Epicene avoidance?

Damien Hall damien.hall at YORK.AC.UK
Tue Nov 9 10:50:24 UTC 2010

An ad for a Mellon post-doc in Sociolinguistics at Oxford, posted
yesterday, contains what looks like a strange tactic to avoid epicene

2) 'Applicants must have obtained his or her doctorate by the date of
taking up the post'

If we take this at face value, it's very awkward to me; no matter what you
think of the epicene pronoun, it would surely have been more natural to

2) 'Applicants must have obtained their doctorate ...', or (to avoid the
epicene _and_ retain plural 'applicants') 'a / the doctorate'.

The more I look at this, the more likely it seems that it's a bad piece of
editing combining aspects of (2) with aspects of

3) 'The successful applicant must have obtained his / her doctorate ...'
(but it would be strange not to address a job-ad to _anyone_ who wanted to
apply, as opposed to just the successful applicant).

This may not be a new combination to people who collect these (apologies if
it isn't), but it's new on me, and sufficiently strange-sounding that I
thought it worth posting here. For reference, and for anyone interested in
the posting because of its grammatical strangeness or for any other
reason(!), the whole thing is here:



Damien Hall

Accent and Identity on the Scottish-English Border
Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York

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