The Anonymous Gender

Pronoun usage is flawed.  For one thing, the English language doesn’t have a pronoun for an anonymous gender, though some have tried to invent one.

We’re either male, female, or neuter, and hardly anyone cares to be thought of as neuter in this sexually oriented world.

And we certainly know a squirrel is not neuter.  So why do we refer to it as ‘it.’  Or as ‘he’ even if it’s a ‘she?’

It’s because ‘he’ was once the generic gender.  It required us to say, “The pupil raised his hand,” even if we didn’t know the pupil’s gender.  I always felt uncomfortable using the generic gender when I might have meant ‘she’, as much as ‘he’.

Nowadays most writers swing back and forth, using the female pronoun as much the male.  I derive no comfort from that.  It sounds contrived.

Using ‘one’ might be the answer, but it doesn’t always work out.  “The pupil raised one’s hand.”  Naw.

I’d feel more comfortable if we all used ‘they’ as a singular pronoun just as we do when speaking informally.  Such usage has been around for a long time and is well understood.  “The pupil raised their hand.”

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