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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: December ::
Re: Language and Syntax
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1309  Thursday, 17 December 1998.

[1]     From:   Marilyn Bonomi <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Dec 1998 06:51:10 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: Plagiarism:sexist language versus ungrammatical same

[2]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Thursday, 17 Dec 1998 00:35:06 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1303  Re: Plagiarism

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Dec 1998 13:31:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1303  Re: Plagiarism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn Bonomi <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Dec 1998 06:51:10 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Plagiarism: sexist language versus
Comment:        SHK 9.1303 Re: Plagiarism: sexist language versus
ungrammatical same

Why not avoid the problem altogether and simply opt for the plural when
you are not talking about a specific individual student (or person)?

Instead of <<a student can far outshine their own previous work>> why
not, since "student" is generic rather than specific, say

"Some students can far outshine their own previous work"?

There usually are ways to be precise and grammatically correct without
distorting either meaning or language.  We just need to take a bit more
time to phrase our communication.  Because we don't take that time often
enough, our purportedly profound communications are riddled with errors
and weak expressions like the two in this paragraph: beginning w/ the
limp "there" and using passive voice in this sentence.

Yours for active, vivid, but ACCURATE language!

Marilyn Bonomi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Dec 1998 00:35:06 +0800
Subject: 9.1303  Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1303  Re: Plagiarism

>I applaud Lisa Hopkins for the courage to join the effort to reform the
>present male-oriented "syntax" (whose "syn" I might ask?) that forces us
>to chose among 1) male or female, 2) awkward he/she or him/her, or 3)
>plural, every time we use a pronoun. After banging my head against this
>hardwired sexist grammatical construction, eventually I opted for the
>far less obtrusive "themself," and damn the grammarians. If they don't
>like it they can come up with something that works better.
>
> Stephanie Hughes

This sort of thing is rather irritating. Critics carry-on as if syntax
is some sort of active male conspiracy to keep women under the thumb.
Given the focus on language of post-modern theory it is not surprising
that syntax has come under fire for sexism and maintaining power
structures, but I tend to find the debate somewhat trivial and
distracting.  Most, but not all -and not you Stephanie,  who get worked
up about the use of (e.g.) male pronouns do not know the first thing
about the grammar they criticise.

Still, if some wish to change the system, the onus is on them to come up
with a viable alternative. Maybe the OED will help: it has recently
dismissed the dangers of the split infinitive and, thank goodness,  it
now offers advice on when and how to use words so as to avoid
contravening the canons of political correctness (never mind "whose
'syn'?"; rather whose "political correctness?".  It cuts both ways)

Simon Malloch.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Dec 1998 13:31:21 -0500
Subject: 9.1303  Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1303  Re: Plagiarism

Stephanie Hughes wrote:

> > Lisa Hopkins wrote:
> >
> > > It is certainly true that a student can far outshine their own
> previous work.
> >
> > Does syntax count?
>
> Not in this case.
>
>I applaud Lisa Hopkins for the courage to join the effort to reform
>the  present male-oriented "syntax" (whose "syn" I might ask?) that forces
>us to chose among 1) male or female, 2) awkward he/she or him/her, or >3)plural, every time we use a pronoun. After banging my head against
>this hardwired sexist grammatical construction, eventually I opted for >the far less obtrusive "themself," and damn the grammarians. If they >don't like it they can come up with something that works better.

Sure.  How about "students can far outshine their own previous work"?
Why is it necessary to crucify grammar on a cross of correctness?

Michael Ullyot added:

>Larry's correction was duly noted, I'm sure, but cluttered the
>list with petty marginalia.

Perhaps, but it might also have added a little clutter of levity.
 

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