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Captain Kidd
2006-Aug-10, 12:20 AM
I'm being quizzed on the correct use of describing our brochure; is it flier or flyer?

Searching isn't helping as I've got a dictionary saying "flier," a university going with "flyer," and an agriculture site quoting the AP with "flier."

(I should have stayed with "brochure.")

Dictionary.com
flier (http://www.tfd.com/flier):
1. One, such as an insect or bird, that flies with wings.
2. The pilot of an aircraft.
3. A passenger in an aircraft: special fares for business fliers.
4. A pamphlet or circular for mass distribution.
5. A step in a straight stairway.
6. Informal A daring venture.
7. often flyer Australian An exceptionally swift kangaroo. flyer (http://www.tfd.com/flyer):

Variant of flier.

Washington State University
fllier/flyer (http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/flier.html)
An airplane pilot is a flier, but the usual spelling for the word meaning “brochure” is flyer.

AgComm
Grammar Trap: flier vs. flyer (http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/ontarget/0603/Grammar_trap.htm)
In other words, both spellings are acceptable, but as the dictionary definition indicates, “flier” is Number One and “flyer” is second banana. Some will try to tell you that one spelling is for pilots and the other is for handbills. Those people are wrong, and you shouldn’t listen to them. In fact, run from them. Fast.

Like any word that has different accepted spellings, it’s important to use one spelling to maintain consistency and avoid confusion. Most likely, these concerns are what prompted The Associated Press Stylebook to affirm that “flier” is preferred for both aviators and handbills, while “flyer” is reserved for certain proper names such as Radio Flyer.

Jens
2006-Aug-10, 01:23 AM
Americans usually use flier, and flyer is more common in Britain. I think that's basically the answer. So you can use either, really.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-10, 03:11 AM
WASU is wrong. (You'd think they'd have time for more research; Pullman is boring.) You want "flier." I, personally, have never seen "flyer" used in this context. However, going with "brochure" is a perfectly acceptable way out of the problem.

Moose
2006-Aug-10, 09:49 AM
You'll see 'flyer' in Canada (at least in the East), and rarely (if ever) 'flier'. As Jens points out, it may be somewhat of a 'color' 'colour' thing.

Captain Kidd
2006-Aug-10, 11:04 AM
My thoughts too.
OK, thanks all. It's what I thought it was suppose to be; I just wanted to make sure.

HenrikOlsen
2006-Aug-10, 11:14 AM
I checked my dictionaries,
Oxford Advanced learner has flyer=flier with no modifiers
Concise Oxford doesn't have it in the small leaflet sense, it's the oldest of my dictionaries.
Websters Unabridged had flyer as a technical term used in the textile industry and apart from that has it equivalent to flier.

Parrothead
2006-Aug-10, 01:37 PM
I'd go with flyer, as I'm used to terms such as "in-store flyers", the Friday community paper is filled with "weekly flyers", etc. Although, "Flyer" does also have a hockey connotation :p

farmerjumperdon
2006-Aug-10, 01:44 PM
We use flyer, but find pilot and brochure acceptable.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-10, 05:48 PM
My best friend's monster dictionary of doom says that "flyer" is preferred if you look it up under "flier," but if you look under "flyer," all it says is that it's a variant of "flier." She says that it's the only time her dictionary has failed her, and she's a little upset.

grant hutchison
2006-Aug-10, 07:03 PM
The current Oxford English Dictionary allows that "The forms flyer, flier are both in good mod[ern] use; in our recent quot[ation]s flyer is more common ..." The OED gives no spelling variation according to meaning.
The New Fowler's Modern English Usage opts for flyer, but suggests "[P]erhaps flier is the more common of the two forms in Am[erican] E[nglish]." Fowler himself, in the original MEU, liked flier for consistency, but noted that flyer was more common (in British English).

Grant Hutchison

Captain Kidd
2006-Aug-10, 08:14 PM
So... flip a coin?



