Re[2]: generic "he"

Subject: Re[2]: generic "he"
From: "Virginia L. Krenn" <asdxvlk -at- OKWAY -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 15:30:37 -0600

The current American Heritage Dictionary contains an extremely lengthy
"Usage Note" on the use of generic pronouns at the entry for 'he'. I will
make only a couple of short quotes from it. But, anyone interested in this
topic should probably read it in its entirety.

"Defenders of the traditional usage have argued that the masculine pronouns
he, his, and him can be used generically to refer to men and women. This
analysis of the generic use of he is linguistically doubtful."

"... writers who ... use the masculine pronoun as generic in all cases ...
must be prepared to incur the displeasure of readers who regard this
pattern as a mark of insensitivity or gender discrimination. When a
majority of writers are taking care to avoid the masculine as generic, the
writer who uses it in this way may invite the inference that there is some
pointed reason for referring to the representative instance as male."

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Author: Michael LaTorra <mikel -at- accugraph -dot- com> at SMTP

Jan Boomsliter wrote with regard to William E. Newkirk's

>Using the pronoun "he" to refer to all people isn't "the standard."
>That's the point of this discussion.

>but that doesn't change the convention that using
>"he" instead of a complex, convoluted noun-name in an effort to
>refer to the reader is the standard.


William is correct that "he" has been standard for centuries.
Jan is correct that this standard is no longer accepted by
many people, some because they hate it, others because they
fear retribution from the haters.

So the debate boils down to this: Who sets the standard?
That, my friends, is what the fracas is all about.

Live long & prosper,
Mike LaTorra

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