Grammatical Number

Pafra & Scott Catledge scplc at GS.VERIO.NET
Fri May 7 02:15:08 UTC 1999

We all know that only illiterate persons say "Everyone...their...."  What?
I am not allowed to contradict an absolute statement with one of my own?
-----Original Message-----
From: William H. Smith <wh5mith at ATL.MINDSPRING.COM>
Date: Wednesday, May 05, 1999 10:04 PM
Subject: Grammatical Number

>We all know that English has shifted from grammatical number (e.g.
>"everyone"--"he" unless all of "everyone" is female) to natural number
>("everyone"--"they"), so that not any +Human noun of unspecified sex takes
>plural pronoun.  Have you noticed that this change is extending to any
>+Human, even when sex is specified?  In answering a test question on Pope's
>"Rape of the Lock," a student of mine wrote that "a coquette does not stay
>with one man long enough to lose their virginity."  Some time ago I heard
>NPR commentator say "Any woman who has given birth...they...."  Today an
>reporter in Denver said that "Each of them [Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold]
>took their own life."  Does anyone else have examples of this shift to a
>form of grammatical number?
>For something completely different, my wife, a seventh-grade language arts
>teacher, would like examples of humorous dangling modifiers, such as
>low, a herd of cows was seen."  (Incidentally, about a year ago a man in
>Texas was killed by a flying cow.  The cow had strayed onto a freeway, been
>hit by a car, and was thrown onto the victim's car.)
>Bill Smith
>Piedmont College

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