;)

grant hutchison
2006-Aug-10, 08:40 PM
So... flip a coin?If I had to use that particular word, I'd go for flyer in the UK (and, by the look of it, Canada and Australia), and flier in the US. Seems like that way you'll hit the local majority usage, thereby minimizing the number of people who think you've spelled it wrongly.
In those sorts of situations, though, the line of least resistance is to find a less controversial synonym. Are you reluctant to use brochure because your publication is just a single sheet? If so, handbill might do the job, although it has a slightly antique flavour to it.

Grant Hutchison

LurchGS
2006-Aug-10, 09:12 PM
Flyer / flier strikes me as irritatingly similar to tyre / tire


-----

We now return you to your regularly scheduled donut

grant hutchison
2006-Aug-10, 09:25 PM
Flyer / flier strikes me as irritatingly similar to tyre / tireThe distinction seems to be a bit more clear-cut there: tyre as standard in the UK, and tire in the US.

Grant Hutchison

LurchGS
2006-Aug-10, 09:44 PM
no argument - myself, eye thenk the letter 'i' could well be removed from the Englesh language

Jens
2006-Aug-11, 07:18 AM
no argument - myself, eye thenk the letter 'i' could well be removed from the Englesh language

Sher. And so cood "u". Then yt wood be a lot easyer to rayt thyngs.

Van Rijn
2006-Aug-11, 08:27 AM
Sher. And so cood "u". Then yt wood be a lot easyer to rayt thyngs.

:naughty: That shood be "ryte" onless yoe are pottyng them on a scale or somethyng.

HenrikOlsen
2006-Aug-11, 06:44 PM
Ande yt wode be a lotte easyer to rante about thyngs as well.

Unfurtunately this looks more like a step back in spelling rathen than a step forward, so I really doubt it would happen:)

Gillianren
2006-Aug-11, 06:53 PM
Most linguists (at least that I've read) consider the greatest step forward in spelling to be its standardization. Granted, it's not complete (how many non-Americans hear that word as "standarisation"?), but it's a definite improvement. If we removed letters, we'd have to restandarize. It'd be a nightmare!

Captain Kidd
2006-Aug-11, 07:00 PM
Most linguists (at least that I've read) consider the greatest step forward in spelling to be its standardization.
I guess English hit a tripwire. :D

grant hutchison
2006-Aug-11, 07:23 PM
... (how many non-Americans hear that word as "standarisation"?) ... This non-American is lost, sorry. What's that about? :)

Grant Hutchison

compton
2006-Aug-11, 07:52 PM
Standardisation has a value, in helping avoid ambiguity when that is important eg science, law. Problem is that language isn't static, words evolve, their meanings continually change, as do their spellings! (eg when the colonists settled in the new world, the past participle of 'to get' was 'gotten', like 'to forget' was and still is 'forgotten'. The stay-at-homes though got lazy, and it got shortened over here to 'got', while in the US it remains as 'gotten')

I think standard spellings, and meanings for that matter, are important for situations like law and science. But 'real life' is more are fluid, less precise, and human expression doesn't flourish under such an unyielding master, and in general, I think spelling & grammar has gotten (!) an overinflated importance.

Maybe we should start using Latin for science and law?? As a dead language, its spellings and grammar could be 'preserved in aspic', clearly defined and reliable....

Tog
2006-Aug-11, 08:03 PM
I guess English hit a tripwire. :D

I saw a quote once and have no clue about the source.

"English does not borrow from other languages. It stalks them down dark alleys and bludgeons them into useage." or something like that. I'm sure the end is wrong, but I liked the idea.:p

Gillianren
2006-Aug-11, 08:05 PM
I guess English hit a tripwire. :D

Hey, it's better than Gaelic.

I've heard the "language evolves" argument a lot. Anyone who studies linguistics has. While it is true, that's no reason to throw rules out the window. If people don't have a standardized language (spelled "standardised" in many non-American, English-speaking countries), it makes communication difficult. Eventually, errors do sometimes become the new rule. However, letting people spell and parse things any way they want takes away comprehensibility for the sake of language changes that happen whether there are rules or not.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Aug-11, 08:34 PM
Exactly. Let the language evolve, but make sure everyone knows when something changes. Don't allow anarchy.

compton
2006-Aug-11, 11:42 PM
Hey, it's better than Gaelic.

