government they

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Oct 16 18:32:26 UTC 2011

At 10/16/2011 12:18 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>There is a barely noticeable quibble Dan Drezner posted this morning. He
>is responding to Herman Cain's "foreign policy" (which he says is
>nonexistent, but that's another matter entirely).
>>>     The primary duty of the President of the United States is to
>>>     protect our people. In fact, it is the principal duty of a
>>>     limited federal government. They must ensure that our military
>>>     and all of our security agencies are strong and capable.
>>I'm with you so far, Mr. Cain -- my only objection is your odd pronoun
>>choice of "they."
>The first paragraph is Cain's, the second Drezner's. Personally, I don't
>see anything particularly odd about the choice of "they", irrespectively
>of whether it refers to "the President and a limited federal government"
>or just the "government". The latter might sound more British than SAE,
>but I'd be perfectly happy to use it. But, I suspect, Drezner totally
>missed the possibility of the former--which would make /his/ comment
>"odd". YMMV

But the ultimate limited federal government is
singular -- just one person.  Cain, who is
otherwise alleged to be direct, should have said "he" (or ït").


The American Dialect Society -

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