I’m reacting to this:
Not everyone was a fan of the Grammy Awards segment where celebrities read passages of the controversial best seller “Fire and Fury.”
One person especially critical on Sunday night was a member of the Trump Administration and took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
No, it wasn’t President Donald Trump.
It was his Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Shortly after the segment, which included an appearance by Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Haley shared her disdain with the segment on social media…
“Their?” To voice their displeasure?
Yeah, got it — you were trying to avoid a gender-specific pronoun to generate brief suspense as to who it was. But since you assumed that readers would assume it was Trump, you sort of called extra attention to the question of gender with that jarring “their.” You might as well have added parenthetically, “It’s not a he!”
You could just as easily have written, “One person especially critical on Sunday night was a member of the Trump Administration and took to Twitter to voice displeasure,” period. Or better yet, to fix another problem, “One person especially critical on Sunday night was a member of the Trump Administration who took to Twitter to voice displeasure.”
See how easy that was — and how much better than creating a universe in which there are multiple Nikki Haleys?
Oh, and to fix the lede for you, “Not everyone was a fan of the Grammy Awards segment during which celebrities read passages of the controversial best seller Fire and Fury.”
Sorry. Sorry… Sometimes I just can’t hold it back…
I think you may be giving the writer too much credit when you say he or she was “trying to avoid a gender-specific pronoun to generate brief suspense as to who it was.” I think more likely this is another one of those examples where language is changing before your very eyes (or ears). They, they’re, their have been used as singular pronouns for a while, and it’s just becoming more common.
I know you’re resistant to such change, but I find it fascinating. It’s like slang. How do we agree as a society that some new word or phrase has a particular meaning? How crazy is it that 30 years ago the word bad come to mean its exact opposite in some circles? The difference is that in this case, it’s becoming mainstream usage, whether you like it or not.
I know the change in language usage impacts you in a negative manner. But what’re you gonna do?
Just kick me. Just go ahead and kick me while I’m already in pain…
Norm, it’s not a matter of being resistant to such change. It’s that such constructions cannot be, because they are illogical. There are few rules in the language more fundamental, more critical to clarity, than number agreement.
Over the weekend, our own Jeff Mobley turned me on to this great quiz the NYT runs, in which you’re asked to identify the errors in copy. Most of these errors are pretty obvious and straightforward, but NONE of them are as jarring as this kind of blatant number disagreement.
Yes, people have used that construction in casual speech for a long time. I’ve even been guilty of it myself, when I’m in a hurry and I don’t want to stop to arrange my words to avoid it. If I were writing with a quill pen and didn’t want to scratch out or copy the page over, I might even let it go in a personal letter. But in a world with computerized word processing, there’s no excuse to write, and fail to edit before hitting ENTER, such a gross error…
Of course it’s illogical. “Bad” can’t mean “good.” “Sick” can’t mean “cool.” And why does “cool” mean “cool” anyway? “Awful” once meant “awesome.” And “awesome” hardly has any meaning left at all. Using the generic “he” borders on being offensive in today’s climate. Why is Kim Jong Un the only person on the planet that uses the word “dotard?” Why don’t we use “kakistocracy” more? How can you both peel and unpeel a banana at the same time? It’s illogical, but endlessly fascinating. And relentless.
Tangentially, was anyone else taught that the vowels were A, E, I, O, U, sometimes Y, and very rarely W? I spent years looking for English words that used W as a vowel. To date I have found exactly 2. Crwth (a stringed musical instrument) and cwm (what we modern types call a hollow). Two perfectly good words which we simply abandoned.
You’re talking about the meanings of individual words. I’m talking about the structure, the rules regarding the way words are used together to communicate clearly. And number agreement is one of the basic concepts of using language to communicate…
And no, I wasn’t taught the W thing. I never learned Welsh… 🙂
“Tangentially, was anyone else taught that the vowels were A, E, I, O, U, sometimes Y, and very rarely W?”
This is being taught in an American school?
Yes. I distinctly remember my 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Runyan teaching us that.
Mrs. Runyan was a Welsh spy…
Says the guy with two “Y” vowels in his name!
Who gives a $#!+ about the Grammy Awards? I hear there’s already complaints because not enough black or female nominees won awards. I have better things to do than sit and listen to idiots who probably didn’t make it out of the 9th grade tell me their political views.
You’ll note that I didn’t comment on the “substance” of the “issue” Nikki was addressing. I couldn’t care less what happens at the Grammys, or the Oscars, or the Golden Globes…
They are nonevents, in my book…
Ain’t a big problem 🙂
Ain’t that the truth!
R we talkin bout thu Grammy awards or thu Grammer awards?