University Encourages New Best Practices: Gender Neutral Pronouns

gender-neutral-pronouns Source (HT: YaYa University)

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m one of the few left on earth who refuse to use “their” as a singular pronoun. When the referent is clearly singular but with unspecified gender, I will say “he or she,” or better yet, the time-honored (and non-sexist) “he.” In rare cases I will make the referent plural, as in “All students should take their bags with them.” I will not say “Each student should take their bag.” I’ve even heard fine preachers and theologians, who ought to know better, say something like, “Each elder cast their vote,” when referring an all-male group. Hey, guys, it’s “his,” not “their”! Or another horror: “Every mother should bond with their baby.” Drives me nuts.

    Word to the younger generation: Love and respect your language. Speak clearly and precisely. This is an important aspect of common grace. It’s not that hard, either.

    The above makes me not Neanderthal, but positively Paleozoic. Ask me if I care.

    • They has been used as singular pronoun for centuries. It was used that way by Shakespeare and other great authors. It was not until pedantic grammarian in the eighteenth century said it was wrong that it became common place to see it as plural only. Their efforts was to conform English to Latin, which they believed had a better grammar than English. They being just plural is not a native aspect of our language.

    • Shannon, “They has”? OK, you left out the quotation marks; but more seriously, does what you are saying mean that in all three persons in English (remembering the royal “we”) the plural was used to denote less familiarity/more status, unlike French, where it didn’t apply to the third person – or did it use to in that language as well?

    • “they” has been used for centuries in a fairly predictable way to refer to indefinite pronouns or nouns that do not specify gender. I got this information from works by John Mcwhorter, who is a respected linguist. I do not remember they whole story of how “they” and its related forms came to be seen as inappropriate, but it involves people trying to impose rules upon English that were not original to it. I have used “they” in everyday speech as a singular pronoun since I was young. I would not use it in formal writing because it is not accepted as proper, but that is perception that comes from outside of our language history, not from within. I find it very useful to have a gender neutral pronoun, and not because I am an advocate for the gender revolution taking place. It is just convenient to be able to talk about a person without reference to sex. In general it allows me to easily say that I do not know whether a person in question is male or female. We have and continue to speak this way. It is very natural to our language and many have to be taught otherwise.

  2. While I’m not sure I agree, P.J. O’Rourke once called an earnest attitude “stupidity gone to college”. The example given here of proposed genderless English pronouns is either an example of someone pulling our legs, or else it’s exhibit A in O’Rourke’s case.

    As someone who spent a good portion of his adult life studying, using, and living in environments where languages of the Sinitic (Mandarin, Hakka) or Tai-Kadai (Thai) languages were the media of daily interaction, academia, courts, and everything else, I can testify about two things: (1) these languages lack gendered pronouns, and (2) speakers of these languages can be as dismissive of feminine gifts and graces or male chauvinist as anyone who speaks a language of the Indo-European, Semitic, or other language family that does have gendered pronouns. In any case, some of the people I have known who are most dismissive of women in general have also been people who abuse “their” and “them” in referring to singular antecedent nouns.

    Hence, allowing the perpetual offense-taking of certain North Atlantic Anglophone feminists to dominate discourse about how we use the English language shows that we are becoming more provincial and intellectually small–indeed, downright petty.

    @Frank Aderholdt: I’m with you, fellow Primitive. Back when I was a teen, Mrs. Kosofsky, one of the best high school English teachers who ever drew breath, taught us to make pronouns agree with their antecedents–“If someone has trouble, you should help him (not “them”)”. I’ve found this both sensible and elegant, and continue to use it. I will continue using this rule until I die, no-matter how many self-important monoglott yokelettes )of either sex) criticize me.

    • Precisely! That’s what I find so infuriating about this whole thing: there doesn’t appear to be any kind of correlation at all between the role of gender in a language proper and the role of gender in culture. Yet the very people who should know better–our academics–are shoving this change upon us? What gives?

  3. Shortly after I posted here today, I ran across a cringeworthy example of the loss of our language.

    Our local TV station in Hattiesburg, MS posted this press release from The University of Mississippi concerning a student who was struck by a vehicle on a crosswalk:

    “The injured party is a female student at Southern Miss. She was in the crosswalk at the intersection of Hardy Street and 31st Avenue, coming from a parking lot where Elam Arms once stood toward campus when she was hit by a car. She was transported to Forrest General Hospital and treated for minor injuries. Hattiesburg Police Department was on the scene and would be the agency handling any further information.”

    So far, so good. The sentence written by WDAM staff before this paragraph, however, reads as follows: “The victim was transported to a local hospital where they are listed as being in stable condition . . .”

    Ouch! All’s I can say about whoever penned this, is that they caint write good.

    Part of our Christian duty to the people of God and before the world is to use the language that God has given us as elegantly and as accurately as possible. An accountant glorifies God by obeying the standards, a plumber by following the rules of his trade, and one whose calling is the ministry of words by honoring his language.

  4. I would like to respond to the following:

    Word to the younger generation: Love and respect your language. Speak clearly and precisely. This is an important aspect of common grace. It’s not that hard, either.

    Our language has not been handed to us on tables of stone, but rather English is shaped by us, the users of this tongue. And I am in agreement with the rules that you have given, but there is a difference between how a language works (grammar) and how users use that language (English literature), so that what people do with English can effect its grammar through “misuse” of the language. I want to respect English, but shall I use Shakespeare, or should I use Hemingway?

    • Hemingway? He was a dupe of the Communists, offered his services to Soviet intelligence during the Spanish Civil War, and ended up smoking the business end of his shotgun.

  5. Yes, so if we choose any user of the English language, and then point to their flaws, have we accomplished something? Shakespeare was a hoarder of grain during the harvests, so should we ignore the bard too?

  6. I would to apologize for my direct questions, since I feel that they have been off the topic. We can agree that gender neutral pronouns are silly because they are not in use. They are just a possible way of talking about unpersonal persons. (Ha!) So I resolve to use good grammar among us English users. Thanks.

Comments are closed.