Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whew, boy! Do I have to overcome a long-held prejudice?

I was looking up a word online and bumped into this video about third-person possessive pronouns--his, her, and them.

As Emily Brewster, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster notes, Facebook recently changed its software so we should no longer see those (drive-me-crazy) notices like, "Noah Webster commented on their own photo." And it's about time, too, from my perspective! After all, Facebook knows whether you are male or female.

But then Emily gets into some areas where I myself have struggled--the sentences that require a male or female pronoun if you want to be grammatically correct, but that require both the male and female pronoun if you want to be gender-sensitive (and I have bought into the importance of gender sensitivity since I was in college, at least).

The problem is, as Emily notes, one can wind up with monstrous sentences like, "Everyone should do his or her best in whatever situations in which he or she finds himself or herself." (!!!!)

Of course, there are often simple workarounds like, "People should do their best," or, "You should do your best." But not always.

And as Emily suggests, maybe "Everyone should just do their best in the situations in which they find themselves."

And the locus for such a (to my training) grammatically awkward sentence?

How about the King James Bible? 1611 edition. Matthew 18:35: "...if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."


I have watched other Merriam-Webster videos over the last many years. I find them fascinating. Maybe you will, too. Check them out!
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