My Pet Peeve

I'm very happy about women's liberation, but it has had one unfortunate consequence.

People used to use the masculine pronoun to refer to all people. This was obviously incorrect. One word can't mean two things. And, if you use a word that refers to a man, you are going to think of men even when that is not the intention. In this way, women used to be left out of the verbal picture.

The common solution to this problem, however, has been awful. Almost everyone seems to be using plural pronouns to refer to one singular person whenever the person in question could be male or female. And this sounds moronic.

Look at these lines, written by a professor.

"Call the references up and say something like this: "I want to thank you for giving us a reference for Mr./ Mrs. XYZ. Based on your recommendation we hired them and they turned out to be an excellent employee."

When he refers to Mr or Mrs XYZ, he is clearly referring to only one person. But, later in the sentence he says "they" turned out to be an excellent

"Next, call the candidate and tell them who referred you and why you're calling. Assess their interests and then sell them on the firm and the job. Also offer to send them additional material about the job and the firm".

Notice that the "candidate" (singular) is referred to as "them" (plural).

Here's my suggestion: use "he" or "she" indiscriminately when referring to one person. Just avoid using the same gender every time you write.

One gender is still being used to refer to both but with balanced use there won't be any discrimination against women or men. And, it won't make you sound like you just learned to speak English yesterday.

Of course, you could invent some new pronouns. 'e instead of he or she. Hem instead of him or her. The trouble is, no one would know what you mean.

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