guido guidette

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sun Jan 24 16:48:12 UTC 2010

On Jan 24, 2010, at 6:43 AM, Larry Horn wrote:

> One additional highlight of the Virginia
> Heffernan piece in today's N. Y. Times Magazine
> section
> (
> is a nice example of a plural pronoun with
> singular sex-known but indefinite antecedent,
> phenomenon we've discussed in the past.*  Here's
> Sammi Sweetheart, describing the role she plays
> in the MTV Reality show, "Jersey Shore", as
> quoted by Heffernan
> "A Guidette takes really good care of themselves,
> has pretty hair, cakes on makeup, has tan skin,
> wears the hottest heels."
> *My examples of this non-epicene singular "they" include: ...

nice examples. i'll probably forward this to Language Log, since it's
been a while since singular "they" with antecedents of known sex has
come up there.  yours have antecedents that are grammatically
indefinite, but there are also cases where the antecedents are
grammatically definite.  from Language Log:

GP, 10/21/04: They are a prophet:
   (this person [Arnold Schwarzenegger] ... they) DEF

GP, 1/3/06: Singular they with known sex:
   (any girl ... they) INDEF

GP, 4/26/07: Virginia, who said they would come:
    (Virginia ... they etc.) DEF

i generally find DEF examples comprehensible but grammatically
bizarre.  but practice might be changing.


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