I've heard the "language evolves" argument a lot. Anyone who studies linguistics has. While it is true, that's no reason to throw rules out the window. If people don't have a standardized language (spelled "standardised" in many non-American, English-speaking countries), it makes communication difficult. Eventually, errors do sometimes become the new rule. However, letting people spell and parse things any way they want takes away comprehensibility for the sake of language changes that happen whether there are rules or not.

Don't you think though that language is ultimately a very imperfect means of communication? After all, it's a big compromise - in order to convey ideas, we have evolved to produce sequences of vibrations in the air, because our ears are able to distinguish those vibrations.

If we draw up rules to define exactly what is and isn't correct, I think we reinforce the illusion that language is accurate and complete. There's a lot that can be done with it, especially in practical terms, but really there are huge gaping holes. A hole in language cannot be expressed, by definition!

In human terms, i think what is important is meaning. Language is about meaning. Meaning can be conveyed by distorting language, by inventing it, or even not using it. Outside of science and law, meaning is vague, it is subjective, and it is not important to nail it down.

tkingdoll
2006-Aug-12, 12:11 AM
In the UK it's 'flyer', but the distinction between a flyer a brochure here is vital because one is VAT-applicable and the other isn't :D

Disinfo Agent
2006-Aug-12, 03:35 PM
Hey, it's better than Gaelic.Irish Gaelic does have nightmarish spelling -- on par with English, it seems to me. (Although I don't speak Irish, I was curious about it once.) I guess it's mostly due to sound changes which the orthography did not follow.

That can make a language slightly harder to learn, but I like a little subtlety in spelling. It's nice to look at a word, and see a bit of its history. :)

ToSeek
2006-Aug-13, 06:49 PM
I saw a quote once and have no clue about the source.

"English does not borrow from other languages. It stalks them down dark alleys and bludgeons them into useage." or something like that. I'm sure the end is wrong, but I liked the idea.:p

The English language does not borrow from other languages.
It follows them down dark alleys, knocks them over,
and goes through their pockets looking for loose grammar.


Not sure of the origin, either.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-14, 04:53 AM
Don't you think though that language is ultimately a very imperfect means of communication? After all, it's a big compromise - in order to convey ideas, we have evolved to produce sequences of vibrations in the air, because our ears are able to distinguish those vibrations.

Absolutely. There is no perfect form of communication.


If we draw up rules to define exactly what is and isn't correct, I think we reinforce the illusion that language is accurate and complete. There's a lot that can be done with it, especially in practical terms, but really there are huge gaping holes. A hole in language cannot be expressed, by definition!

Here, I disagree. I don't have a single friend with whom I've spent a great deal of time who hasn't at some point said that there is no word for what they're thinking or feeling, and English has many more words than any other language. I think having rules ensures that, when we say something, other people hear the same thing as we intended them to. When there are no rules, there is no guarantee of that; in fact, the odds are against it.


In human terms, i think what is important is meaning. Language is about meaning. Meaning can be conveyed by distorting language, by inventing it, or even not using it. Outside of science and law, meaning is vague, it is subjective, and it is not important to nail it down.

Nonsense. How can you convey meaning without an understood baseline? Every word in your post had a long history. If you just made up words to express how you feel, you would have to define them in pre-existing words, or they would be useless. Yes, all words were, if you go back far enough, made up by someone. However, they do have to be defineable, and that takes words.

I do not believe that language is as precise as mathematics. However, I do believe it is necessary to have rules and to follow them in order for anyone to understand anything anyone else is saying.

Edit: Oh, and I have the "goes through their pockets for loose grammar" quote on a T-shirt.

Jens
2006-Aug-14, 10:33 AM
I think having rules ensures that, when we say something, other people hear the same thing as we intended them to. When there are no rules, there is no guarantee of that; in fact, the odds are against it.


I don't disagree with you completely, but that wording is pretty strong. Having rules does not in any way ensure anything. Often people read meaning into what others say from the tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. The word "great" obviously can have totally different meanings depending on how you say it. And a lot is even read from the situation. If a person cuts his finger and exclaims "Oh, great!" you will assume that it's meant negatively even if his pronunciation is wrong, i.e. he raises the tone of his voice at the end of the utterance.

