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Singular they trudges on

Over on ADS-L, Larry Horn read his NYT carefully: One additional highlight of the Virginia Heffernan guido/guidette piece in today's N. Y. Times Magazine section is a nice example of a plural pronoun with singular sex-known but indefinite antecedent, a phenomenon we've discussed in the past. Here's Sammi Sweetheart, describing the role she plays in the MTV Reality show, "Jersey Shore", as quoted […]

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The craven feminine pronoun

The Times Literary Supplement diarist who hides behind the initials "J.C." makes this catty remark (issue of January 6, 2017, page 36) about Sidney E. Berger's The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary of Book Collectors: "Predictions were that the Internet would do away with dealers' catalogs and it is true that many a dealer […]

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"Among the New Words"

Ben Zimmer, Jane Solomon, and Charles Carson, "Among The New Words", American Speech May 2016: In this installment we continue our consideration of items nominated at the American Dialect Society’s 2015 Word of the Year proceedings […] The overall winner is considered here: they used as a singular third-person pronoun, a gender-neutral (or “epicene”) alternative […]

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Would a linguist always grade your writing A+?

I occasionally wonder whether people might be picking up the wrong idea about the descriptive orientation we tend to promote here on Language Log: because we so often point out that edicts defended by conservative usage pundits lack support from either decent writing or common sense, people might imagine that if college papers were graded […]

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Language has a way of turning pundits into fools

Robert Fisk, the well-known linguistic paleoconservative,  has been reduced to playing little games with his copy editors in order to create material for his columns ("Our language has a way of turning women into men", The Independent, 8/14/2010): A week ago, in my front-page story on the Hiroshima commemoration, I planted a little trap for […]

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Gone phishing

If I was going to go phishing, with English as my medium of communication in the ocean of dupes out there, I think I would first learn a little bit about the cultural practices of the English-speaking world. I like think that if I were a phisherman I would do a little better than this […]

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CNN hits the trifecta

Several people have drawn my attention to a harmonic convergence of LL topics on today: social media, gender-neutral pronouns, and linguistic time machines. The article is Elizabeth Landau, "On Twitter, is it 'he or she' or 'they' or 'ip'?", and Ms. Landau is worried that English will be unable to reach the epicene ideal, […]

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