The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #103196   Message #2099567
Posted By: GUEST,Sue Allan
11-Jul-07 - 05:34 AM
Thread Name: Is there a 'Childs' songbook
Subject: RE: Is there a 'Childs' songbook
For information re. the spat further up this thread on use of 'he' instead of 'she':

My copy of Hart's Rules, the guide for editors and printers published by Oxford University Press (2005 edition),clearly states that "it is now generally regarded as old-fashioned or sexist to us he in reference to a person of unspecified sex, as in 'every child needs to know that he is loved.' The alternative 'her or she' is often preferred, and in formal contexts is probably the best solution, but can become tiresomely long-winded when used frequently. Use of 'they' in this sense ('everyone needs to feel that they matter') is becoming generally accepted coth in speech and in writing, espeically where it occurs after an indefinite pronoun such as everyone or someone..."

The OED website states:
"The English language unfortunately lacks a simple singular pronoun which does not specify gender. Various people have suggested new words to fill this gap, but none of them has caught on, or (frankly) is ever likely to: it is not practical to try to change such a basic element of the language by sheer will.

"However, children and adults alike naturally find the obvious solution to this conundrum: rather than using the formal and awkward formula 'he or she', they simply use they, especially after words such as anyone and no one which are strictly singular but often imply a reference to more than one person.

"This is not a new problem, or a new solution. 'A person can't help their birth', wrote Thackeray in Vanity Fair (1848), and even Shakespeare produced the line 'Every one to rest themselves betake' (in Lucrece), which pedants would reject as logically ungrammatical.

"If you do not find this usage acceptable, there are alternatives. You could resort to the awkward 'he or she' formula, or to the practice of writing 'he' when you mean 'he or she' (which many people find objectionable), or to recasting all your sentences to avoid the problem!"

I think, MMario, that the lesson is that no committee can ultimately legislate on the English language: it is forever changing and moving and USAGE is the best guide. And if a given usage offends people then it will tend to disappear, which is what is happening with as 'he' used as generic term irrespective of gender.