Another topic

deborah deborah at
Thu Dec 4 22:43:42 EST 2003

Someone help me with an ObDWJ!  I'm stumped.

On Thu, 4 Dec 2003, deborah wrote:

|On Fri, 5 Dec 2003, Sally Odgers wrote:
||> Are there other examples, not counting ones about hermaphrodytes or or
||> transsexuals
||Well, obviously, these people are "SHe". That's inclusive of She and He.
|Or we could just use "zhir".  Which means well, but sounds ... pretty
|   Gender Neutral Pronoun FAQ.

Fascinating.  This problem isn't new.  From that FAQ:

  "Ou, a": Native English Gender-Neutral Pronouns
  According to Dennis Baron's Grammar and Gender,

  In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal
  English epicene pronoun, singular ou : "'Ou will' expresses either he
  will, she will, or it will." Marshall traces ou to Middle English
  epicene a, used by the fourteenth-century English writer John of
  Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary
  confirm the use of a for he, she, it, they, and even I.

  The dialectal epicene pronoun a is a reduced form of the Old and
  Middle English masculine and feminine pronouns he and heo. By the
  twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the masculine and feminine pronouns
  had developed to a point where, according to the OED, they were
  "almost or wholly indistinguishable in pronunciation." The modern
  feminine pronoun she, which first appears in the mid twelfth century,
  seems to have been drafted at least partly to reduce the increasing
  ambiguity of the pronoun system....

  He goes on to describe how relics of these sex-neutral terms survive
  in some British dialects of Modern English, and sometimes a pronoun of
  one gender might be applied to a person or animal of the opposite

   4.1.2. Language Authorities

   In 1770, Robert Baker suggested use of "one, ones" instead of "one,
   his", since there was no equivalent "one, hers". Others shared this
   sentiment in 1868, 1884, 1979, and even now. Others throughout this
   period disagreed, finding it too pedantic.

   "His or Her" vs. Singular "They"
   Around 1795, the language authorities Lindley Murray, Joseph
   Priestly, and Hugh Blair, amongst others, campaigned against pronoun
   irregularities in pronoun use, such as lack of agreement in gender
   and number. Without coining words, this can only be done in the third
   person singular by use of compound terms like "his or her". (This i
   consider cumbersome, and when used repeatedly, very cumbersome.)
   Grammarians in 1879, 1922, 1931, 1957, and the 1970s have accepted
   "they" as a singular term that could be used in place of "he" or "he
   or she", though sometimes limiting it to informal constructions.
   Others in 1795, 1825, 1863, 1898, 1926, and 1982 argued against it
   for various reasons. And whatever the grammarians might argue, people
   have been using the singular "they" for about the last 600 years,
   though (as mentioned earlier) it can only be applied in certain
   cases. If new gender-neutral pronouns are not adopted, i'm sure that
   singular "they" will still be a point of contention for centuries to

   For further information on the use of singular "their" throughout the
   centuries, see the large body of information that Henry Churchyard
   has compiled on the subject.

I've not found "ou" in the OED, but I did find "a".  We should just
start using "a"!  Then we'd all be the Fonz.

"Entry printed from Oxford English Dictionary Online
© Oxford University Press 2003

Obs. or dial.

()  [for ha = HE, HEO, HI, he, she, (it), they, when stressless; chiefly
in southern and western writers. A for he (ha in the Ayenbit) is common
from 3 to 5; in the dramatists of 6, 7, it is frequent in
representations of familiar speech. A for ha, heo, = she, they, is rarer
and somewhat doubtful in Layamon, but common in Trevisa; not found after
1450. Owing to the persistence of grammatical gender in the south,
Trevisa also uses a = he of inanimate objects, and so apparently = it,
which takes its place when rationality and sex are substituted for
gender in the concord of the pronouns. The s.w. dialects still apply he
to inanimate objects. See further under HE.]

    1. He.

  1250 LAYAMON (later text) I. 59 at a lond a verde sechinge ware he
mihte wonie [1205 he ferde sechinde]. c1315 SHOREHAM Poems 3 Ac a deythe
and he not [i.e. wots not] wanne. 1387 TREVISA Higden (Norm. Inv. in
Morris Specim. 341) Kyng Edward hadde byhote duc William at a scholde be
kyng after hym if he dyede wyoute chyldern. c1440 Arthur 370 He went
ouer to e hulle syde, And ere a fonde a wommane byde. 1553 SIR T.
GRESHAM (in Froude Hist. Eng. V. xxix. 472/2) For that the retailer doth
sell..a doth not only take away the living of the Merchant. 1584 PEELE
Arraign. Paris II. i. 22 Tut, Mars hath horns to butt withal, although
no bull 'a shows, 'A never needs to mask in nets, 'a fears no jealous
foes. 1604 SHAKES. Ham. III. iii. 74 Now might I doe it, but now a is a
praying, And now Ile doo't, and so a goes to heauen. 1610 Histriomastix
i. 157 A speaks to you players: I am the poet.

    2. She.

  1205 LAYAMON III. 127 Ne beo ich nauere blie, a wile a [the queen] beo
aliue. c1220 St. Katherine (Abb. Cl.) 136 us hwil a wiste hire & ohte ai
to witen hire meiden in meidenhad. 1387 TREVISA MS. Cott. Vesp. D. vii.
29b, He ran home to uore & prayede hys wyf at hue wolde helpe for to
saue hym,..bote a dude e contrary.

    3. It (for he).

  1387 TREVISA (in Morris Specim. 334) Yn is ylond growe a ston at hatte
gagates; ef me axe hys feyrnessea ys blak as gemmes bu..a brenne yn
water & quenche in oyle..if a ys yfroted & yhat, a holde what hym neyhe;
ef me axe hys goodnes, hyt heele e dropesy & hyt be ydrongke, etc. c1500
Spirit. Rem. (in Nugæ Poeticæ 67) Cordys contrycio ys the too [= second]
A wasshyth the woundes as doth a welle.

    4. They.

  1205 LAYAMON I. 149 Ouer se a icomen; hauene sone a nomen [1250 Ouer
see hii comen, and hauene hi nomen]. 1387 TREVISA Higden (Descr. Brit.
in Morris Specim. 340) e kinges of Engelond wone alwey fer fram at
contray, for a bu more yturnd to e sou contray; & ef a go to e nor
contray, a go wi gret help & strengthe.

    ¶A still retains all these meanings, and especially that of he, in
southern and western dialects, where it appears as (, (r)). See Elworthy
Gramm. of West Somerset Dial. 33, and Halliwell.
  In mod. north. dialects a, also aa, ah, aw (, ) = I, being the first
half of the diphthong (a, ).

  1853 AKERMAN Wiltshire Tales 169 One night a was coming whoame vrom
market, and vell off's hos into the rood, a was zo drunk. 1864 TENNYSON
North. Farmer But Parson a comes an' a goos, an' a says it eäsy an'
freeä. Ibid. Doctors, they knaws nowt, for a says what's nawways true:
Naw soort o' koind o' use to saäy the things that a do.

  1864 T. CLARKE Jonny Shippard (Westm. dial.) Let ma git theear, an a's
mebbie preeave a bit aaldther ner tha tak ma ta be."

Never postpone committing violence you are inclined to commit at
once. Later on, you might not be as pissed off.
-- The Sith Handbook

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