And sometimes flaunting grammar rules is used to convey a certain message. A person saying "I ain't gonna take no s..t from you" conveys more aggressivity than someone who uses "any".

Also, the meanings of words (particularly adjectives) can change so quickly that dictionaries can't keep up with the changes (well, nowadays they probably can, but not traditionally). For example, when my grandmother used to say "it was a gay party," she meant something very different from how I'd understand it. And I suppose you could resist and say "gay should not be used to mean homosexual" but it would seem a bit Quixotic to me.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-14, 03:56 PM
I don't disagree with you completely, but that wording is pretty strong. Having rules does not in any way ensure anything. Often people read meaning into what others say from the tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. The word "great" obviously can have totally different meanings depending on how you say it. And a lot is even read from the situation. If a person cuts his finger and exclaims "Oh, great!" you will assume that it's meant negatively even if his pronunciation is wrong, i.e. he raises the tone of his voice at the end of the utterance.

True; I should have said "helps ensure." There are, as you say, places where tone is more important. However, if you said, say, "kumquat" in the same disparaging tone in which you said, "great," it would be pretty meaningless, simply because "kumquat" generally isn't understood as an expression of either approval or distaste. (Unless it happens to be a slang term no one's told me about!)


And sometimes flaunting grammar rules is used to convey a certain message. A person saying "I ain't gonna take no s..t from you" conveys more aggressivity than someone who uses "any".

Flouting. But yes. ("Flaunting" is showing off. "Flouting" is ostentatiously ignoring.) And I certainly grant the principle, as evidenced by the fact that I, for example, will start a sentence with a conjunction, as I've done twice in this very paragraph. However, I think you have to know the rules first. For example, if you always say, "ain't going to take no" instead of "aren't going to take any," it's not particularly emphatic or agressive when you do in that context, simply because there isn't any additional force behind it. Do you see what I'm saying?


Also, the meanings of words (particularly adjectives) can change so quickly that dictionaries can't keep up with the changes (well, nowadays they probably can, but not traditionally). For example, when my grandmother used to say "it was a gay party," she meant something very different from how I'd understand it. And I suppose you could resist and say "gay should not be used to mean homosexual" but it would seem a bit Quixotic to me.

Well, English majors can be quixotic (wonderful word, isn't it?). However, I believe most of us have left the ramparts of "gay" long since; the only people I've heard fighting that particular battle aren't fighting it for particularly grammatical reasons, if you know what I mean. As to dictionaries, it's actually harder for at least the print ones to keep up, because language is shifting faster now than it used to. This is in no small part because of the atmosphere of permissiveness; check out the least of "common but not preferred" or simliarly phrased terms in any good dictionary.

I think I do get rather defensive about the whole thing, but think about this. Say you, too, had spent years studying language. You'd gone to college and spent not merely time but money examining intricacies of the English language. You know how commas work. And then someone comes along who doesn't even do a courtesy spell check before posting and tells you that it doesn't matter, because language changes, and you knew what they meant anyway, right?

As my best friend puts it, yes, I knew what they meant, but I feel a little ashamed of myself for it. (You will note, by the way, that I am one of the English majors fighting for "they" as a gender neutral third person singular term.)

Thomas(believer)
2006-Aug-14, 04:12 PM
In dutch it is:

fly·er (de ~ (m.), ~s)
1 wielrenner die uitblinkt in tijdritten
2 strooibiljet

To my surprise it has two meanings:
1. A cyclist who is very good in time trials
2. A brochure for "throwing" in bars etc.

We borrowed the word from the english language. To write "flier" would be confusing in dutch, because this is pronounced as "fleer".

Jens
2006-Aug-15, 01:42 AM
I think I do get rather defensive about the whole thing, but think about this. Say you, too, had spent years studying language. You'd gone to college and spent not merely time but money examining intricacies of the English language. You know how commas work. And then someone comes along who doesn't even do a courtesy spell check before posting and tells you that it doesn't matter, because language changes, and you knew what they meant anyway, right?


