Heard on The Judges: expansion of "sex-neutral they"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Apr 17 17:40:40 UTC 2008

At 1:26 PM -0400 4/17/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>Spoken by Judge David Young, but examples can be heard everywhere:
>"You know how you can when _a_ male, sexist, inconsiderate _pig_ is
>lying? _Their_ lips are moving."
>_A woman_ clearly is getting ready to go out when _they_ start putting
>_their_ make-up on."
Right, but "they" for *non-specific* indefinite referents (in
sex-specified contexts) has in fact been around in informal use for
quite some time.  I posted my collection of similar cases here a year
or so back, IIRC.  A real expansion would be a "they" that picks up a
*specific* indefinite referent--"A woman stood at the sink next to
mine and started putting on their make-up".   Much more likely:  "A
woman must have left their make-up kit in the bathroom", where the
sex of the referent is given but her identity is unknown and


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