A new scholarly interpretation!

bkpsusmitaa

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Sometimes, people have great powers to confuse and convince!
I am an occasional contributor to wikipedia.
Recently, an accomplished poster wrote to me for a single person, say, John:
Pinging John, since they seem to be the original target of this inquiry.
I was surprised. I wrote:
John is just one person who helped on an earlier query. Why did sir use 'they'?
to which the accomplished poster replied:
"they" is a gender-free pronoun, used in the third person to refer to someone else. It can be singular or plural.
I truly believe there is always something to learn even when one is quite aged. But I could not accept the apparently convoluted grammatical rule which appears totally new to me!
Could you please advise?
Regards
 

GoesStation

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It's not a convoluted rule. They and them are frequently used as singular pronouns. You can find such usage in the King James Bible, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and many more modern sources.
 

emsr2d2

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jutfrank

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What's more, it has become more prominent recently in Canada, the US and the UK as a gender-neutral way of referring to a transgender person.
 

SoothingDave

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When an unspecified person is being talked about it makes some sense.

This person is going out of his way to show that he is not assuming that "John" is a male.
 

bkpsusmitaa

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Thank you, GoesStation, emsr2d2, jutfrank & SoothingDave, for replying so quickly!
I am really surprised! I would need time to digest the fact!
I had once read that the form of English in King James bible and Shakespeare is no longer in use, and that Shakespeare is no longer taught in the most prominant British Universities.
Why 'they'? One could as well have used 'it' as a gender-neutral singular form!
I see that people love undue complications!
 

GoesStation

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It is unsuitable because we don't use it for people. They as a gender-neutral personal pronoun arose naturally from the spoken language. The centuries-long list of attestations in a thorough dictionary show that it has been used the same way in print.
 

bkpsusmitaa

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It is unsuitable because we don't use it for people...
Yes, I am aware of that too! But I just used the thought to express my dismay!

...The centuries-long list of attestations in a thorough dictionary show that it has been used the same way in print.
Any famous old dictionary source please? A snapshot, for instance? I am requesting because you all have been of so much help! And I can't shake off my disbelief! :)
It is there in Google, of course!
www.Google.com said:
they
ðeɪ/
pronoun
pronoun: they
...
2.
used to refer to a person of unspecified gender.
"ask a friend if they could help"
And Cambridge too!
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/they said:
...
used to avoid saying "he or she": "There's someone on the phone for you." "What do they want?"
But for late 19th and early 20th centuries?
 
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