Another topic

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Wed Dec 3 12:15:04 EST 2003

On Tue, 2 Dec 2003 22:19:28 -0000, Charles Butler wrote:

>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?

I've mostly seen it in contemporaries of Nesbit (and earlier) but only in a
general sense--I can't cite many examples.  What I've seen most often is
referring to an infant as "it," not so much older children.  I don't know
why that is.

Melissa Proffitt
who calls all her kids "you there"
on the assumption that they know who they are

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