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Re: They vs. he/she

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  • melvyn.geo
    I found a pretty neat article on usage of they as a **common-gender pronoun** (use as search term - p. 901) in the Merriam-Webster s Dictionary of English
    Message 1 of 22 , Nov 22, 2008
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      I found a pretty neat article on usage of 'they' as a **common-gender
      pronoun** (use as search term - p. 901) in the Merriam-Webster's
      Dictionary of English Usage
      books.google.cz/books?isbn=0877791325
      which, in line with many Czechlist contributors past and present, says:
      "The use of they, their and them as singular relative pronouns of
      indeterminate gender has long been perfectly well established, even in
      formal contexts."

      Also, FWIW, I noticed J. K. Rowling uses 'they' quite a lot in ways
      that will "set people off" (cue memories of long arguments with
      Czechlist members), as Jamie says, so who am I to disagree? :-)

      Still, in formal texts, I would only use this common-gender "they" as
      a very last resort to get me out of a hole if all other expedients
      fail. One important consideration for me is that it may result in a
      lack of clarity of reference in complex sentences. Besides, a
      translator is very much an actor IMHO, and if he or she is paid to lay
      on a conservative style then a conservative style is what the punter
      jolly well gets.

      --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, "Valerie Talacko" <valerie@...> wrote:

      > Actually, I wouldn't draw much of a distinction between informal
      >and formal when it comes to grammar. I don't like to see
      >(needlessly) bad grammar in an informal email any more than in a
      >formal document, although it clearly looks worse in the latter.

      I'm curious how you (and others) feel this works in practice. How
      would you look at these sentences (some of which are from
      English-teaching course books)? Correct, incorrect, hypercorrect,
      appropriate only in certain registers...??? :-)

      Do you mind my opening the window?
      Do you mind me opening the window?
      (Putting aside for a moment such alternatives as "do you mind if I
      open the window?" :-))

      She is taller than I.
      She is taller than I am.
      She's taller than me.

      If that book weren't so expensive, I would buy it.
      If that book wasn't so expensive, I would buy it.

      :-)

      M.
    • Valerie Talacko
      Some interesting things here from the editor of the Guardian s style guide regarding the possessive + gerund (as used in Melvyn s first example below):
      Message 2 of 22 , Nov 22, 2008
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        Some interesting things here from the editor of the Guardian's style guide regarding the possessive + gerund (as used in Melvyn's first example below):
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/05/pressandpublishing

        I agree with him, although I think there is definitely a role for the possessive + gerund, since in Melvyn's example the meaning is subtly different from 'me opening.' (MichaelBulley makes the same point in one of the comments below that article).

        I actually wonder whether the insistence on possessive + gerund is an example of one of those 'rules' for English that were made up on the basis of Latin and are now considered spurious. But I have no evidence to back that up :)

        Valerie
        (aged 40)





        How
        would you look at these sentences (some of which are from
        English-teaching course books)? Correct, incorrect, hypercorrect,
        appropriate only in certain registers...??? :-)

        Do you mind my opening the window?
        Do you mind me opening the window?
        (Putting aside for a moment such alternatives as "do you mind if I
        open the window?" :-))

        She is taller than I.
        She is taller than I am.
        She's taller than me.

        If that book weren't so expensive, I would buy it.
        If that book wasn't so expensive, I would buy it.

        :-)

        M.





        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Valerie Talacko
        A reader insisting on possessive + gerund also gets short shrift in today s Times (scroll down to Foggy due )
        Message 3 of 22 , Nov 22, 2008
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          A reader insisting on possessive + gerund also gets short shrift in today's Times (scroll down to 'Foggy due')

          http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5208275.ece


          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Valerie Talacko
          To: Czechlist@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:47 PM
          Subject: Re: [Czechlist] Re: They vs. he/she


          Some interesting things here from the editor of the Guardian's style guide regarding the possessive + gerund (as used in Melvyn's first example below):
          http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/05/pressandpublishing

          I agree with him, although I think there is definitely a role for the possessive + gerund, since in Melvyn's example the meaning is subtly different from 'me opening.' (MichaelBulley makes the same point in one of the comments below that article).

          I actually wonder whether the insistence on possessive + gerund is an example of one of those 'rules' for English that were made up on the basis of Latin and are now considered spurious. But I have no evidence to back that up :)

          Valerie
          (aged 40)

          How
          would you look at these sentences (some of which are from
          English-teaching course books)? Correct, incorrect, hypercorrect,
          appropriate only in certain registers...??? :-)

          Do you mind my opening the window?
          Do you mind me opening the window?
          (Putting aside for a moment such alternatives as "do you mind if I
          open the window?" :-))

          She is taller than I.
          She is taller than I am.
          She's taller than me.

