In a message dated 10/19/2004 6:47:11 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

>"I was reading Frankenstein the other day, and they
>talk a lot about electricity in the introduction to
>this version"

  >This got me to thinking about the word "they", and
>how I use it. I often say things like:

>"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 involves "they" used as a singular epicene (or "evasive
form" as some would say).  People have been using it this way for centuries, no
matter how much their English teachers complained.

It seems to me that the first one is a bit different.  In effect you're using
"They talk a lot about electricity" instead of "Electricity is talked about a
lot."  The referent of "they" is not so much epicene as vague, just like in
"They surf a lot in California."  "In France, they drink wine with most meals."