Robert S. Wachal robert-wachal at UIOWA.EDU
Sun May 20 12:14:51 UTC 2001

If you check Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English usage, you'll find that
it is a time-honored way of referring to people of either both or unknown

Bob Wachal

At 10:17 PM 4/17/01 -0400, you wrote:
>My favorites are those that use singular "their" when the gender is
>specifically female (or male).  A student wrote, regarding Pope's "Rape of
>the Lock", "A coquette does not remain with one man long enough to lose
>their virginity."  And on NPR a speaker said, "Anyone who has borne a baby
>knows that they...."  I have forgotten the specifics of the incident, also
>on NPR, when the referent was necessarily male.
>At 09:09 AM 4/17/01 -0700, you wrote:
>>What about this one?  I have noticed during the past 20-25 years that the
>>use of "Everybody (everyone, each, somebody, etc...) has THEIR own way of
>>doing things" has steadily been replacing  "Everybody (etc)....HIS  own
>>etc" even in "learned discourse"  I attribute this to the influence of the
>>women's movement in making America more aware and sensitive to sexism in
>>society in general and in the English language in particular.  I have
>>tried to use "his/her" (clumsy as it is) as a way to preserve subject-verb
>>agreement, and I notice some others use "her" as a sort of
>>overcompensation; but with each passing year I see "their" picking up more
>>momentum in all corners, even in Academia.  Has this been picked up on any
>>"official radar?"  Is it in any usage dictionaries yet?  Are there any
>>other grammar formalists out there who cringe like I do when they hear this?

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