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Dual gender singular reference in English

  1. Dec 8, 2004 #1
    I realized some time ago, that there was no singular term that refers to both genders! This is really quite annoying, since I've been using "him/her" quite a bit, and it gets tedious.

    Am I mistaken, and there actually is one, or can we all just agree on one? :D:D:D:D:D

    I propose "xem". There needs to be more words in English that start with X anyway :D
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2004 #2
    Nope there isn't one.

    Tough luck.

    A lot of people, if referring to a specific person, but not wanting to give anything away will say : "This person, they..." except that still violates the persons privacy because we now know they're a person. And that they have mutliple personalities. Very intrusive pronoun usage. So we need a gender-species-mental illness neutraul pronoun.

    Or we could just suck it up and get back to work...
     
  4. Dec 8, 2004 #3

    Hurkyl

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    Someone beat you to it. :smile: It's not standard english, but some already use things like 'e as a third person pronoun replacing he/she. I don't remember the others for sure.
     
  5. Dec 9, 2004 #4
    Darn it.
    Well, I think dictionaries should introduce a formal word :)
     
  6. Dec 9, 2004 #5

    Moonbear

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    Some use s/he, but I find that horribly tacky looking. I'd like to go back to the old days when "he" really meant "he or she." A lot of people use "they." I do at times myself, but it's wrong, and I know it's wrong, but easier than he/she/it.
     
  7. Dec 9, 2004 #6

    plover

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    Actually this is not wrong, it's been part of the English language for at least a couple of centuries. It's just become more common. This is not to say that this usage is always appropriate or is an entirely adequate solution to the linguistic issue as currently configured. However, the only reason I've ever come up with as to why people think it's wrong is that it superficially resembles a PC kluge.

    I've always thought English could just adopt the non-gendered third person pronoun 'hän' from Finnish, but somehow I doubt the idea will ever catch on... :cry: :biggrin: (even though English does need more umlauts)
     
  8. Dec 10, 2004 #7
    'They' is correct, and not to be associated with being PC.

    Zeteg: why do you want to gender neutralise anyway? Is it for a good reason, or just bowing to feminist crankery?
     
  9. Dec 10, 2004 #8

    honestrosewater

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    I run into this problem most often when I don't know the gender of the person I'm referring to. As in, "the number 42 says [?] likes cupcakes." Using "they" doesn't work. It doesn't agree with its verb. And using a plural verb is confusing. The number 42 says they like cupcakes. They who?
    I like 'e.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2004
  10. Dec 10, 2004 #9

    Chi Meson

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    In normal speech in various dialets of English, "they" is used as a gender neutral singular pronoun, and it is used without confusion. The rule that it is "wrong" is the same as the rules that say "ain't" ain't a word, and a preposition is something you can't end a sentence with.

    THese rules are propagated by prescriptive linguists who think that the English language arrived on Earth complete and intact one spring morning.
    Edit: Gosh that sounds meaner than I intended! Let me add levity by sticking in a smiley :surprised .

    Hmm, that didn't work. How about :shy:
    What's that one supposed to mean anyway?
    How about :rolleyes:


    Hey check it out! The brady bunch!



    :redface: :shy: :bugeye:
    :blushing: :uhh: :tongue2:
    o:) :rolleyes: :tongue:
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2004
  11. Dec 10, 2004 #10

    honestrosewater

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    Chi Meson,
    Yes, I know the difference between prescriptive and descriptive rules. :biggrin: (levity) One of my favorite quotes is
    :cool: Or whatever he actually said.

