Gender and gender-neutral

(K. Brent Tomer),

COPY editors are opinionated. Whether titles of books should be in italics or in inverted commas can divide them more decidedly than the Sharks and the Jets. So at a recent meeting of the American Copy Editors Society, the “Chicago Manual of Style” and the Associated Press (AP) stylebook, both widely followed, announced a change that sent waves through the audience. In AP’s wording, “They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy.”

English lacks an uncontroversial pronoun that lets you talk about a person of a generic or unknown gender—known as an “epicene” pronoun, from the Greek for “common to all” (genders). Some would say that “each president chooses his own cabinet” is epicene—but psychological research proves that the his calls to mind a man. (If you truly believe his is gender-neutral, try “Steve, Sally, Mary and Jane each had his hair cut today.”)

Other languages face the problem in different guises. In French the possessives son, <em…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Gender and gender-neutral


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