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CHAT: use of "they"

From:Baba <fikhduv@...>
Date:Saturday, September 26, 1998, 17:11
Personally I always use "they" as a gender neutral. It's got a
long history in english, and it comes naturally to children too :-).

It's most useful when using "generic" or "collective nouns" but there
is a dialect difference between british and american english here in that
generic and collectives are plural in british but singular in american!

EG: BRIT: "The Government *are* taking action".
EG: USA:  "The Government *is* taking action".

I must admit this throws me a bit. An example was a US Fire-Drill
poster which said "Make sure all personnel is outside and accounted for".
or the sentences; "Which one of them is a doctor? None of them is."
In both cases I'd expect "are" not "is".

So I think the singularisation of generic and collectives in the US
dialect makes harder to integrate the use of gender neutral "they" in
that dialect. BTW; I'm *not* saying this usage is wrong, far from it,
just pointing out the difference. In Jamaican English there is no "she"
at all; everyone is called "he"!

As for gender neutral neologisms like "hir" "thon" and "sie" coiners
often overlook the fact these are valid dialect words in their own
right, and although they start off using them as gender neutral pronouns
they end up being used to indicate a character is neither male or
female, at which point the pronoun ceases to be gender-neutral and becomes
a third-gender pronoun! Go figure.



Barbara "Baba" Barrett   b@rbara: baba ba:r;et

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