I Concede (Not So Much)
What do you call a gathering of linguists? Just asking. But anyway, more than 200 of those types at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in D.C. recently named “they” (used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun) the word of the year. Moreover, The Washington Post has changed its internal style guide to heartily welcome that very same singular “they” into its pages, as in: “Every child wants their parents to love them. Without love, they (the children, not the parents) may well be stunted emotionally.”
With so many linguists and The Washington Post arrayed against me, what can I do but concede? (Then again, this isn’t a year when many are conceding much. Look at all the political hoo-ha. What percentage of the apparent losers have dropped out?)
Simply because a trend is popular doesn’t make it right.
We want to be gender neutral? Well, the vast majority of humans aren’t actually neutral in their genders, though if they want to define themselves as one gender over the other and over the gender they were supposedly born into—fine with me.
However, when the matter comes down to sentences, I have some thoughts.
Why can’t we turn the singular antecedent into a plural, as in: “All children want their parents to love them. Without love, they (you know who) may well be stunted emotionally.” Where’s the argument here?
But of course sometimes we do want a singular antecedent for one reason or another as in: “That person needs to take the best possible next step for ____”
Well, if this is a sentence in a column of advice, I like the sometimes-used means of expressing this: “That person needs to take the best possible next step for her.”
And later in the article: “The individual dealing with such a situation must make his own decision.”
Moreover, a case can be made to pluralize the antecedents “person” and “individual” and use the proper plural pronoun.
Who are these people in Washington rising up and decide for the entirety of the country, anyway? Isn’t that a question we’re all asking ourselves? Of course we all have to decide for ourselves which way we’ll vote.
That mega issue aside, do have a look at my reissue of The Naked Writer, just out. And where are those printed copies, anyway, Amazon? We traditionalists want printed books! (I do have a Kindle.)
Question Woman and Howling Sky are two people, individuals, concerned with their survival, the survival of mankind, and internal transformation. The novel: Question Woman & Howling Sky is in both ebook and print formats on Amazon.
Need an edit of fiction or nonfiction? GHayden2@nyc.rr.com .