Pronouns

They
They are going to destroy Ben Shapiro’s world. 

Oh good grief. are we talking about pronouns again? Well, Ben Shapiro is, and as expected, he’s utterly wrong. Wonkette has a nice take-down of his error-filled complaint about the singular “they.” He was apparently triggered by Merriam-Webster adding a definition of the singular “they” to the dictionary, so he wrote about it to create a safe space for himself.

Numero Uno: Modern American English usage is not, in fact, “all of human history.” Lots of other languages out there, quite a few of which don’t have gendered pronouns at all. Not that they count as part of “human history,” which began in 1776 with the foreFATHERS.

Numero Two-o: Even in English, Ben is wrong, wrong, wrong. Those politically correct Antifa wordies at the Oxford English Dictionary note the singular they being used in writing as far back as 1375, and point out that since usages generally exist in oral speech long before anyone writes ’em down, “it’s likely that singular they was common even before the late fourteenth century.”

Ben, being an ignorant soul, assumes that the stuff he’s familiar with has always been that way. In mere reality, the proscription against the singular they only dates back to the 18th century, when widespread, cheap printing led to a boom in literacy. And for that market there were any number of dictionaries and grammarians ready to tell the nouveau literate commoners just how terribly they’d all been sinning against logic and decency. That’s where we got the stupid “rule” against split infinitives. A number of influential grammarians assumed Latin is the purest language, and since Latin infinitives are single, indivisible words, they pronounced it “illogical” to boldly split English infinitives. Load of bollocks.

It’s such a dumb debate. We’ve been using “they” as a non-specific singular third-person pronoun for a very long time; the usage to refer to a specific individual is a change, but hardly the massive change some would have you believe.

As for the notion that having one pronoun be used for both singular and plural references is terrible, well, have you heard of the word “you?” Which refers to both individuals and groups of people? Somehow, we have not descended into chaos! If you’re really confused by all this, I recommend that you start using “thee” and “thou” for second-person singular to be consistent.

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