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Old 08-28-2012, 08:08 AM   #97
Prestidigitweeze
Fledgling Demagogue
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post
The generic "he" has simply fallen out of favor as it became less and less of a valid assumption that all or most of the people it referred to would be male.
It sounds as if you're missing pdurrant's point: He is the metonymic genderless pronoun that once applied to both sexes (as well as eunuchs and hermaphrodites). The problem with using it is not that "all or most of the people it referred to would be male." The problem is its semantic suggestion that male is normative regardless of which genders and variants are included or how many of each are represented.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
Modern sensibilities seem to cry out for a new genderless pronoun, but to simply invent one seems arbitrary. Therein lies the problem. It's not as simple as saying, "Attention, everybody. From now on 'blonk' is the official genderless pronoun."
I enjoy your tranquil view of the irrational.

However, to invent or adopt a genderless pronoun is no more arbitrary than it was in the eighteen-hundreds to decide that one sex alone would represent both genders. Before then, William Marshall reports, people were able to use the gender-neutral pronoun ou, a variant of the Middle-English a.

According to Dennis Baron in Grammar and Gender, "both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of a for he, she, it, they, and even I. This a is a reduced form of the Anglo-Saxon he = he and heo = she."

I would argue that the problem is not the arbitrary nature of the choice, esp. WRT a language the history of which is often illogical. Rather, it is that such choices are inevitably politicized. Too many figureheads, polemicists, news media organizations and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers profit from the systematic exploitation of controversy. That, as I see it, is why an easy consensus can't reached. It might have been allowed to happen naturally without the ubiquity of corruption by pseudo-stagnation, but there you are.

Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 08-28-2012 at 08:43 AM.
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