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The Grammar Discussion
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User3
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 12:15 am    Post subject: The Grammar Discussion Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

[TGFBS]Split, by request, from the "Threads" Thread...[/TGFBS]

The usage of "they" as singular is not so much an error as something purposeful, to avoid defaulting to the male gender when talking about unknown-gender people; though I'm more than a little partial to "it" - it's already singular as it should, and I don't buy into this "we aren't animals" stuff anyway.
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NineInchNall
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 12:54 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yeah, that's all well and good, but the English language uses and has used the masculine pronoun as the indefinite pronoun. There's nothing sexist about it, and it really, really, really cheeses me off in the same way that people's claiming the Swiftblade is overpowered cheeses me off.

Using they is syntactically incoherent. Using she is semantically counterproductive, as it runs contrary to the expectations of the reader. When I see the feminine pronoun, I expect that the person in question must be female, which is an immediate hindrance to ready dissemination of written material. When the masculine pronoun is used, however, I have no such expectations, so I don't make any subconscious conclusions about the subject's gender.

GAR!


Oh, and you're welcome. Sick You just found one of my pet peeves is all. Smile
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Catharz
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 2:30 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

NineInchNall wrote:
Yeah, that's all well and good, but the English language uses and has used the masculine pronoun as the indefinite pronoun. There's nothing sexist about it, and it really, really, really cheeses me off in the same way that people's claiming the Swiftblade is overpowered cheeses me off.

Using they is syntactically incoherent. Using she is semantically counterproductive, as it runs contrary to the expectations of the reader. When I see the feminine pronoun, I expect that the person in question must be female, which is an immediate hindrance to ready dissemination of written material. When the masculine pronoun is used, however, I have no such expectations, so I don't make any subconscious conclusions about the subject's gender.

GAR!


Oh, and you're welcome. Sick You just found one of my pet peeves is all. Smile

We don't use the singular or accusative 'you' either, and nobody seems to mind.

I just wish we had a 'ta' like Mandarin Chinese.
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Modesitt
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 2:31 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

NineInchNall wrote:
Using they is syntactically incoherent.

If the singular they good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.
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NineInchNall
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 3:22 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Modesitt wrote:
NineInchNall wrote:
Using they is syntactically incoherent.

If the singular they good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.


Not to derail, sound like an asshole, or anything like that, but that kind of weird amalgam of tu quoque and argumentum ad verecundum gets a big fat whupteefuckingdo from me. That someone respectable fucked up is utterly irrelevant. You can't get much more "questionable" an authority for grammar than Shakespeare, either. That man's work is riddled with poor grammar, misapproriated words, transferred epithets, and words that he concocted himself during some sort of opium induced vision of happy, gumdrop rivers filled with caramel fish.

You see? Just like that, only moreso.



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Crissa
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 5:22 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

They is indeterminate gender and number.

Shakespear is a good example because he lived hundreds of years ago.

His use shows that while singular they is uncommon, it isn't unprecedented, or even a new invention.

If you want to use conversational, sexist, use of a masculine pronoun... Remember that it reflects poorly upon you.

-Crissa
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 6:41 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Not to derail, sound like an asshole, or anything like that, but that kind of weird amalgam


Basing English grammar off of Shakespearian usage is a "weird amalgam"? Are you even a native speaker?
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PhoneLobster
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 6:44 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Personally I like it when they say "she" did this, does that, gets this, knows that etc...

It sorta makes you feel like there must be lots of nameless mystery women around somewhere, probably nearby.

I like that.

Also a lot of D&D text plays out a lot like a story, and I'm just automatically more interested in stories about women.

They could change all the referrences to female and I'd just be more likely to pay attention to the text.

I mean come on, manly men complaining their rules-stories aren't enough about other men? Please, just take your manly man friends out and go watch the 300 already.
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User3
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 6:53 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Josh_Kablack wrote:
Quote:
Not to derail, sound like an asshole, or anything like that, but that kind of weird amalgam


Basing English grammar off of Shakespearian usage is a "weird amalgam"? Are you even a native speaker?


