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Bug#263084: Please change sexist language in debian (English) webpages

On Wed, Aug 04, 2004 at 09:02:05PM +0200, Tobias Toedter wrote:
> On Wednesday 04 August 2004 00:59, Matt Kraai wrote:
> > I've fixed the incorrect usages in the pages you listed (except
> > for one in a DPL candidate's platform).  It would be helpful if
> > someone checked the rest of the site.
> First of all, thank you for this effort. However, English is not my first 
> language, that's why I wonder if it's common to use "they", "them", and 
> "their" when referring to a single person.

It's a reasonably common workaround for the lack of a real
non-gender-specific third-person singular pronoun in English, yes, and
has been in use as such for centuries.

There are occasional debates about its grammatical correctness, but I
believe that it sounds natural to most native speakers.

> At least in German this would be highly unusual (to say the least; I'd
> rather consider this a mistake).

I'd expect translators to handle it in whatever way is appropriate in
their language.

> Take this sentence for example (from vote/howto_proposal.wml):
>    "This is to prevent the Project Secretary from missing a proposal in the
>     huge volumes of mail generated on some of our lists and to prevent them
>     from having to subscribe to each and every list created by the Project."
> The Project Secretary is just one person, not a group. Is it still correct 
> to use "them"? I'm sorry to bother you with this, it's just that I've never 
> seen or heard such sentences.

That sentence doesn't feel at all unusual to me.


Colin Watson                                  [cjwatson@flatline.org.uk]

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