Another topic

Charles Butler hannibal at
Tue Dec 2 17:19:28 EST 2003

Helen Schinske:
Yes. Which reminds me, it took me some twenty-five or thirty years to figure out that the Psammead in _Five Children and It_ is NOT CALLED HE ("she" never occurred to me). Not ever. It is an it. Dang, Nesbit only hits you over the head with the fact in the title and all. I'm slow sometimes.

Well, I'd missed that too :-) But I had noticed Nesbit's habit of using 'it' to refer to a child, when either sex or both might be being referred to (as in sentences of this kind: 'Each of the children was looking forward to its tea.') When I first read Nesbit I thought this was probably be a feature of writing from that period - influenced either by a particularly sexless view of childhood, or by languages like German where 'Kind' is indeed neuter. Now it occurs to me that I don't remember coming across it since in any other writer. Is it a Nesbitism specifically, or was this usage widespread?

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