I understand that. Actually, I run into dilemmas like that just about every day. Because I'm one of those "English specialists" who live outside of the native countries, doing work either translating (which involves some interesting questions) or editing and teaching.

And when I'm editing, I often find myself thinking that I'm really doing two things. One is very admirable: making things easier to understand. But then the other thing is enforcing stylistic issues that I don't necessarily believe in. For example, if an author is writing for a journal that prefers the use of the "royal we" even by single authors, then I will go through a paper changing that. And of course, it's quite evident that in terms of accuracy or comprehension, there's no advantage at all to using "we" or "the author" rather than "I." It's simply a convention.

And actually, I personally avoid using "they" for the third person singular, though I think it's actually a good idea. It's just something I have a hard time doing. Maybe I need a 12-step program. . . I'd almost prefer using "it" as a neutral pronoun for humans and non-humans. It seems like something that Gollum might say. "It's a good little girl." But I think that most people would resist being called "it." Oh, well.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-15, 02:00 AM
And actually, I personally avoid using "they" for the third person singular, though I think it's actually a good idea. It's just something I have a hard time doing. Maybe I need a 12-step program. . . I'd almost prefer using "it" as a neutral pronoun for humans and non-humans. It seems like something that Gollum might say. "It's a good little girl." But I think that most people would resist being called "it." Oh, well.

That is the problem, yes. English does have a perfectly acceptable third person singular gender neutral pronoun, but people are so set on being clearly differentiated from, say, tables.

snarkophilus
2006-Aug-15, 09:51 AM
You know how commas work.

Then you are in a distinct minority, you should be proud. ;)


As my best friend puts it, yes, I knew what they meant, but I feel a little ashamed of myself for it. (You will note, by the way, that I am one of the English majors fighting for "they" as a gender neutral third person singular term.)

I used to be something of a grammar Nazi, in the sense that I had trouble understanding people when they grossly misused the language, and I constantly asked for clarification. My friends thought I was just being a jerk, but it was more a matter of actually learning what we were taught in school since we were six years old and applying it in real life. When we were very young, from four to eight years old, most of the kids in my neighbourhood could use the word "whom." Then all the rest moved away, and it was pretty much just me left.

Many of the problems involved ambiguous phrases or phrases that didn't mean what the speaker intended. I think that most people don't even recognize when those cases occur, but when I hear a sentence with a "who" instead of "whom," for example, it still confuses me for a moment, especially when it gives a second possible meaning to the sentence. It's even worse when someone says "whom" but really means "who." I've long since given up correcting people (except for my little sister, as it is my duty to torment -- I mean, educate -- her regarding such things), but I'm still very much aware of it when I hear a sentence which might have multiple meanings.

My gender-neutral third person singular pronoun is "he." It's neutral, because it's grammatically correct and therefore as non-sexist as the person saying it. Someone once corrected the grammar on one of the printer instruction sheets in the computer lab, crossing out "they" and writing "he." There was an uproar from a very vocal women's group, with speeches in the agora and everything, until I stood up after they were done ranting and read from a style manual stating that it was grammatically correct. Of course, I neglected the usage clauses that supported the "they" position (which I think is quite silly -- sorry), but it did end the debate, for the most part.

I think the instruction sheets were later re-worded to avoid singular pronouns entirely, and everyone got back to worrying about computer science instead.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-15, 05:29 PM
My gender-neutral third person singular pronoun is "he." It's neutral, because it's grammatically correct and therefore as non-sexist as the person saying it. Someone once corrected the grammar on one of the printer instruction sheets in the computer lab, crossing out "they" and writing "he." There was an uproar from a very vocal women's group, with speeches in the agora and everything, until I stood up after they were done ranting and read from a style manual stating that it was grammatically correct. Of course, I neglected the usage clauses that supported the "they" position (which I think is quite silly -- sorry), but it did end the debate, for the most part.

I think the instruction sheets were later re-worded to avoid singular pronouns entirely, and everyone got back to worrying about computer science instead.

