Personal Pronouns

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at
Tue Mar 14 08:13:27 UTC 2006

On Mar 8, 2006, at 9:57 PM, Rocco Stanzione wrote:
> ...
> The word "they" here deeply offends purists such as myself.  "They" is 
> plural, of course, and it's a pronoun referring here to a singular 
> user.  To my chagrin, many authoritative bodies have begun calling 
> this abomination "acceptable", but as far as I know they have not gone 
> so far as to call it correct.
>   Traditionally, "he" is the correct word here (followed by "is", of
> course), to be interpreted as a gender-neutral pronoun in this context.
> ...

     She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought
     to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.

              -- C. S. Lewis, /The voyage of the Dawn Treader/ (1952)

     Now, nobody does anything well that they cannot help doing.

                     -- John Ruskin, /The crown of wild olive/ (1867)

     It would hardly be early in November; there were generally
     delays, a bad passage or something; that favouring something
     which every body who shuts their eyes while they look, or their
     understandings while they reason, feels the comfort of.

                           -- Jane Austen, /Mansfield Park/ (c. 1813)

     Every Body fell a laughing, as how could they help it.

                                -- Henry Fielding, /Tom Jones/ (1749)

     ... every fool can do as they're bid.

                      -- Jonathan Swift, /Polite conversation/ (1738)

     There's not a man I meet but doth salute me
     As if I were their well-acquainted friend

                    -- William Shakespeare, /Comedy of errors/ (1594)

     Yf... a psalme scape ony persone, or a lesson, or else yt.
     they omyt one verse or twayne.

                                            -- Wynkyn de Worde (1526)

     Eche of theym sholde ... make theymselfe redy.

             -- William Caxton, /The foure sonnes of Aymon/ (c. 1489)

     And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame
     They wol come up...

             -- Geoffrey Chaucer, /The pardoner's prologue/ (c. 1395)

Matthew Paul Thomas

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