Another topic

Robyn Starkey rohina at
Wed Dec 3 19:35:42 EST 2003

>Sally and Sarah both disliked the use of 'they/their/them' as a
>gender-neutral singular pronoun. I disagree, but this is one of my
>hobby-horses and I've been riding it just recently on another list, so I'll
>refrain on this occasion. However, in that other discussion I was pointed to
>an interesting article on the history of this usage, and of the objections
>to it: For interest, as
>they say.

Charlie's reference points to the exceptional use of singular they. We had 
a massive debate in our department about this issue last semester (everyone 
teaches at least some composition, so we care). Usages like 
"everyone...they" are a grey area, because, as the article points out, 
sometimes the use of everyone is clearly plural. Some people find it 
acceptable, others do not.

The problem I have is that my students then think that it is okay to use 
they even when the subject is clearly singular: "a student handed in their 

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