I think he's looking for amalgamation.

Regardless, its root is actually amalgam, which is an english word, but it refers to blending mercury with something else and is specific to that meaning.

*I* knew what he was talking about. It sounded like English to me.
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erik
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 7:46 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I don't think that using amalgam was actually the perceived issue. It's that a whole metric fvckload of commonly accepted english phrases and words were first written by Shakespeare, and as such, it's kind of silly to take exception to this reality that he had a substantial impact on the english language that what he did *became* acceptable.

My understanding is that many english teachers these days in the states have given up their unholy crusade against a gender neutral pronoun and have accepted that "they" is allowed as a singular genderless pronoun. When I first heard a report on it on NPR a few years ago, I was quite pleased and have tried to use "they" as a singular pronoun as often as possible.

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Draco_Argentum
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 9:14 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Any objection to they is overruled by popular usage.

Of course then Crissa rocks up and posts some crap about sexism. Protip: get over it.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 9:27 am    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OK, time to bust out the Cambridge Guide to English Usage:

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, p. 538, (c) 2004 wrote:
They/them/their are now freely used in agreement with singular indefinite pronouns and determiners, those with universal implications such as any(one), every(one), no(one), as well as each and some(one), whose reference is often more individual. For those listening or reading, it has become unremarkable - an element of common usage. In fact, Oxford Dictionary (1989) has it on record since C16, but its acceptance was preempted by C18 grammarians, whose anxieties about formal agreement were reiterated in C20 by Fowler (1926) and Gowers (1965). The singular use of they/them/their after everyone and other indefinites can now be explained as a kind of "notional agreement" (see under agreement).

Current dictionaries register the singular use of they, them and their among its definitions, often with an explanatory usage note.


Complaining about people using "they" as a gender neutral singular pronoun doesn't make you a dick - but it does make you wrong.

-Frank
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Hey_I_Can_Chan
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 1:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Also a lot of D&D text plays out a lot like a story, and I'm just automatically more interested in stories about women.


I hope I'm not alone in having initially read that as anatomically.
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tzor
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 2:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Modesitt wrote:
If the singular they good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.


Yes but Shakespeare also used the second person intimate pronoun no longer in use. (Thou) He also invented words on the fly. No one was being picky about the language in his time. Oh and there was also one more letter in the English language at the time as well. (Well I suppose it remains a matter of debate as to whether the long "s" is a proper letter or not. I've heard many argue that it was, miuch as "˝" in Spanish is considered a seperate letter from "n."
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Fwib
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 3:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

clikml wrote:
I don't think that using amalgam was actually the perceived issue. It's that a whole metric fvckload of commonly accepted english phrases and words were first written by Shakespeare, and as such, it's kind of silly to take exception to this reality that he had a substantial impact on the english language that what he did *became* acceptable.

My understanding is that many english teachers these days in the states have given up their unholy crusade against a gender neutral pronoun and have accepted that "they" is allowed as a singular genderless pronoun. When I first heard a report on it on NPR a few years ago, I was quite pleased and have tried to use "they" as a singular pronoun as often as possible.

I must protest! Surely that ought be be an Imperial fvckload? Smile

As far as discussions on the use of english go, 'proper' or otherwise, I think that just so long as the message conveyed to the audience was the one intended, then that is just fine.

Also... something I have wondered for a while... why the profanity-masking, if profanity is allowed on this board anyway?
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NineInchNall
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 3:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, p. 538, (c) 2004 wrote:

Current dictionaries register the singular use of they, them and their among its definitions, often with an explanatory usage note.


As I said: it makes no syntactical sense. Does that mean that usage isn't changing to accept the gender neutral they? No. There are tons of expressions that we use, even in formal English, that don't A) follow the rules of grammar or B) make sense.

Yeesh. I'm just a linguistic dick. I'm like those people who were complaining when we stopped using the familiar second person pronoun, or the people who complained when we stopped pronouncing the -ed in the past tense, or the people who object when someone forms a singular possessive with just an apostrophe.

