she as a gender-neutral pronoun

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 4 16:13:08 UTC 2011

At 10:52 AM -0500 1/4/11, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>One of the foundational papers in computational cryptography was
>written in 1977 by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman. The
>paper introduced the RSA cryptosystem, and it used the names Alice and
>Bob. An article on the Network World website claims that the Alice-Bob
>convention began with the RSA paper. Here is an excerpt containing
>comments from Ron Rivest:
>Security's inseparable couple
>Network World
>February 07, 2005 12:04 AM ET
>RSA co-founder Rivest, who is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology
>(MIT) professor, says he came up with Alice and Bob to be able to use
>"A" and "B" for notation, and that by having one male and one female,
>the pronouns "he" and "she" could be used in descriptions. Rivest says
>it is possible that Alice came to mind because he is something of an
>Alice in Wonderland buff.
>Never did he expect the names to take on lives of their own.
>"Nor did I imagine that our proposed cryptosystem would be so widely
>used," he says.

So now we know something about the secret identity of half of that
fun-loving film foursome from the late sixties.  Now we just need to
figure out what Carol & Ted were up to...


The American Dialect Society -

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