeare in which the usage appears to be a universal singular, using "they" to refer to "the Spaniard." Of course the interest in reading Johnson is more historical and literary than lexicographical, but it is of some interest that he threw that one in.

So, just to be clear, the singular use of "they" has long been accepted as standard English when the antecedent to which it refers is general or universal. Other literary sources than Jane Austen can be found. Austen is often cited because she used it thus fairly often, she is still read very often, and because few would suggest that her style was not literate.

Whether or not the majority of people nowadays read "literary" fiction is irrelevant to this, as is the issue of what some people call "literary" as opposed to just plain fiction.

The new usage of a singular "they" differs somewhat from the previous, accepted one, in that the non-binary connotation of the word is applied to the person described, rather than to the universality of the description.
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Old 13th December 2019, 01:26 PM   #149
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
The US population is 380m is it not?
No, 325.72 million. But then, I googled it, which may be more fallible than simply pulling a statistic out of my ass.

Takes about the same amount of time.
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Old 13th December 2019, 02:44 PM   #150
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Originally Posted by The Greater Fool View Post
They is the result of Satanism.
No, that's a French person having trouble with their ( ) voiced dental fricatives - LaVey.
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Old 13th December 2019, 03:25 PM   #151
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So do we get to say 'they was' and be grammatically accurate or what? Gender unknown, or non binary, or attack helicopter or whatever, I really want this to happen.
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Old 13th December 2019, 10:27 PM   #152
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith
They only added the use of the previously quite common singular they in reference to non-binary people.
This is all kinds of wrong. The correct word is - and always will be - it.

Unless...
Quote:
Singular they

Singular they is the use in English of the pronoun they or its inflected or derivative forms, them, their, theirs, and themselves (or themself), as an epicene (gender-neutral) singular pronoun...

In the early 21st century, use of singular they with known individuals, as in the following example, emerged for those who do not identify as male or female.
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Old 14th December 2019, 03:15 AM   #153
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
No, 325.72 million. But then, I googled it, which may be more fallible than simply pulling a statistic out of my ass.

Takes about the same amount of time.
As Dr Keith was referring to the 'English-speaking world' perhaps I may take this opportunity to point out this is actually close to 1.5 billion, out of whom he claims 100m read fiction per annum.
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Old 14th December 2019, 05:46 AM   #154
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Popcorn futures are up.
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Old 14th December 2019, 11:00 AM   #155
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
As Dr Keith was referring to the 'English-speaking world' perhaps I may take this opportunity to point out this is actually close to 1.5 billion, out of whom he claims 100m read fiction per annum.
He made no such claim; he referred to your claim that only 30% of Americans read a work of literary fiction in the last year. He was, in context, clearly referring to English speakers in the USA, not to the entire Anglosphere.
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Old 16th December 2019, 04:44 AM   #156
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Originally Posted by Agatha View Post
He made no such claim; he referred to your claim that only 30% of Americans read a work of literary fiction in the last year. He was, in context, clearly referring to English speakers in the USA, not to the entire Anglosphere.
Do the math.

100m people who bought fiction (which likely includes a large percentage of school age children and pulp fiction) out of 324m US citizens. 30% like the article says.
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Old 16th December 2019, 06:02 AM   #157
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Do the math.

100m people who bought fiction (which likely includes a large percentage of school age children and pulp fiction) out of 324m US citizens. 30% like the article says.
Not what you said, of course. Do you read your own posts?
Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
As Dr Keith was referring to the 'English-speaking world' perhaps I may take this opportunity to point out this is actually close to 1.5 billion, out of whom he claims 100m read fiction per annum.
Dr Keith made no reference to the 'English-speaking world', despite your use of quotation marks to imply that he had.
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Old 16th December 2019, 11:05 AM   #158
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I did the maths. I also read the posts.

Your claim was that 30% of Americans read literary fiction last year. Dr. Keith estimated that meant 100 million Americans.

You then claimed that he was referring to 100 million English speakers out of your estimated 1.5 billion in the world (it's actually closer to 2 billion, or between 2.5 and 4 billion if you include those for whom English is a second language). He was not referring to the Anglosphere, only to Americans.
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Old 16th December 2019, 11:37 AM   #159
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
I used to have three Sunday newspapers and two dailies, plus FINANCIAL TIMES at work (for the spot rates). These days, I just have the one broadsheet (TURUN SANOMAT). I throw them out for recycling every other day.
I hope you don't think this post of yours is of any value in responding to my request.

I'll take it, however, as a retraction.
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Old 17th December 2019, 03:41 PM   #160
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Originally Posted by Agatha View Post
I did the maths. I also read the posts.

Your claim was that 30% of Americans read literary fiction last year. Dr. Keith estimated that meant 100 million Americans.

You then claimed that he was referring to 100 million English speakers out of your estimated 1.5 billion in the world (it's actually closer to 2 billion, or between 2.5 and 4 billion if you include those for whom English is a second language). He was not referring to the Anglosphere, only to Americans.
My memory served me well. I looked back in the thread and Dr Keith did write what I said he wrote.

Quote:
I am just doing the math in my head, but I'm thinking this is well over 100 million English speakers a year reading fiction.
No doubt you are going to pretend you knew 'what he really meant' so as his self-appointed spokesperson, perhaps you'd like to tell us.
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