Squirreloid wrote:
I think he's looking for amalgamation.

Regardless, its root is actually amalgam, which is an english word, but it refers to blending mercury with something else and is specific to that meaning.

*I* knew what he was talking about. It sounded like English to me.


Actually, amalgamation refers back to amalgam, which isn't totally specific to mercury:

MW wrote:
1 : an alloy of mercury with another metal that is solid or liquid at room temperature according to the proportion of mercury present and is used especially in making tooth cements
2 : a mixture of different elements


Thanks for the defense, though. Thumb Yellow

tzor wrote:
Oh and there was also one more letter in the English language at the time as well. (Well I suppose it remains a matter of debate as to whether the long "s" is a proper letter or not. I've heard many argue that it was, miuch as "˝" in Spanish is considered a seperate letter from "n."


Here's a question: Was ash still in common use in Shakespeare's day? One still sees it used in Britain in words like encyclopŠdia.
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Catharz
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 3:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Fwib wrote:

As far as discussions on the use of english go, 'proper' or otherwise, I think that just so long as the message conveyed to the audience was the one intended, then that is just fine.


T3h way +3h mssg i5 c0nv3y3d haz 1mpac+ 0n teh mssg JumpingEekFrown to Big GrinScreamsSpitBlack EyeBlushWaveWave:jawdrop:Bricks
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 4:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

NineInchNall wrote:
The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, p. 538, (c) 2004 wrote:

Current dictionaries register the singular use of they, them and their among its definitions, often with an explanatory usage note.


As I said: it makes no syntactical sense. Does that mean that the language isn't changing to accept the gender neutral they? No. There are tons of expressions that we use, even in formal English, that don't follow the rules of grammar or make no sense.

Yeesh. I'm just a linguistic grognard.


But you're wrong. Linguistics isn't about having a golden tablet with the words of the maker on them, it's about describing the words people actually use.

The language isn't "changing" to accept this usage, it has been in regular use for over five hundred years. There has been a small and vocal group of academics who have unsuccessfully waged a campaign to remove it from the lexicon. But that was a stupid plan and it didn't work.

Consider the word "You". Did you know that at one point it was actually bad English to use it for the singular informal? People would be confused as your meaning if you used it in that context.

Consider the word "gape". It is a verb which means "to open", and it is also a noun which means "an opening". If you use it in its noun form, or its verb form, that's not an incorrect usage of the other.

And the word "they" also has multiple meanings. Here they are according to the American Heritage Dictionary:

Quote:
1. nominative plural of he, she, and it.
2. people in general: They say he's rich.
3. (used with an indefinite singular antecedent in place of the definite masculine he or the definite feminine she): Whoever is of voting age, whether they are interested in politics or not, should vote.


So yeah, if used as a singular gender-neutral pronoun, it's not syntactically incorrect, it's just the third most common usage of the word. The word has multiple meanings, some are plural, some are singular, and some are abstract.

And if you object to that, you're off in crazy town and we can't hang. English is a natural language with hundreds of years of history and sometimes words have mutliple meanings or change meanings.

And the singular "They" isn't new or changed. It's just a lesser usage of a really common word. Seriously, are you autistic? "This word is usually used in a plural context so it must ALWAYS be used in a plural context! I like Cheese!" What the fvck man?

-Frank
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NineInchNall
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 5:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

No, dude, I'm not in crazy town. I understand that English is a language in use and as such is constantly fluid, with new words entering the lexicon and other words leaving, existing words' spelling and definition mutating, and new phraseologies replacing existing ones. In fact, I'm quite a devotee of Wittgenstein, which should tell you that I firmly grasp that meaning is use. I speak Japanese, which is pretty much Wittgensteinian linguistics theory in application. I also speak Russian, which does weird things with multiple negatives in a very Wittgensteinian manner. Not to mention the USSR's deliberate adjustments to the language; e.g., the government replaced the possessive verb to have with a prepositional construct that does not imply ownership: "I have a book" became (loosely) "There is a book by me."

