Is The Use Of A Singular 'They' Okay?

Discussion in 'All Other Discussions' started by Rippon, Aug 28, 2008.

  1. Rippon

    Rippon
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    I originally thought about posting this in the forum on Bible translations.However,I think the subject is more broad-based.

    There is a difference between spoken and written English.But I think current, standard,spoken English needs to be reflected in writing to some extent.I know you're thinking :"What is 'standard,spoken English' these days?"

    Shouldn't rules written centuries ago based on the Latin language be considered passe?Why do we try to bind our language in such unnatural ways?

    Eds.,on a thread from the recent past had the following sentence:"The would-be assassin was summarily locked in a closet by the SS until they cooled down,and while the SS figured out what to do with them."

    Now I admit that apocryphal story sounded awkward.But it did have that conversational aspect to it.He was referencing just one individual;yet he wanted this person to be unidentified.He used the singular they (and 'singular them' too -- but I don't want to get into that).I haven't asked him,but hopefully he is consistent.I trust he doesn't excoriate the TNIV for this very practice.

    Would any of you have a problem with the following?"If anyone has a question -- they should see me after class." The examples would compound that I hear and read even from those old guard prescriptivists in their unguarded moments.

    William Shakespeare and the KJV used the singular they at times.Why can't we?

    No one likes to comment on threads like these;but they should.If there is a brave soul out there,they should make themselves known.
     
  2. Salty

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    I often use the singular "they" as I refuse to use the awkward L.E.F.T term of "he or she"

    Salty
     
  3. donnA

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    Here is a regular thing to hear one person be called they or them. As in, if my husband and I were going to visit someone, they would say, Robert and them are coming over tonight. I had never actually heard it until I moved here nearly 30 yrs ago. I usualy do not use it, but fully understand the meaning when it is used.
     
  4. ZBs

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    Yes, such a "singular they" is accepted as proper English; or, at least, it's been in use for the last 700 years.
    Since we do not specifically know the gender of the assaian, it is presumptious to use gender-determining pronouns such as "he" and "she".
     
  5. donnA

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    In the case as I described, they know my s*x, and yet I am still a 'them'.
     
  6. Gwyneth

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    Queen Victoria is quoted as saying "We are not amused" when she meant "I am not amused" to reverse the situation in OP. this has come to be known as `the royal "we".
    Sorry if a bit off topic, but yet another example of this complex and wonderful English language.
    Gwyneth
    PS : Welsh is much less complicated :wavey: :laugh:....................... (not)
     
    #6 Gwyneth, Sep 2, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 2, 2008
  7. Debby in Philly

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    Actually, I believe the "proper" thing is to use "he" as the default, if the gender is not known, or "he or she." I don't like it, but until we come up with a neuter third person singular pronoun, we're stuck with it.
     
  8. Rippon

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    But the point is that "they" has become more commonly used as a singular noun or pronoun -- in regular speech and in mainstream media.We are not stuck with either 'he' or 'he/she'.
     
  9. Salty

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    AMEN!!!

    We do not have to fall victim to L.E.F.T
     

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