Mighty Red Pen

October 26, 2008

Singularly speaking

Filed under: Grammar goddess,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 2:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

Here’s a little bit of light word nerd reading.

In “Singular Challenge: Maybe ‘They’ is Becoming OK,” Jan Freeman takes on a topic MRP loves: the singular “they/their.” She writes:

Usage writers, even if they don’t think singular they has achieved respectability, agree that its day is coming. Barbara Wallraff explains why in a post at her new blog at TheAtlantic.com: “Write ‘he’ about a nonspecific person and you’re a sexist. Write ‘she’ and you’re a flaming feminist. Write ‘he or she’ and you’re a pedant. Write ‘they’ and you’re an ignoramus.”

And hat tip to Moondog for directing me to “A Dolphin or a Lonely Transvestite?: How Best to Talk About English in English.” Christine Kenneally writes:

Overall, English is portrayed as either language triumphant or the scrappy linguistic underdog who came out on top.

Of course, you can’t talk about 1,500 years of codified sound waves without using some kind of analogy, but is it helpful to call English a mallard or a dolphin or a lonely transvestite? What’s the best way to talk about English in English?

So, um, if English were an animal, what animal would it be?



  1. Of course it should be a platypus–an animal that appears pieced together from the spare parts of other animals.

    Comment by Tentative Equinox North — October 26, 2008 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

  2. Ah, but if English was not so confounding what would we have to argue about?

    A preposition is terrible thing to end a sentence with. (In the web world we do sometimes have to be obvious).

    Comment by Alfred Klek — December 4, 2008 @ 3:55 am | Reply

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