Gender neutral language

August 10, 2011 by Joshua
in Blog

Have you squirmed every time I used they and them as singular non-gender-specific pronouns?

I squirmed every time I wrote them. For centuries English has had the problems that come with having no gender-neutral singular pronouns. No matter how you view the issue, people debate problems like “Mary saw everyone before John noticed them” (think about it).

I’ve meant to discuss the issue now that I’m posting publicly consistently, mainly for future reference, but also so readers know where I’m coming from. As far as I know there are no solutions to resolve all the problems. I’d love to see a gender neutral pronoun gain widespread acceptance, like Ms. seems to have. Until then, using they and them seems the alternative with the least problems. In the page I got the Mary and John quote above, Wikipedia says Shakespeare did it. It also says several authorities accept or are neutral on the usage. I also like this quote from that page:

One author, ostensibly generalizing about all human beings, wrote:
“As for man, he is no different from the rest. His back aches, he ruptures easily, his women have difficulties in childbirth….”
If man and he were truly generic, the parallel phrase would have been he has difficulties in childbirth.

So in this blog I’ll stick with they and them and will do my best to remain gender neutral and accept the problems that come with it.

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1 response to “Gender neutral language

  1. Pingback: The Model: the origins of your emotions and emotional system | Joshua Spodek

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