What ‘Self’ Goes With Royal ‘We’ and Singular ‘They’?

[fudiYta bi-nafsiY] puisses-tu être racheté par mon âme! (formule de politesse à l’époque classique) [“may you (masculine) be redeemed by my soul” (formula of courtesy of the classical age)]. The example is from R. Blachère, “Grammaire de l’Arabe Classique” (1952), p. 333. Arabic verbs have masculine and feminine inflection for all persons except “I” and “we.”

I take it on report that an English monarch is entitled to declare self-referentially, We are not amused. I amuse myself speculating whether the Queen would say We amuse ourself or We amuse ourselves at whist.

In a different context, I wonder about singular they. The issue has real-world consequence because singular they in speech and writing is “trending”; resisting it isn’t a hill I want to die on. What does interest me is how to integrate it into English structures.

Jennifer Huang’s profile in Poetry magazine is a paradigm of vanguard usage. It promotes singular they from reference whose gender is a toss-up (one, someone, person, poet, doctor) to that of a specific, named person:

Jennifer Huang* is a Taiwanese-American writer… They received their MFA from… They live in Michigan, where they are working on a novel. [May 2021]

The following quotation helps create a test:

“When you remove someone from your environment, they will eventually crystalize into the person they are,” she said.

(Skye Rudin, quoted by Jon Wilcox, “Houston artist explores imaginary spaces in Victoria College exhibit,” Victoria Advocate, 1-26-22)

Modify it to a conventionally gendered statement containing a possessive adjective, subject pronoun, reflexive pronoun, subject pronoun (again), object pronoun, and possessive pronoun:

When you remove someone from her environment, she will transform herself into the person she is. The world will accept her and be hers.

or

When you remove someone from his environment, he will transform himself into the person he is. The world will accept him and be his.

Then transgender the statement with singular they:

When you remove someone from their environment, they will transform themselves into the person they are. The world will accept them and be theirs.

This version rings familiar in today’s discourse.

Supplying only a proper name (male or female) adapts it to the Huang model:

When you remove Skye Rudin from their environment, they will transform themselves into the person they are. The world will accept them and be theirs.

This demonstrates a consistent application of singular they as I see it.

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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