So here it is, in standard linguistic terms: The dialect of English with which I am familiar, the one with which I grew up, the one that I was taught, the one that to me defines what English is, that English dialect's lexicon does not allow they as an indefinite pronoun. That should be pretty nonconfrontational and inoffensive. So I guess I shouldn't be gung-ho about it, but then, I don't think I am. I'm certainly not questioning anyone's mental faculties.

Does common usage in many English dialects allow for they as an indefinite pronoun? Yes, and I'm not denying that such is the case. I already acknowledged that. However, I think it awkward and a hindrance to clear communication, much like the multiple negatives in Russian.

I don't really know why you're suddenly so hostile. I just happen to think that dictionaries (and other related resources) should be both descriptive and slightly prescriptive. The former because that's how language works and the latter because I think it beneficial.

So you know what? Fine. Since the usage guides and dictionaries are saying that it is fine to use they in the indefinite sense, I will attempt to follow the language's example and fight the shudder that goes through me every time I see or hear someone use that sense of they.

Happy now? You've put a crack in my paradigm. Jerk.

Tongue
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Misuse of "per se". It means "[in] itself", not "precisely". Learn English.
Malformed singular possessives. It's almost always supposed to be 's.
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Fwib
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 6:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Catharz wrote:
Fwib wrote:

As far as discussions on the use of english go, 'proper' or otherwise, I think that just so long as the message conveyed to the audience was the one intended, then that is just fine.


T3h way +3h mssg i5 c0nv3y3d haz 1mpac+ 0n teh mssg JumpingEekFrown to Big GrinScreamsSpitBlack EyeBlushWaveWave:jawdrop:Bricks
Just so long as the message you wanted to pass along includes the emotions evoked... (some people might really hate 'leet')

[edit] I hadn't actually read your encoded text... Yes. I meant 'message' to mean the delivery context as well.
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Crissa
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 6:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If you're going to go with that argument, NIN, I'm going to have to go back to the 'sexist' definition.

-Crissa
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Catharz
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Crissa wrote:
If you're going to go with that argument, NIN, I'm going to have to go back to the 'sexist' definition.

-Crissa

That's absurd. The neutral 'he' is at least as etablished in english as 'they.' For people who want to keep singular and plural distinct, there are no other options except the sexist 'she' and the terribly clunky and sexist 's/he,' she or he' or 'he or she.'
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Fwib
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 8:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Catharz wrote:
Crissa wrote:
If you're going to go with that argument, NIN, I'm going to have to go back to the 'sexist' definition.

-Crissa

That's absurd. The neutral 'he' is at least as etablished in english as 'they.' For people who want to keep singular and plural distinct, there are no other options except the sexist 'she' and the terribly clunky and sexist 's/he,' she or he' or 'he or she.'
...and other extra-long methods of not mentioning gender, like always saying 'the character' or 'the ' or whatever...
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User3
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 9:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

NineInchNall: I tend to be linguistically reactionary as well, but in this case the issue is clear - lots of people probably do have implicit expectations of maleness upon seeing "he", exactly as you do when seeing "she"; that alone is the cause of my support to "they". But that's only because nobody made an attempt to establish "it" - we already acknowledged (or not, according to Crissa Smile) that both sexes are equal; now we should go and remember our place is in kingdom Animalia as well.

Catharz: leet tends to take way longer to convey information to me, so I'll give myself the luxury of calling that a non-example ... Smile
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bitnine
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PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2007 9:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Threads that make us Laugh, Cry, or Both Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Catharz wrote:

That's absurd. The neutral 'he' is at least as etablished in english as 'they.' For people who want to keep singular and plural distinct, there are no other options except the sexist 'she' and the terribly clunky and sexist 's/he,' she or he' or 'he or she.'
You totally don't get it. The term "they" can, through its usage and apart from its original and other meanings, come to have a meaning as an indefinite reference. However, the term "he" cannot, though its usage and apart from its original and other meanings, come to have a meaning as an indefinite reference.

'Cause one of those original meanings refers to a dude. But some people are just too sexist to follow that logic.
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