Sunday, May 15, 2016

Gut feeling steers you wrong on potty wars

    One evening last summer. Dinner over, darkness settling upon suburbia, the citronella candles flickering. We're sitting around the iron table on our deck with old friends from the city, a couple and their 19-year-old son.

     The lad hunches over his phone, arranging to meet up with a buddy later, and refers to this friend as "them." His mother explains that the friend exists in some zone between the genders and so rejects the prosaic "he" or "she," instead going by the plural, "they."

     Just as I was smirking, thinking how strange this is, no doubt some practice bred in the superrich petri dish of The Latin School — the city kid's alma mater — my older son pipes up that he, too, knows someone from Glenbrook North who goes by "they." Now there's two. Nearly a trend.

      "What's wrong with 'it'?" I ask. "A perfectly good word."

     Harsh, yes, but I was viewing it from a grammarian's point of view. I didn't realize that the American Dialect Society picked "they" as a singular pronoun for the 2015 "Word of the Year"....

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  1. This is so silly. But of course pointing out that people are acting irrationally and even hatefully is counterproductive -- just riles them up.


  2. I hesitate to use the generic 'guys' when addressing a mixed crowd after being chastised once a long time ago by some women in the group as I said 'see you guys later'...


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