Which I think is the better option in formal writing in the first place, and is, in fact, the advice I give in my private grammar lessons. (Specifically, I advise to only use singular third person pronouns if the object is known.)

However, I think the stance is that the fact that "he" is correct is sexist. I happen to agree with such a stance, especially given that there have been, in the past, certain implicit assumptions wherein "she" was used instead, such as referring to those who cleaned or cared for children. In those cases, it was considered okay for "she" to be the third person singular unknown, but in no other.

LurchGS
2006-Aug-16, 03:47 AM
The English language does not borrow from other languages.
It follows them down dark alleys, knocks them over,
and goes through their pockets looking for loose grammar.
Not sure of the origin, either.

There's a variant I spotted on a t-shirt (when, sadly, I was effectively destitute).

"The English language does not borrow from other languages. It lures them into dark alleys and mugs them, then goes through their pockets for loose grammar"

However dark the sentiment, it's not terribly inaccurate.

And, with a tip of the hat to my favorite comma-hunter:
"Rules are made to be broken, but only when there is sufficient reason to do so."
(I've been unable to attribute this - there are dozens of variations all over the 'net)

Tog
2006-Aug-16, 06:57 AM
There's a variant I spotted on a t-shirt (when, sadly, I was effectively destitute).

"The English language does not borrow from other languages. It lures them into dark alleys and mugs them, then goes through their pockets for loose grammar"

However dark the sentiment, it's not terribly inaccurate.

And, with a tip of the hat to my favorite comma-hunter:
"Rules are made to be broken, but only when there is sufficient reason to do so."
(I've been unable to attribute this - there are dozens of variations all over the 'net)

Yeah, that was the one I was thinking of. (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=803156&postcount=23) :)

Disinfo Agent
2006-Aug-16, 02:19 PM
"The English language does not borrow from other languages. It lures them into dark alleys and mugs them, then goes through their pockets for loose grammar"I'm always amused by that quote. It seems that many English speakers think their language is the only one like that. :razz:

Gillianren
2006-Aug-16, 05:36 PM
It's not, of course--Japanese borrows quite a lot from English, for one--but it has been doing it to a great extent for a thousand years and more. What's more, it is more likely to borrow words for things it already has words for than any other language, hence the apparently uniquely English invention of the thesaurus.

Moose
2006-Aug-16, 06:08 PM
thesaurus.

It amuses me no end that the word thesaurus has no real synonyms.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-16, 06:33 PM
It amuses me no end that the word thesaurus has no real synonyms.

Not as one word, no. But "dictionary of synonyms" gets used sometimes, and that's a compound noun that ought to appear in a thesaurus.

snarkophilus
2006-Aug-17, 11:51 AM
It's not, of course--Japanese borrows quite a lot from Englsih, for one--but it has been doing it to a great extent for a thousand years and more. What's more, it is more likely to borrow words for things it already has words for than any other language, hence the apparently uniquely English invention of the thesaurus.

Japanese also borrows a lot of words that are already in use, simply because it's cool. If you grab the Japanese MSN messenger "knock" add-ons (they are little animations you can send to people -- I hate them, but people send them to me all the time), you'll see that 90% of the words displayed are actually English loan-words. "Harou" instead of "hello." "San kyu" instead of "thank you." They have perfectly good words already, but English is exotic-sounding.

It's not just English: it's as though every time they invaded China or Korea over the last 1500 years or so, they came back with a new set of grammatical rules, a new alphabet, or a revamped vocabulary.

Japan is the Borg of modern cultures, minus the whole universe domination complex.

Is the thesaurus uniquely English? A Japanese thesaurus would be very nice, except that one would have to be very careful about the connotations of using a synonym. In English, one can usually get away with using a word that doesn't mean exactly what is intended, but in Japanese, it's likely to cause offense. I wonder if such a thing exists. I've seen a word processor plug-in (so at least the language is rich enough to support the concept), but I haven't encountered a printed one.

Gillianren
2006-Aug-17, 04:42 PM
Bill Bryson, in The Mother Tongue, claimed it was, but I haven't checked to see if he's right. Because, you know, effort.

