Thursday, January 30, 2003


About six months ago, I was struck by a revelation, and since then I say and write, "he," and not "they" or "he or she" when referring to a person of unspecified sex. I realized that if the listener or reader is sexist and assumes that the individual of unspecified sex about whom I am speaking is a male, then the fact is just that - the listener is sexist. The language is not sexist. "He" has the meaning "third person pronoun, sex as yet unspecified." I can't believe I bought into that PC social engineering stuff. And it's nice to have my streamlined language back. There is no obligation to substitute "they" or "he or she" for "he". In fact, there is an obligation not to do so, since doing otherwise condones an important error. Plus, life can be humdrum sometimes, and going back to saying "he" can give you a giddy thrill in some situations, in which you are sure that some of your listeners are being rubbed the wrong way by it. Here you are thinking of your referrent as of unspecified sex, whilst a member of your audience is undergoing spasms of twee consternation. Hey, I have to get my kicks somehow.