On Tue, 19 Oct 2004 15:46:42 -0700, Elliott Lash <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>
> Poster:       Elliott Lash <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject:      English Usage: "THEY"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  I came across a strange usage of the word "they" in
> my speach today.
>  I was speaking to my father, saying:
>   "I was reading Frankenstein the other day, and they
> talk a lot about electricity in the introduction to
> this version"

This first example isn't strange to me. I often used this when I
didn't want to specify gender in flyers for work. Sometimes to make
things "equal" for everyone, instead of having to write he/she (which
is why I like Tagalog's "siya" it means either), to keep people happy,
I write they:

If a student comes to the third floor without a pass, they must return
to the campus service center so that they may obtain one.

I'd OKed it with my supervisors when i'd do this to make sure they
didn't have grammatical issues.

I LIKE that "they" is becoming an epicene pronoun.

>  "My friend and I were going down to the store. They
> like to get something to eat after class"  (or
> something like that.
> The second example makes more sense to me somehow.
> "They" here, indicates to me that I was trying to
> conceal the gender of the friend, or at least downplay
> its importance. It's kind of an epicene pronoun I
> suppose.

It has a strange feel to me, since we're talking about one person
here. If I want to use they as epicene, i'll sometimes include another
person (untruthful), or I'll simply just repeat "my friend".

> The Frankenstein example is weird though. Why would I
> conceal the gender of an inanimate object?  Was I
> referring to the editors/introduction
> writers/author/who?  I think, I was using "they" here
> as a kind of abbreviation of some sort.
> I guess I was using "They" as ...somehow referring
> back to the book Frankenstein and its ongoing creation
> as a ..sort of entity in and of itself.

If I were a listener who didn't have an idea that Frankenstein was
written by Mary Shelley, i'd have thought that you were discussing two
authors. When discussing literature i'd sometimes use "they" in a
similar fashion, but only if I were being very vague about it. It's a
stranger example, but not too strange to me.

You can turn away from me
but there's nothing that'll keep me here you know
And you'll never be the city guy
Any more than I'll be hosting The Scooby Show

Scooby Show - Belle and Sebastian