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  1. #1
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    Default take the bull by its horns

    In the English idioms section, to take the bull by its horns is given as
    Taking a bull by its horns would be the most direct but also the most dangerous way to try to compete with such an animal. When we use the phrase in everyday talk, we mean that the person we are talking about tackles their problems directly and is not worried about any risks involved.

    It doesn't sound right to me. Can you please help?

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    If you are referring to the apparent discrepency between the plural pronoun, their and its singular antecedent, person, there is an explanation.

    Modern English has traditionally used the gender-specific pronoun, his in these types of constructions where person could refer to a man or a woman. Many modern writers consider this to be sexist, or anti-feminist, so today more and more style manuals recommend using the non-gender-specific plural pronouns, they and their.

    Any of these is considered correct today (at least in American English).

    1. If someone is arrested for a crime, then he should have a fair tiral.

    2. If someone is arrested for a crime, then he or she should have a fair trial.

    3. If someone is arrested for a crime, then he/she should have a fair trial.

    4. If someone is arrested for a crime, then they should have a fair trial.


    Personally, I hate sentence 3 and would never use that form. In my own writing, I try to avoid these constructions, but when I can't, I just pick one and stay with it throughout the entire writing.

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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    1. If someone is arrested for a crime, then he should have a fair trial.
    2. If someone is arrested for a crime, then he or she should have a fair trial.
    3. If someone is arrested for a crime, then he/she should have a fair trial.
    4. If someone is arrested for a crime, then they should have a fair trial.

    Actually, I don't mind sentence 3. Sentence 4 still doesn't sound right to me but at least it doesn't sound as bad as
    we mean that the person we are talking about tackles their problems directly and is not worried about any risks involved.
    Can't we say 'we mean that the persons we are talking about tackle their problems directly and are not worried about any risks involved.'?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    Quote Originally Posted by queenbu View Post
    Can't we say 'we mean that the persons we are talking about tackle their problems directly and are not worried about any risks involved.'?
    The problem with replacement is that, well, for example, persons is as odd-sounding as their, wouldn't you agree? Why about, people or speakers?

    Another method, to add to mykwyner's post, and the one, I believe, preferred by more than a few teachers these days, is to rework the entire sentence by re-evaluating what it is you're trying to express to your audience. In this way, gender doesn't become an issue for the reader or the listener. For example, and in no particular order:

    1. Speakers who use this idiom are talking about tackling their problems....
    2. This idiom means to tackle your problems....

    This issue has been around for a very long time. Way back when, in graduate school, I joked about writing a paper on this very topic. I was going to call it "ee", pronounced [i:], a parody on a new pronoun for he/she.

    No matter how you switch the pronouns around, be it he/she (which isn't accepted by everyone: "she" follows "he") or she/he and s/he (which aren't accepted by everyone: they sound odd. "She" before "he"? And how do you pronounce s/he?). I suggested we get rid of those offending consonants. Thus: e/e, and since the slash (/) was no longer required, do away with that as well. Thus: ee. Then all we had to do was find an advertising company to sell it to speakers.

    My point at the time, who's the authority here, my grammar book (he) or my professors (he/she & she/he, s/he)? Which pronoun set do I use in my thesis!

    Thank the powers that be that someone out there realised we don't have to buy into their issue. Our generation has a slightly different take on what it means to be egalitarian and equitable: Make gender a non-issue. Reword the sentence.

    What do I teach my students? Exactly what you just read.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    In my own writing, I try to avoid these constructions. (mykwyner)

    Reword the sentence.(Casiopea)

    I couldn't agree more but the issue here wasn't on how you would write it but whether how it's written is correct or not.

  6. #6
    Red5 is offline Webmaster, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    Hi,

    Please see Tdol's blog for information about UsingEnglish.com's policies on Non-Gender Specific Pronouns.
    Red5
    Webmaster, UsingEnglish.com

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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    OK-Thanks a lot everyone. I do admit, I can be a bit of a pedant sometimes.

  8. #8
    Red5 is offline Webmaster, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    No worries. It's an interesting subject.
    Red5
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  9. #9
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    ...
    Thank the powers that be that someone out there realised we don't have to buy into their issue. Our generation has a slightly different take on what it means to be egalitarian and equitable: Make gender a non-issue. Reword the sentence.

    What do I teach my students? Exactly what you just read.
    Amen to that; (quiet at the back, it's not clever).

    But this thread led me to look at the Idioms section. Do we really say 'Take the bull by its horns?
    Google
    Web Images Groups News Froogle more
    Advanced Search
    Preferences
    Search: the web pages from the UK
    Web Results 1 - 10 of about 57,000 for "bull by the horns".
    but

    Google
    Web Images Groups News Froogle more
    Advanced Search
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    Search: the web pages from the UK
    Web Results 1 - 10 of about 116 for "bull by its horns".
    (and the first hit is this thread, which follows the Idioms section, so it's really 115!)

    b

  10. #10
    Red5 is offline Webmaster, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: take the bull by its horns

    Lol!
    Red5
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