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Historical usage: Geoffrey Chaucer is widely credited as the father of English literature. It’s been consistently attested since then; Henry Churchyard reports examples from the Oxford English Dictionary in 1434, 1535, 1643, 1749, 1848, and a wide variety of years in between.He was one of the first well-known authors to write in Middle English instead of the prevailing literary tongue, Latin, bringing legitimacy to the language. There has literally been no point since 1400 when singular has been employed by revered writers throughout its history.See, “Ideologues can lie themselves blue in the face without changing the fact that, to those who know modern English as it existed until the cultural revolution and still does exist in many quarters, the neutral he ‘has lost all suggestion of maleness.'” Yep, back before the evil, scary cultural revolution of the 1970s, no one ever saw anything odd about gender-neutral breath for four minutes?Geoff Pullum came up with (3b), and I think it’s the clincher.Certainly many prescriptivists assert that singular , calling the issue “unresolved” but noting that it “is being left unaltered by copy editors” and that aside from pedants, “such constructions are hardly noticed any more or are not widely felt to lie in a prohibited zone.” [p.776] (This is an especially interesting stance because it goes against Fowler’s own original position from 1926.) Grammar Girl also comes down unambiguously in favor it, if she’s your cup of tea.
as a gender-neutral pronoun until you grow tired of people pointing out that it isn’t really. But you’re just making a fool of yourself when you go around telling users of singular .September 10, 2009 in agreement, ambiguity, English, grammar, history, languagelog, linguistics, plurals, pronouns, quantification, Uncategorized, words, writing | Tags: anyone, c. lewis, chaucer, david gelernter, everyone, geoff pullum, he or she, indefinite pronoun, singular they Suppose you were reading and came to the following line: “She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.” Would you …(a) continue reading, because that’s a perfectly acceptable sentence, or (b) throw a tantrum and insist that the author is an imbecile speeding the wholesale destruction of the English language?Don’t mistake yourself for a brave defender of our language against the barbarians at the gates when, in truth, you’re nothing but a millennialist shouting about the end-times of the English language.
Meanwhile, the world spins on, and the language flourishes, hale and hearty.Here’re these pedants crying about how English has to adhere rigidly to logic, and they don’t notice the one time the language actually behaves like a system of formal logic.The point is that singular by David Gelernter, a computer science professor at Yale.I just can’t picture any competent speaker of English saying it and thinking it correct.