Which One Is ‘They’? A Way Almost to Tell

Why don’t people stay STILL for a minute?!*

Let’s work together, good citizens: Go ahead and write they instead of he or she if you must, but keep the -s ending on the verb. It will result in phrases such as they wants. People will want to amend it to they want, but stick to your guns. They’ll get used to it, and there’s a good reason. It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to jettison grammatical number on top of grammatical gender owing to a mere transient dissonance. Number has no sex. Keep it. Persons can be binary-evasive and still remain singular. Saving the -s trues the circle and will dispel ambiguity on occasion.

That’s it. Read no further unless you want proof.


Why don’t people stay STILL for a minute?!* Still asking.

Consider this narrative:

Saoirse and Niamh have creative writing degrees. Saoirse earned hers from Indiana, Niamh hers from Cornell. Oisín told Niamh he wanted Saoirse to edit his book.

Purging gender from the narrative, except for the names, we replace hers, he and his with they-forms.

Saoirse earned theirs from Indiana, Niamh theirs from Cornell. — Context here is sufficient to bind theirs to Saoirse in one case and to Niamh in the other. People don’t earn someone else’s degree, do they?

Oisín told Niamh they wants Saoirse to edit their book. — There it is: they wants. The -s binds they to Oisín on an Occam’s razor footing.

We’re stuck with ambiguity elsewhere, worse luck. Whose is the book to be edited? Oisín’s? One co-authored by Niamh and Saoirse? One in manuscript by Siobhan, whom we don’t even know and is unmentioned in the narrative? The gender-weighted original is succinctly clear. Its gender-scrubbed version must be encumbered with elaboration of some sort to be airtight. Airtight speech works better than leaky speech, especially in space.

Strop the tongue.
(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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