Well, I guess that’s long enough; anybody miss me . . . ?

Actually, I have been a bit busy, but I also realized nobody every told me I had to do this every day; I just started it that way sorta … From now on, I’ll commit to at least 2 of these things a week; how’s that?

Anyway, my latest beef concerns the “political correctness police”: it has long been the case that in places where the “sexist” English language traditionally uses masculine pronouns (“he” and “his”) or other generic nouns (“man”) to describe something that any human might be capable of doing, the proper method is to replace that with “he/she” or “man or woman” –or some equally concatenated better expression of gender equality.

Fine; in fact, I often use “(s)he” as the subjective pronoun in my sentences. I also recall a woman, a former love of my life (gone now, even from this material plane), who began to develop (this was back in the early 1970s, mind you) a whole ‘nother way of expressing gender. She was writing a love story between species, alien and human, and needed a way to describe and refer to the alien character (who was the definition of androgyny, possessing both male and female sex-organs and being capable of assuming the correct gender on a whim almost). She came up with “hirm” for “him/her” and “hir” for his/hers. At the time I thought it worked well, and almost began using the terms myself.

Cut to the present:

No longer are people willing to find ways to either (a) use the gender-neutral composites (he/she, etc.) or (b) rewrite their danged sentences to use plurals whenever this conflict arises (note that “they” or “them” is gender-neutral, no matter the context?).

Instead, they have taken to ignoring the whole issue, and simply change “number” at random, resulting in such atrocities as:

“Each Elder has markings on their cheeks, marking them apart from the others. An Elder is rarely seen from their clearing in the middle of Council lands.”

Note that in each sentence, a singular noun is matched with a plural pronoun, referring back to the original noun. There is really no good reason to do this! The sentences could just as easily read:

“Every Elder has cheek-markings, setting them apart from the others. Elders rarely seen from their clearing in the middle of Council lands.”

OR they could read this way:

“Each Elder has markings on its cheeks, marking it apart from the others. An Elder is rarely seen from its clearing in the middle of Council lands.”

[Note: Given the fact that the passage in question is actually a description of a pack of wild dogs, the latter is probably most appropriate here.]

Here’s a different issue:

Let’s say your writing about professional athletes, and describing the actions of a particular group of them. For this example, let’s say the players are in the National Basketball Association, playing for the Boston Celtics. If you were describing point-guard Rajon Rondo and his backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, you might indeed say “they” when referring to both players, as in “they make up a strong backcourt for the Celtics.”

However, since they are both pretty clearly men, and women do not play in the NBA (having their own league, the Women’s NBA, to play for), you would not refer to either of them individually as “they,” in attempting to avoid “sexist” language. Yet I have seen this in sports columns every now and then, as the writer tries to avoid the (in this case meaningless) gender-issue.

The bottom line is, unless you have a reason to use singular pronouns, avoid them! And when you come to a crossing of roads, where you face either convoluted, gender-neutral sentence constructions, or potential (gasp!) politically incorrect prose . . . Step back and rewrite the danged sentence to avoid the confrontation!

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