The use of gender pronouns

  • #1
Char. Limit
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I have noticed that, when referring to someone whose gender we do not know, we tend to use a specific gender pronoun. For example, I use "he", and most of my male friends do the same. Most of my female friends tend to use "she".

Is there some psychological reason why we do this?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Evo
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I use he, it was the default when I was in elementary school.
 
  • #3
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Yeah. I picked up a recent physics book and girls were throwing balls and sliding blocks down inclines. They never did that when I was learning this stuff. Of course, that was when g was 9.8 m/s^2. Now it's 10.0 m/s^2 so that the women can do the calculations.
 
  • #4
Char. Limit
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Yeah. I picked up a recent physics book and girls were throwing balls and sliding blocks down inclines. They never did that when I was learning this stuff. Of course, that was when g was 9.8 m/s^2. Now it's 10.0 m/s^2 so that the women can do the calculations.
Or maybe gravity just got bigger.
 
  • #5
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Or maybe gravity just got bigger.
I stand corrected. I thought it was because when we allowed women into the physics classroom, we wanted him or her to be able to do the calculations. Real men don't use gender specific language.
 
  • #6
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I stand corrected. I thought it was because when we allowed women into the physics classroom, we wanted him or her to be able to do the calculations. Real men don't use gender specific language.
Unless describing vehicles, in which case it's always "she's a beauty".
 
  • #7
George Jones
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Douglas Hofstadter wrote a few interesting essays on gender and language.
 
  • #8
Char. Limit
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Douglas Hofstadter wrote a few interesting essays on gender and language.
Links?
 
  • #9
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Links?
I just got finished reading this one:
http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html" [Broken]
 
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  • #10
Borek
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Yeah. I picked up a recent physics book and girls were throwing balls and sliding blocks down inclines. They never did that when I was learning this stuff.
They were busy making cookies then. Now they want us to make cookies AND slide the blocks (preferably up).
 
  • #11
AlephZero
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Why don't the physics books just use gender-neutral personal names, like Chris, Pat, Sandy, etc? Or wouldn't that satisfy the feminists?

Somebody once wrote a short story where all the characters had this type of name - sorry, I can't remember who but I expect Mr (or Ms?) Google knows about it.
 
  • #12
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Why don't the physics books just use gender-neutral personal names, like Chris, Pat, Sandy, etc? Or wouldn't that satisfy the feminists?
Sandy is gender neutral?

Gender neutral is culture based.
 
  • #13
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Sandy is gender neutral?

Gender neutral is culture based.
Sandy Koufax? I guess I can't expect a Briton to know US baseball players.

When the gender is unknown, I tend to use the word "they" as a gender-neutral third person pronoun, and I don't care what the grammar manuals say.
 
  • #14
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Sandy Koufax? I guess I can't expect a Briton to know US baseball players.
Nope, and I don't think Sandy is gender neutral (like I said, cultural thing) - never heard a dude called it before, actually only heard one girl and that's in Grease.
When the gender is unknown, I tend to use the word "they" as a gender-neutral third person pronoun, and I don't care what the grammar manuals say.
I try to 'mix it up', use a bit of everything. Keep it even.
 
  • #15
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When the gender is unknown, I tend to use the word "they" as a gender-neutral third person pronoun, and I don't care what the grammar manuals say.
Someone left an umbrella here. Why would they do that?
 
  • #16
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In the absence of a gender-neutral pronoun, I should expect people would default to the world their minds are most familiar with.

For anyone interested in the history of the loss of our gender-neutral pronoun:
Wikipedia said:
The Germanic language of these Old English-speaking inhabitants was influenced by contact with Norse invaders, which might have been responsible for some of the morphological simplification of Old English, including the loss of grammatical gender and explicitly marked case (with the notable exception of the pronouns). English words of Old Norse origin include anger, bag, both, hit, law, leg, same, skill, sky, take, and many others, possibly even including the pronoun they.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_English
 
  • #17
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Which case always grates on my nerves.
You're beautiful when you're angry.
 
  • #18
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Unless describing vehicles, in which case it's always "she's a beauty".
Which case never fails to grate on my last nerve.

When the gender is unknown, I tend to use the word "they" as a gender-neutral third person pronoun, and I don't care what the grammar manuals say.
Yep, English doesn't accommodate a gender-neutral third single person pronoun, so I always default to "they" or "them". I've noticed that Astronuc unfailingly uses "one", and while that works really nicely, it sounds overly formal in a lot of circumstances. I think it's cool how consistent he is about it, though.
 
  • #19
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You're beautiful when you're angry.
Hah! Going for the sexist angle, huh? :grumpy:

Fine, does that therefore mean that it follows that I'm not beautiful when I'm not angry?
 
  • #20
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Hah! Going for the sexist angle, huh? :grumpy:

Fine, does that therefore mean that it follows that I'm not beautiful when I'm not angry?
My bad. I should have written One is beautiful when one is angry.
 
  • #21
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My bad. I should have written One is beautiful when one is angry.
Much better.
 
  • #22
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does use of hir imply hirsuteness ?
 
  • #23
AlephZero
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Sandy is gender neutral?

Gender neutral is culture based.
It is in Scotland, as an abbreviation of Alexander or -dra. You could add Alex to my list as well.
 
  • #24
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  • #25
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It always seems as though 'one' is used as a formal first person singular.
 

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