Post by Robert Bannister Post by Quadibloc Post by James Nicoll
Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Mysteries Every True SF Fan Should Have
On Their Shelves
"Fan" is singular.
"Their" is plural.
Singular "they" and "their" have been accepted by all but the most
pedantic since the end of the 20th century.
The *end of the 20th Century*? You're trying to say that the rules of English
grammar can change - not in the mists of antiquity, say between now and the time
of Shakespeare - but in *living memory*? Like during *my* lifetime, between now
and when I went to school?
How _dare_ you attempt to suggest such nonsense!!!
Or, to put the facetiousness aside, and get serious...
Languages do change over time. That is indeed something we know to be true from
However, this same evidence shows that natural change in the basic grammatical
rules of a language is a very slow process. This is why, for example, it is
possible to identify Romanian as a Romance language rather than a Slavic
language, despite the large number of words it has borrowed from the Slavic
stock of words.
The use of "their" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun is not something that
arose organically as a change in the English language. It didn't spring up, say,
in the Bronx or Harlem, and gradually get adopted in other cities due to the
popularity of rock and roll music, and then end up being seen even in the
language spoken in that great reservoir of the true authentic language, the
nation's rural farmlands.
You know, like where they got Nynorsk from.
No. Instead, the use of "their" as a gender-neutral pronoun is *traceable* as a
conscious process - certain people on certain college campuses started calling
for it in the name of equality for women, and professors started deciding that
such language was acceptable in coursework, and the inclusive "he" was not.
So there _is_ an issue here, and I shall state it explicitly so that it might
not be mistaken.
Languages change. Even their rules of grammar change.
But they change naturally.
They are not changed by _fiat_.
And anyone who *tries* to change the grammatical rules of English by fiat should
not only fail, but fail so signally that such a perversion shall not be
Pedantry, or a preference for prescriptive over descriptive grammars, is not