Ungendered "he said-she said"?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Dec 2 20:07:11 UTC 2009

Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
> At 8:52 AM -0900 12/2/09, David Bowie wrote:
> >I heard a report on the radio this morning about last night's meeting of
> >the Anchorage [Alaska] Assembly (an oddly-named 11-member city council),
> >at which they reviewed the "Wheeler report", a report that claims that
> >former Anchorage mayor (now US senator) Mark Begich willfully misled the
> >assembly on the state of city finances before leaving office.
> >
> >One of the sound bites was from Sheila Selkregg (i think), a member of
> >the assembly, who called the report a "he said-she said" document.
> >
> >The interesting thing is that both sides are male--on the one is Mark
> >Begich, and on the other is either Dennis Wheeler (the author of the
> >report) or Dan Sullivan (the current mayor, who's been hypercritical of
> >Begich's administration and has heavily promoted the report).
> >
> >Of course, i don't know if there's further context that would go against
> >this interpretation, but this really sounded to me like "he said-she
> >said" has branched out into meaning simply "two sides [unmarked for sex]
> >each claim opposing things that can't be definitively proven". Has
> >anyone else come across this?
> >
> I have, although I don't have a specific cite for it.  Probably a
> google search would pull some up.  I've also heard "HE-said/HE-said"
> and, although less frequently, "SHE-said/SHE-said" for the same-sex
> disputes.

Larry noted that both "he said / he said" and "he said / she said" were used on
sports talk shows discussing Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee (the trainer who
accused Clemens of steroid abuse) in Jan. '08:


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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