Sometimes You Just Need A Really Good…“They”

Okay, I’m a little behind in my reading and all, but caught up on a great PW Q&A (July 11th issue, page 44, for those who still read hardcopy…) with linguist and author John McWhorter (Ph.D.). And he said something that really got my attention, something’s that’s bugged the heck outta me from day one of first seeing it:

Yea old (well, actually not all that old..) “he/she” placement.

Yeah, the absofrigginglutely patent  absurdity of alternately using “he” and “she” in articles with no obvious gender references.


Mr. McWhorter’s position, and I wholeheartedly agree with it, is that the rigid use of “they” as always being plural is false. That, in fact (and he’s a linguist, mind you) “they” has actually been employed singularly in earlier stages of the English language. Now, I’m not a mechanics-and-structure guy when it comes to writing, I’m more the gray area stuff, like write till you’re bleeding, then if you’re not dead, what the heck are you stopping for? kinda guy. Do your passion, do what works for you, all that pseudo-fluffy-made-gritty-by-my-take-on-things kinda guy. But some things just bug the Be-HEY-zuess out me. Any time I’d see a “she” in an article followed (for no Godly reason) by a “he,” followed by a “she,” followed by a…I just wanna frigging rip those pages out of whatever I’m reading and burn the damned text.

Really? Are we just trying to be PC with gender use, here?  I honestly don’t care if you use all of one OR the other, but–ugh!–make a frigging decision, fer chrissakes, and stick to it!

I, I freely admit, have always been a “they” kinda guy.

I use it freely, and to many a critique by others who know far more (and far less) than I. Whether or not it was correct to use in my time or place, it (you’re gonna love this, you Grammarian purists out there!) felt right.

Yeah, I said it:  FELT RIGHT.

Oh, that was so freeing!

Like I’m streaking across the Internet (oops, clothing check: nope, still attired)!

Another Mr. McWhorter position that also merits note is that language changes; in his beautifully chosen words (and think about the choice of words he actually used),  it is “…a chaotic, growing garden.”

So, let’s put all that misplaced criticism where it’ll actually do some good, and fertilize that garden….

About fpdorchak

Upmarket paranormal fiction author. I write gritty, Twilight Zone-like fiction. Please check out my website:! Thank you for stopping by!
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7 Responses to Sometimes You Just Need A Really Good…“They”

  1. karen Lin says:

    I Kid you not!
    There are gender-neutral pronouns out there. — zie zim zir zirs zimself
    they them their theirs themselves

    Zie looked at the thing.

    Seem like a p.c. circus, IMHO – but I still like men and women, their differenes, and the language that honors that difference. As to which to use, I use whichever flips my switch when I write. Sometimes female references and sometime male – within one point made I usually stick with the same gender pronouns to prevent head snap.

  2. fpdorchak says:

    Oh, yeah, I know, I minored in German waaay back and have studied other languages off and on. But you nailed it–it’s a headsnap–precisely. It’s a pet peeve of mine, I guess. Just pick one and use it, I don’t care. Just don’t (wait for it…wait for it…) BRING ME OUT OF WHAT I’M READING. :-]

    Danke, Karen!

  3. Ron H says:

    I kindof prefer “it” myself… a word that’s trim, concise, and easy to spell. [And “it” reminds me of a hairy little short man.]

  4. Ron H says:

    I kindof prefer “it” myself… a word that’s trim, concise, and easy to spell. [And “it” reminds me of a hairy little short man.]

    PS, I meant “We” as the very first word in this post. B^)

  5. fpdorchak says:

    Uhhh, like, the ROYAL “We,” or in like trying to act all French and whotnot, and use “Oui”?! ;-]

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