Re: At peace with Debian (was: This is the last war...)
On Sun, Jul 14, 2002 at 04:20:18PM -0500, Kent West wrote:
> Jaye Inabnit ke6sls wrote:
> >I am, however, critically examining statements you have expressed in
> >this textual message.
> >>No professional
> >>in his right mind would use Debian on his business computers simply
> >>because most of the responses to his posts have nothing to do with the
> >>question, but are nothing more than personal attacks.
> >Do professionals have to be penis bearers (his)? What an odd statement.
> Can't really award you this point. For years (up until about 20 years or
> so ago), it was proper (American) English grammar to refer to a generic
> person as "he" ("his", "him", etc), whether the person in actuality was
> male or female. Then there was the "s/he" and "his/her" hybrid words.
> Now I'm not sure what the proper grammar is, but it seems that a lot of
> people now refer to a generic person as "she", or oscillate between the
> two sexes throughout the conversation.
The hand-wringing over sexist language went overboard in the 90's though
it did straighten out alot of overtly sexist language usage that had
straight-forward non-sexist alternatives. Unfortunately, English
doesn't have a neutral singular personal pronoun. I have a book here,
_The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing_, that makes a good case for using
the plural forms "they", "them" and "their" and brings up plenty of
historical English literature examples. Apparently, it wasn't until the
19th century that the use of "he", etc. as generic was promoted by
grammarians and even codified in some law.
The problem with approaches like s/he and his/her is they attract too
much attention to the language and therefore distract from the message
being communicated. Using the female singular consistently is better,
but it still brings unneccessary attention to the language and will
definitely sound as odd as "he" in some places.
So we could rewrite the above:
No professional in their right mind would use Debian on their business
computers, simply because most of the responses to their posts have
nothing to do with the question, but are nothing more than personal
Of course, I disagree with the assertion made in that statement ;-)
Eric G. Miller <email@example.com>
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