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….