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He or she and you and you and you

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Topic: 3) He or she and you and you and you (1 of 5), Read 58 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Thursday, September 09, 1999 09:38 AM

J. Kevin King, of Tallahassee, Florida, writes: "Why is there no neutral word for the third-person singular pronoun and no second-person plural? By neutral third-person singular pronoun, I do not mean neuter. I have been and continue to be constantly annoyed at having to use 'he or she' or the passive voice to refer to a 'generic' person. English experts have informed me that I can't correctly use 'he,' 'she,' '(s)he,' 'they,' or 'it.'

"Concerning 'you' plural, I certainly am not going to write 'you all' or 'you guys.'

"It would be much more convenient to have separate words for these things so not all of us are either wordy or sexist!"

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Topic: 3) He or she and you and you and you (2 of 5), Read 39 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Joss Randall (joss@yahoo.com)
Date: Saturday, September 11, 1999 05:01 AM

I don't know what "English experts" you have been talking to, but the Merriam-Webster Concise Handbook for Writer's says, "Even in more formal contexts, expressions such as the following are used increasingly, especially as a result of efforts to avoid sexism in language: We called everyone by their first names...". In addition, Henry Fielding wrote in 1749, "Everybody fell alaughing, as how could they help it." There is always the possibility of using the pronoun "one".

For "you all", I would suggest a variation, the colloquial "youse guys" which one could reduce to "youse".

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Topic: 3) He or she and you and you and you (3 of 5), Read 41 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Matt Swift (swift@alum.mit.edu)
Date: Saturday, September 11, 1999 05:58 AM

I myself prefer using "they" for a neutral 3d person singular pronoun. As the previous respondent mentioned, it certainly has good precedent. I find that this solution works best for my ear of all the solutions (short of simply electing "he" or "she" to be neutral). But I have found no solution to be free of awkwardity at all times. There are times when confusion with the plural pronoun will arise, and times when regardless it jars my ear, and then I feel rewriting to avoid calling for this pronoun is necessary.

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Topic: 3) He or she and you and you and you (4 of 5), Read 42 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Karin Erichsen (magnhild@cheerful.com)
Date: Saturday, September 11, 1999 01:51 PM

Matt Swift wrote:

>I myself prefer using "they"
>for a neutral 3d person
>singular pronoun.

>There are times when confusion
>with the plural pronoun will
>arise, and times when
>regardless it jars my ear, and
>then I feel rewriting to avoid
>calling for this pronoun is
>necessary.

One example of this would be: "If a person feels that they have been passed over, they may complain to the Board."

To me at least, this sounds odd, yet you see similar examples every day. Are there any good substitutes for hedging your bets with "he or she" here?
Apart from rewriting to avoid the pronoun altogether, I mean.

Karin.

>




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Topic: 3) He or she and you and you and you (5 of 5), Read 17 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Martin Melhus (melhus@fdrc.iit.edu)
Date: Tuesday, September 14, 1999 12:19 PM

This also suggests a question that has bothered me for years. What is the appropriate pronoun to use for a fetus of unknown gender. To use he or she is sexist, while using it seems to imply that it is some sort of impersonal object, and not the vessel of such expectation and potential joy.

On the second person plural issue, there is a pronoun in English. You is the proper second person plural pronoun. If the number referred to is relevant and cannot be deduced from context, the sentence is no good and should be changed. For example, "Kids, we have a special guest today, so you are expected to behave."


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