Subject: Re: PART TWO: winning industrial-use of lisp:  Re: Norvig's latest paper on Lisp
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 19:44:47 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Tim Bradshaw
| I can only speak for myself, but I don't think `they' has died out.

  That has got to be the only use of a grammatically singular "they" I would
  approve of.  I mean, I really thought the example I gave would be a clear-
  cut clue of precisely what I was objecting to.  In the literature, which I
  thought it would be clear that I referred with "there is some record", when
  "they" is used with non-plural referents, it still remains _grammatically_
  plural, except with illiterate use of "they" as grammatically singular, which
  some people have indeed done in the past.

| I don't remember it being corrected at that or my subsequent school.

  As long as you kept writing "they are" instead of "they is", there would be
  little reason to correct it, unless, of course, the mismatch in number would
  be garish or highly ambiguous.  Suppose you have a co-ed sports team, they
  get a new player, and the coach says "You must treat them well."

| I still use `they' like this, and I don't make any particular attempt to
| speak or write in a PC way. I *hate* `he/she', alternating usage or any of
| these spurious things, I accept `Ms' but would prefer people - male or female
| - to use no title if they care.  I often say `England' when I mean `Britain'
| which is pretty unfortunate given where I live.

| Agreement goes syntactically, not semantically, so I say `they are' not `they
| is'.  This is similar to German `Sie sind' not `Sie ist' as far as I can see.

  Precisely.  However, what people really mean gets lost when some dirtbag goes
  bananas over some supposed mistake you never made, and the art of paying
  attention is considered irrelevant compared to the need to bash people's head
  in for opinions they do not hold.  Trying to rectify such twists of meaning
  because some idiot imputes a different meaning to you that everybody believe
  is so fucking annoying I think people like James A. Crippen should be beaten.
  When they case psychopaths like Thomas Bushnell to crawl out of his cave to
  abuse me for something that James A. Crippen invented, I get really steamed.

  However, again, precision in a native language appears to be a lost art.  One
  of the reasons it is so much easier for me than sloppy dimwits to be precise
  is that I _have_ had to make a conscious effort to learn languages (with lots
  of conflicting pronunciations and usages from people from all over the world
  as your English-speaking community, you cannot just mimick whatever people
  say around you), and I have studied Norwegian equally hard, mostly because
  the "native dialect" where I grew up is so goddamn ugly.  I try not to be
  sloppy, but when some native jerk uses his own sloppiness to accuse others of
  same, I think someone should have their head examined.  Goddamn losers.

| PS. I just had an interesting conversation with my partner who pointed out
| another similar usage in my dialect or its ancestors: `it' as a generic third
| person pronoun.

  I use that all the time.  Some people _are_ its.

| If you call someone's dog `it' then you are being fairly unfriendly - the
| polite thing to do is ask them if it's a he or she, and then use that.

  My queen (the supposed correct term for a female cat) goes by "she" when she
  is cute and "it" when it does something bad.  I do the same for children and
  people.  Unfriendly or not, unintelligent animal behavior should have a class
  of pronouns all to itself.  I'm not kidding.  I think it is fully proper to
  dehumanize idiots by revoking their right to be called by pronouns reserved
  for thinking people -- using "he" or "she" means you care enough about them
  as human beings (or pets) to want to know their sex, with "it" you could not
  care less.
  Guide to non-spammers: If you want to send me a business proposal, please be
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