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LOL Wikipedia... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
LOL Wikipedia...
Well, I was poking around User pages at Wiki (Wikipedians from Tufts, actually), and one of them had a grammar box, and I was giddily happy to see actual templates for random grammar issues. I mean, I just added:

This user considers singular they substandard English usage.
This user prefers the serial comma.
This user understands the difference between its and it's. So should you.
This user favours typewriter style quotation marks over typographic ones.

Because yes... I actually have an opinion on these things, and MUST SHARE IT!!! What could be more important than the fact that I turn off curly quotes? Oh, wait... the fact that enough other people care about the issue to actually have a userbox designed on the subject!

(I like print style quotes in print, and serif fonts, but on the screen, I prefer sans-serif, and curly-quotes look very silly in sans-serif fonts.)
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 20th, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's when I developed my aversion to them--I used a Lynx browser for the first four years of my internet life, and curly quotes were always, always mis-displayed (or not displayed).
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 20th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Going to be completely evil and offer a defense of the singular "they."

Here's the deal. We need a singular form when we don't know the sex of the individual involved.

We used to use "he." Although this has roots going back to the days when English was one of those crazy gendered languages when inanimage objects had gender forms applied to them, that was a long time ago. Our language now (as one person put it) "doesn't have gender. It has sex, which is much more interesting."

The problem is that using "he" assumes maleness which, in many cases, seems to assume and reinforce stereotypes that are taboo.

So toss "he" for those situations.

Using "she" instead of "he" leads to the same problems.

There's "he or she," but it's the kind of mouthful our Anglo-Saxon linguistics prejudice us against. We tend to like _short_ words in the building block categories like pronouns. Besides, until you mentally categorize "he or she" as a single unit, your tongue is lacing together three concepts where your brain only wants one.

Anyhow, there are people who will still get you for sexism based on how often you say "he or she" vs "she or he." One of the most irritating things I ever read was a letter to the editor in a magazine complaining of just this, an unequal ratio of "he or she" to "she or he." And the magazine (I think it was Ms, but I may be mistaken) apologized.

Look, "She/he or he/she" arguments aside, there are certain words where our brains like to pick one word - or phrase - and stick to it. Pronouns are part of that.

So, discard "he," "she," and "he/she or she/he" as poor solutions.

"It" is currently considered rude to use for people. It implies dehumanization, treating someone as subhuman or out and out inanimate. While it would otherwise be a proper alternative, I don't intend to swim upstream against those forces, thank you very much.

It's been suggested English could add another pronoun, but English hasn't added a pronoun in about a thousand years (and there are scholars who will argue the last one didn't really count since it was more a case of adopting an alternate pronunciation from a closely related language).

Pronouns belong to the list of words languages rarely, rarely borrow and that even a language like English, which shoplifts vocabulary with uncontrolled kleptomania, will fight tooth and nail against this.

So, that leaves us with "they." I, for one, am going to use it.

Which may all just be a fancy justification of the way I already write and eak, but a good justification should never be wasted just because you're going to go ahead and do it anyway.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 20th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm perfectly comfortable with "he"--it's obvious that when you don't know who the person is, you don't know his gender, either, so "he" is just a placekeeper. And honestly, I'd rather be mistaken for a man than mistaken for a multiple entity.

And the fact is that "they" is always used as a plural--look at the verb forms it takes. If it were to suddenly start taking single pronouns (without being recognized as bad grammar), I might rethink it, but as of now, I don't know of anyone who would say, "The main reason someone might use the singular 'they' is that they thinks it's a good idea."

We don't happen to have a singular pronoun that's always gender-neutral, but we have one that's sometimes gender neutral ("he")... why mess with it?

a good justification should never be wasted just because you're going to go ahead and do it anyway.

Oh, never. Justifications=life.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: August 20th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure the singular/plural verb forms are really going to change even if "they" becomes as widely recognized as a singular pronoun as, say, "you"....
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 20th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
True, we've lost the second person singular at some point. I'd prefer not to see the third person singular go the same way... "You" can be awfully confusing!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: August 20th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
And the fact is that "they" is always used as a plural--look at the verb forms it takes.

What an unconvincing argument. Verb forms are syntax. Usage is semantics. The fact is, I use "they" as singular, regularly, so your "is always used as" is false.
ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: August 20th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like typewriter quotes much better because they avoid the whole confusion over in which direction the idiotic curly quotes have to be curled for opening and closing. I can never remember which conventions apply for the different languages. And in books I like the brackets that are an option in some languages better anyway (though I actually like the Romance language «...» order better than the German »...«, but the latter is still better than curly quotes).
matril From: matril Date: August 20th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
This user understands the difference between its and it's. So should you.

Hee, yes, definitely. Also they're, there and their. It's not that complicated, people!

(Although, I have to say that most of these issues have to do with written mechanics, which is a separate category from the logistics of a language's grammar system. But that's just quibbling with semanatics. ;)
miseri From: miseri Date: August 22nd, 2006 01:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I have a simple rule: if it's a pronoun, its possessive never takes an apostrophe. His, her, its, their, my and your.
matril From: matril Date: August 22nd, 2006 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I think people are confused because nouns do take an apostrophe when they're possessive, and they don't distinguish very well between parts of speech. It's a rather irritating inconsistency, actually - in every other usage, an apostrophe represents the notion that something has been taken out (or it can represent a glottal stop, but still it represents something). But with nouns, it's just a possessive case marker. What's with that? :P
miseri From: miseri Date: August 22nd, 2006 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm guessing that once upon a time when English grammar was new and malleable in the crucible of Language, "noun's" was a contraction of "noun-has" or some sort of equivalent.
ladyvorkosigan From: ladyvorkosigan Date: August 21st, 2006 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I had no idea you could turn off curly quotes. This is fantastic news!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 21st, 2006 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, you can do it in Word. Just go to "Tools" and pick "AutoCorrect Options." There's a tab labeled "AutoFormat As You Type." The "Replace straight quotes with smart quotes" option is clicked by default, but if you unclick it and save, the auto-replace will stop. I took out a bunch of autoformatting because I often want things to look exactly like I type them when I'm writing fiction or poetry.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 21st, 2006 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)
(I forgot; you may have to fix it on the regular AutoFormat tab as well.)
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