she as a gender-neutral pronoun

Federico Escobar federicoescobarcordoba at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 6 23:48:19 UTC 2011

I might be overdoing it by posting again on this thread, but there was this
bit of grist for the mill that I couldn't resist:

"The virtue of compassion requires us to put ourselves consistently in
somebody else's shoes, to feel his pain as though it were our own, and to
enter generously into her point of view."

This is from chapter 1 of *A Compassionate Life *by Karen Armstrong. I'm
reading the Vook version, but perhaps the sentence is also found in the book
version (same title).

I don't recalling seeing this close variation of personal pronouns,
masculine and feminine, both referring to the same "somebody" in the same
sentence. It's a logical derivation of the gender-neutral phenomenon, but it
still seemed shareworthy.


On Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 12:13 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: she as a gender-neutral pronoun
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> >
> >
> >
> >Garson
> >
> 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...
> LH
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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