Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


January 16, 2012

Stumptalk: Everyone must bring his book

CROSSVILLE — It’s “Everyone must bring his book” not “Everyone must bring their book” because “everyone” is singular and “their” is plural. The rule: a pronoun must agree with its antecedent. Since “everyone” is the antecedent, the pronoun must be singular. Grammatical symmetry dictates this English usage rule. So, why do so many misuse the pronoun “their”? First, probably from ignorance, which is no crime. Unless someone (such as this writer) has a special interest in English usage, he probably will not concern himself with usage minutiae. Next, “everyone” as a singular pronoun seems counterintuitive to some English speakers, so they intentionally and unashamedly violate the rule. Then we have the politically correct reason: using masculine nouns and pronouns to refer to both men and women is sexist.  

The last reason for misusing “their” demonstrates continuing feminist insistence on political correctness (PC). Other PC examples include tone deaf words like “chairperson” and “foreperson.” One can envision the eventual replacement of “human being” with “huperson being” because “man” is obviously the source of evil in the modern world. “Man” and “mankind” have always been used to designate both men and women, but to the PC crowd these designations are sexist.

In a radio PSA about children and homework, the president of the Tennessee Education Association (the TEA, which is the Tennessee branch of the NEA) tells “a parent” about the importance of helping “their child with their homework.” Now, if the august TEA president is unaware of English usage rules, here is the correction: “It is important that a parent help his child with his homework.” If, on the other hand, PC is her problem — the TEA president is female — but she still wants to demonstrate knowledge of basic English usage (which she should — after all, she is a teacher), she can say, “It is important that parents help their children with their homework.” That construction maintains grammatical symmetry, plural pronouns (their) with plural noun antecedents (parents, children), while avoiding use of the dreaded generic male nouns and pronouns.

How did it suddenly become necessary to abolish the use of generic male nouns and pronouns to stand for both men and women? Major blame falls upon the late Kate Swift who wrote The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing, which the feminist community quickly embraced, and with which cowardly men have refused to argue. Many men, especially politicians, mainstream news anchors, corporate CEOs, and academics, would rather walk barefoot across burning coals than risk being called sexist, racist, homophobic, or the epithet du jour.

The worst result of linguistic political correctness has been upon church hymns and English translations of Sacred Scripture. Recent English translations with “inclusive language” have removed much of the poetry from the Inspired Word.

And by the way, feminists invented the sexist language notion. The use of generic “man” for men and women did not result from some male conspiracy to exclude women but from the etymology of “man.” According to Jacques Barzun, “the Sanskrit root ‘manu’ denotes nothing but the human being and does so par excellence since it is cognate with the word for ‘I think.’” “Woman,” says Barzun “is etymologically the ‘wife human being.’”

Fortunately, most men and women react negatively to PC “inclusive language” when it goes too far, as most attacks on cultural tradition always do. For example, most people completely reject sex neutral references to God because in that context inclusive language is like fingernails on a chalkboard; only PC people dislike referring to God as “Him.”

I doubt that in public discourse we will ever have to endure such constructions as “Founding Persons” for Founding Fathers or “Forepeople” for Forefathers, but readers should not be surprised if such constructions sneak into their children’s schoolbooks. PC cultural nihilism usually rules there.

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014