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  1. #1
    sandrapinkoski's Avatar
    sandrapinkoski is offline Newbie
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    Question Himself/herself quandary

    Am editing a book and have once again come across the himself/herself sticky wicket. The way I have edited it is as follows:

    The moment one becomes a great leader is the moment he or she decides to take meaningful and unselfish action to help himself/herself and others achieve a successful outcome in a given situation. In the heat of the moment, if you have to tell people you are the leader, you probably aren’t.
    An example of this is when a bystander witnesses a plane crash and throws himself/herself into icy waters to save the lives of others who are at great risk.

    Is this acceptable or is there another way out? I certainly wish it would someday be correct to use the singular pronoun followed by the plural (i.e., they/their). The correct way seems so awkward.


    I would be most grateful for help with this.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    Empower yourself, Sandra. Read more here: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/gender.html

    Personally, I'd chose the option where it says to change the sentence to plural, but before doing anything you might want to check with the author first to find out how s/he wants it expressed.

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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    There are very good arguments to be made against my method, but, for me, I believe that English, like Spanish, uses the masculine form as the neutral/unknown/unspecified form. He/She or himself/herself, I believe, are not necessary.

    And perhaps, I get this slant from working with other more gender-heavy languages... to try to force English to be gender-neutral, we have to jump through he/she himself/herself hoops, but other languages have to start doubling adjectives, nouns, pronouns, adverbs and more.

    So, unless a language is naturally gender neutral, and has no he/she quandaries, I believe that a single gender, in this case masculine, does double service as the neutral gender.

    A boss needs to know the rules, if he does not, he is not a good boss.
    Un jefe necesita saber las reglas, si él no lo hace, él no es un buen jefe.
    Una jefa necesita saber las reglas, si élla no lo hace, élla no es una buena jefa.

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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert B. Mercer
    I believe that English, . . ., uses the masculine form as the neutral/unknown/unspecified form.
    Do you mean, "he" is used as a default?
    Please clarify.

  5. #5
    sandrapinkoski's Avatar
    sandrapinkoski is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    Thanks for the heads up! I've printed this out and will read it over and use it!!

    I really appreciate the fast reply!

  6. #6
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    sandrapinkoski is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    Thanks Bob, for the quick reply. I'm going to take these suggestions to the author and see what he decides to do!

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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    You're welcome.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    As a British English speaker, I am completely OK with the use of the plural for non-gender specific singular pronouns. I'd use 'themselves' there happily. Just as many languages, like French, use plural pronouns to be polite, I feel that the use of the plural could be regarded as politeness and accuracy prevailing over mathematical accuracy. In the UK now, this is increasingly the pattern used.

  9. #9
    sandrapinkoski's Avatar
    sandrapinkoski is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Himself/herself quandary

    Thank you for your reply. Interesting. The UK is fulfilling my wish regarding the plural for non-gender specific singular pronoun usage! Splendid -- wish my publisher would get with the program on that one. We colonies may not be far behind -- if I had my way that is!

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