    "They" is often used to refer to a singular noun. But it is still clearly (descriptively) wrong to pair "they" with a singular verb. In my example, "they likes" is clearly wrong; It sets off alarm bells in your head. "They" is still a plural pronoun, by descriptive and prescriptive rules.
    But using different verbs (one singular and one plural) as in "Tom says they like cupcakes" signals that the two nouns are not referring to the same thing because "Tom" refers to only one thing. The plurality of "they" is given away by its plural verb despite its intended meaning. "Tom" refers to one thing, "they" refers to more than one thing, so they do not refer to the same thing.
    This is less obvious in other situations. For instance, "Everyone thinks they are right." "Everyone" is a singular noun, but it can refer to more than one thing (it is an indefinite pronoun) so the problem is not as obvious.
    Do you see my point? It's when "they" is used to refer to a definite noun (I don't think it's called a definite noun, but I mean a noun referring to only one thing) that the problem arises.
    Well, most of that was my rambling opinion. Sorry, I'm not used to having to think in GD.
     
  12. Dec 10, 2004 #11
    Or you could just pick one of 'he' or 'she' and use that indiscriminately until corrected by the person and told what there gender is. That's what i would do, be as arbitrary as possible, just to annoy any english professors.
     
  13. Dec 10, 2004 #12
    Yes. I like this suggestion a lot. I don't see the 'they' thing as an issue, and what the hells wrong with using 'he' for a person with external gonads, and 'she' for a person with internals? (Note: it is considered polite to ask before checking). I think the whole thing is a feminist-inspired red herring. Or am I allowed say herring? Should I say 'fish' so as not to offend anyone?

    The cupcake issue: "The number 42 says... 'yes' to cupcakes". QED.
    Lesson: Always say yes to cupcakes.
     
  14. Dec 10, 2004 #13
    Chi! How refreshingly mental. Never get help for whatever condition caused you to think this up.
     
  15. Dec 10, 2004 #14
    We at Physicsforums could make up a word and try to get it into circulation. The easiest method I know is s/he. It's actually not that inefficient.
     
  16. Dec 10, 2004 #15

    Moonbear

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    That works until you get to possessives, then his/hers gets annoying quickly.

    The answer for everyone is, yes, this is something that arose out of feminism, and is one of the things I think didn't need to be mucked about with. It used to be perfectly acceptable to use he or his as pronouns when gender wasn't known, and everyone understood it was intended to be gender neutral. Then the rabid feminists (I distinguish normal feminists, such as myself, from rabid feminists, who are somewhat irrational in their demands) came along and decided all the books that used "he" as a pronoun were sexist because they excluded all the "shes." What a waste of effort. The whole Miss, Mrs., Ms. thing was lost on me too...please, just call me Dr. :biggrin: I do laugh when telemarketers call asking for Mr. Moonbear (oooh, then I have a field day with them, mostly because I don't like telemarketers anyway), but if you call me by any other title, I generally respond and don't bother correcting the speaker. What do I care if someone calls me Mrs. or Miss? It's still better than "Hey, you!" I think I'll start correcting them and telling them all, "It's Princess Moonbear." :rofl: Actually, I usually just correct them by telling them my first name. I'm not a big fan of titles.
     
  17. Dec 10, 2004 #16

    Gokul43201

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    Or perhaps, if 'they' sounds incongruous, maybe extending the use of 'it' from being a non-human pronoun to also a gender neutral (human) pronoun might fix it. After all, 'it' does get used to refer to a person under some circumstances, where the gender is unknown or unimportant, such as, "I don't know who it is." It's also useful that 'it' comes with its own possessive : 'its'. :biggrin:

    Nah ! 'It' wouldn't catch on...it would be accused of expressing a sense of inhumanity..or something like that. :yuck:

    A : (pointing at weird looking shoes) Whose shoes are these ?
    B : (pointing at gender dubious third person) It's its.
    :tongue:
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2004
  18. Dec 10, 2004 #17

    Moonbear

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    Gokul, I get myself in enough trouble referring to babies as its. Unless their diaper is off, how am I supposed to know otherwise? :rolleyes:
     
  19. Dec 10, 2004 #18

    Gokul43201

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    This new rule will save you tons of embarrassment...you should be pushing it, not resisting ! :mad:
     
  20. Dec 10, 2004 #19
    I just refer to everyone as "it"...
     
  21. Dec 10, 2004 #20
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    Look at "it"!!!! :bugeye:
     
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