First, there is a perfectly good and grammatical third person singular:
"they." Check your OED on that also. It has always been used as such
by major writers, and it is a constant in colloquial speech.
They, I, 2. Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal
by every, any, no, etc. OR APPLICABLE TO ONE OF EITHER SEX (= 'HE OR
SHE'). (caps mine) This too goes all the way back to Anglo-Saxon.
examples: "If a person is born of a gloomy temper, they cannot help
it."---Chesterfield; "Now, nobody does anything well that they cannot
I don't have the updated OED for recent examples, but it is a constant
actual use, and its supposed failure of grammar is as mistaken as the
supposed correctness of using the generic male for all humans.
So there is no need to invent what is already there.
As for Ms., it was made into a third alternative. So you may not notice
because you are not female, but forms now all list boxes to check:
Mrs., Miss, Ms. Thus the whole point of it as a replacement for titles
defined by marital status is being masked. I note that we still have
only one term for men--"Mr."--presumably no one needs to pry into their
personal lives in the same way.
So rejoice, Peter: problem solved.
I also notice that the debate on generics continues without any response
so far to the simple linguistic history anyone could look up. (But
there are still many posts to open here.)
>>> [log in to unmask] 04/09/06 5:56 AM >>>
In any case it is politically correct not to use man as generic
in politically correct company.
What we need is some genius to invent terms for the generic and the
person singlar that politically correct people will accept, as they did
Ms, which, I notice, seldom gets used anymore.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nancy Gish" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:26 PM
Subject: Re: 'Tyger' and 'Vrka' (Was: 'Mind forged menacles' (sic) and
> As your own quotation shows, what Keats said is about the ability to
> characters speak from very different perspectives without forcing
> To be precise, what he said in his letter of December 1817 was the
> following: "what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially
> in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously--I mean
> Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in
> uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after
> fact & reason. . . . "
> That is not about everyone spelling individually--or ignoring
> conventions that both allow meaning and make possible the meanings in
> deviation. Keats. like Eliot, followed spelling conventions.
> That is not what Eliot said either. He said "But, of course, only
> who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape
> from these things." Escape is quite different from transcend.
> And, I'm sorry, but in fact "man" is not at all generic in modern
> English. It was in Anglo-Saxon, but its modern meaning is the adult
> male exclusive of the female (with the "generic" as a secondary
> meaning--exactly the opposite.) So the assumption is that it means
> totally opposing things: males AND females---and males BUT NOT
> That is why "all men are created equal" never was construed to mean
> women could vote or hold property or have rights to their own children
> or the money they earned or credit. It meant what was convenient.
> That is also why it is no longer accepted by most grammars. (See
> McGraw-Hill Guide to Equal Treatment of the Sexes.) Moreover, the
> notion that it is "generic" in some grammatical sense was thought up
> 17th and 18th Century grammarians (all men who, oddly, did not see
> irony) who claimed that the male was the "more inclusive."
> Keats and Eliot would have been taught that "man" was a grammatical
> choice, but we now know it was a political and gender choice having
> nothing at all to do with grammar. So I do not consider it excusable
> because it is just bloody rude (I don't at all mean you intended to be
> rude, but the claim just is--I am not in it, and I find that
> Even though it meant all humans in the Anglo-Saxon period, they also
> had words for men and women: werman and wifman or male man and female
> man. So there was then a "generic" as a third choice. Now there is
> a choice of a male or a female term, and the male is not inclusive.
> the OED. (One might--on the absurdist theory of "inclusive"--insist
> that we use only the generic "woman" because we do now know that all
> embryos are female initially. But I have never known of any woman
> enough to reverse 17thC gender bias.)
> OED Man II:
> An adult male person
> a. with special reference to sex.
> Lear: "Let not women's weapons, water drops staine my mans cheekes."
> -----now why cannot those terms be transposed?
> b. generically (without article: cf II) the male human being
> You praise him elaborately for his continuing claims to that
> don't name them; you respond to the posts in which he says them with
> endless thanks.
> >>> [log in to unmask] 04/08/06 3:06 PM >>>
> Negative Capability -- a dramatic virtue discerned by Keats in
> Shakespeare --
> he (Shakespeare) had the capability to impersonate (identify with)
> Iago as well an Imogen, a Shylock as well as a Portia, an Edgar as
> as an Edmund. This capability did not obliterate his own individual
> self/identity or his capability to be himself. But, as TSE observed,
> only a man who has a personality knows how to transcend it and be
> Except for the point, the
> still point,
> There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
> Likewise, only a man (I may be excused for using the generic term)
> knows his language (has control over his linguistic skills) is
> enough to take liberties with his language. My admiration of Peter's
> elucidation was limited to this aspect only. Maybe both of you
> on this point.
> Now where have I praised 'his commitment to not "knowing" any
> particular "language" that is consistent' ?
> ~ CR
> Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote: As it happens, that is not
> "negative capability is about." Nor is
> Eliot's theory of impersonality, though I fail to see how it is
> with "control." But as you seem to be completely in agreement with
> Tabitha and me and contradicting Peter since you focus on the
> with language of "a man" who "knows" it, why are you praising his
> commitment to not "knowing" any particular "language" that is
> consistent? "Taking liberties" with something already there is, of
> course, the point, minus the assumption of language being a male
> >>> [log in to unmask] 04/08/06 9:18 AM >>>
> I'm also reminded of Keats' "Negative Capability"
> in the context of Shakespeare. It's not a case of
> one's being a turncoat, a scarecrow that turns with
> every wind. Only a man who knows his language
> can take liberties with the language.
> Thanks again.
> ~ CR
> cr mittal wrote:
> Thanks, Peter, for your superb elucidation of
> "mind-forged manacles" vis-a-vis spellings.
> Your closing observation
> Is there a fear of loss of power through loss of control here?
> Dare we let ordinary people take back the language for themselves?
> Guess what? It doesn't matter. They're doing it anyway.
> reminds me of TSE's concept of Impersonality/Control.
> ~ CR
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