          If that book weren't so expensive, I would buy it.
          If that book wasn't so expensive, I would buy it.

          :-)

          M.

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Valerie Talacko
          me again... (It is I again?) When I think about it, I m pretty sure we weren t taught at school to use only the possessive + gerund (and it was a pretty
          Message 4 of 22 , Nov 22, 2008
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            me again... (It is I again?)

            When I think about it, I'm pretty sure we weren't taught at school to use only the possessive + gerund (and it was a pretty academic school), so the consensus then must have been that it was no longer necessary. In fact, most of the grammatical mistakes that set my nerves jangling are the things that we were taught were wrong. This was in the '80s, which might explain why the 40-something editors at British newspapers are fine with the 'fused participle' (as I now know it's called) but some of their older readers aren't.

            From what I can gather, though, it's viewed differently in the US.

            Valerie

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Valerie Talacko
            To: Czechlist@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 6:02 PM
            Subject: Re: [Czechlist] Re: They vs. he/she


            A reader insisting on possessive + gerund also gets short shrift in today's Times (scroll down to 'Foggy due')

            http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5208275.ece

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: Valerie Talacko
            To: Czechlist@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:47 PM
            Subject: Re: [Czechlist] Re: They vs. he/she

            Some interesting things here from the editor of the Guardian's style guide regarding the possessive + gerund (as used in Melvyn's first example below):
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/05/pressandpublishing

            I agree with him, although I think there is definitely a role for the possessive + gerund, since in Melvyn's example the meaning is subtly different from 'me opening.' (MichaelBulley makes the same point in one of the comments below that article).

            I actually wonder whether the insistence on possessive + gerund is an example of one of those 'rules' for English that were made up on the basis of Latin and are now considered spurious. But I have no evidence to back that up :)

            Valerie
            (aged 40)

            How
            would you look at these sentences (some of which are from
            English-teaching course books)? Correct, incorrect, hypercorrect,
            appropriate only in certain registers...??? :-)

            Do you mind my opening the window?
            Do you mind me opening the window?
            (Putting aside for a moment such alternatives as "do you mind if I
            open the window?" :-))

            She is taller than I.
            She is taller than I am.
            She's taller than me.

            If that book weren't so expensive, I would buy it.
            If that book wasn't so expensive, I would buy it.

            :-)

            M.

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Michael Grant
            On Sat, Nov 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM, Valerie Talacko ... I am it again. ... Michael -- You have to be happy with what you have to be happy with what you have to
            Message 5 of 22 , Nov 22, 2008
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              On Sat, Nov 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM, Valerie Talacko
              <valerie@...> wrote:
              > me again... (It is I again?)

              "I am it again."
              :-)
              Michael

              --
              You have to be happy with what you have to be happy with what you have
              to be happy with.
            • melvyn.geo
              ... the possessive + gerund, since in Melvyn s example the meaning is subtly different from me opening. (MichaelBulley makes the same point in one of the
              Message 6 of 22 , Nov 23, 2008
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                --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, "Valerie Talacko" <valerie@...> wrote:

                > I agree with him, although I think there is definitely a role for
                the possessive + gerund, since in Melvyn's example the meaning is
                subtly different from 'me opening.' (MichaelBulley makes the same
                point in one of the comments below that article).
                >

                MichaelBulley:
                The object and the possessive are both acceptable, but they mean
                different things. "I don't like his washing the windows" means you'd
                rather he didn't wash the windows or, perhaps, that you don't like his
                style of washing the windows. "I don't like him washing the windows"
                means that, when he washes the windows, you don't like him (it makes
                him look silly, maybe).



                Hmmmm.

                Excuse me, do you mind me opening the window?

                Well, it does make you look rather silly and gauche, actually. Not a
                pretty sight, to be honest.


                Ah, but do you mind my opening the window?

                Oh, not at all. It is rather stuffy in here.

                :-)


                It would be a neat idea - if people were generally aware of such a
                potential difference. :-) But is anybody? Why does this difference not
                normally crop up in discussions of the issue?


                I think that in most people's minds the difference in style outweighs
                any such hypothetical differences in stress or meaning.


                I used to get a good wigging at (what used to be) London University
                (SSEES) for using fused participles. The great linguist Jespersen
                famously championed them, but did that help me? Oh no. :-)


                BR


                M.
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