LurchGS
2006-Aug-17, 10:36 PM
I grew up being taught that 'he' is correct for any non-gender-specific third person reference.

"They", I'm afraid, drives me right round the bend - especially when used to denote a single individual (I include 'their' as well).

One of the more common tooth-gritters for me is sports announcers... variations on "everybody [in the crowd] got to their feet" just plain drives me nuts. Maybe I'm just old and set in my ways, but that kind of mis-use is as abrasive as an oxymoron, and nowhere near as funny.

Yes, in fact, I DO try to follow these rules in my colloquial speaking - even with my children (and yes, I call them kids - like goats, they eat everything in sight)

Gillianren
2006-Aug-18, 12:48 AM
I use "they" as third person gender neutral singular. I find it less grating than assuming everyone's a "he."

Disinfo Agent
2006-Aug-18, 02:58 PM
A "he" doesn't have to be a male.
On the other hand, "they" has been used as a singular since Shakespeare's time, at least.

Parrothead
2006-Aug-19, 12:57 PM
The one grammar error that irks me, from seeing it so much, is the use of "loose", where "lose" should be used. A fastener comes loose, rules can be interpreted loosely, etc. One loses something, a game, some weight, their mind, etc.

Moose
2006-Aug-19, 01:34 PM
"You get backstabbed by a level 6 rouge?" I don't know who to be more embarrassed for, the weenie who can't spell or myself for having gotten snuck up on by makeup.

Jens
2006-Aug-19, 01:57 PM
I grew up being taught that 'he' is correct for any non-gender-specific third person reference.

Well, you were taught wrong, apparently. The proper term is "she". You can use "she" generally, i.e. "every taxpayer should know that she is responsible for the nation's vitality." "He" should only be used in situations where it's implied that it's a male, i.e. "When using a urinal, the user should make sure to keep his feet at least 12 inches away from the bowl." ;)

HenrikOlsen
2006-Aug-20, 01:02 AM
What I tend to wonder at is why we have gender specific pronouns in the first place.

BTW, danish has thesauri (thesaurusses?), synonyms are not special for english.

Jens
2006-Aug-20, 05:14 AM
What I tend to wonder at is why we have gender specific pronouns in the first place.


Not all languages do, of course. In Mandarin, there is only "ta" for masculine, feminine, and inanimate, though they use different ideographs in writing. The pronunciation is exactly the same.

snarkophilus
2006-Aug-21, 07:51 AM
Not all languages do, of course. In Mandarin, there is only "ta" for masculine, feminine, and inanimate, though they use different ideographs in writing. The pronunciation is exactly the same.

But which ideograph do they use for the inanimate but indeterminate singular?

snarkophilus
2006-Aug-21, 07:56 AM
Well, you were taught wrong, apparently. The proper term is "she". You can use "she" generally, i.e. "every taxpayer should know that she is responsible for the nation's vitality." "He" should only be used in situations where it's implied that it's a male, i.e. "When using a urinal, the user should make sure to keep his feet at least 12 inches away from the bowl." ;)

From Strunk's Elements of Style, section V (http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk3.html).


They. A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as each, each one, everybody, every one, many a man, which, though implying more than one person, requires the pronoun to be in the singular. Similar to this, but with even less justification, is the use of the plural pronoun with the antecedent anybody, any one, somebody, some one, the intention being either to avoid the awkward "he or she," or to avoid committing oneself to either. Some bashful speakers even say, "A friend of mine told me that they, etc."

Use he with all the above words, unless the antecedent is or must be feminine.

Jens
2006-Aug-21, 11:43 AM
But which ideograph do they use for the inanimate but indeterminate singular?

"牠".

Though AFAIK, it doesn't matter whether it's determinate or not.

Jens
2006-Aug-21, 11:46 AM
From Strunk's Elements of Style, section V (http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk3.html).

Snarkophilus,

I was being facetious.

snarkophilus
2006-Aug-21, 09:39 PM
Snarkophilus,

I was being facetious.

My bad, but in my defense I've heard people actually argue that. :D

I think it's time that English developed a sarcasm suffix. Just a little -(xyz) to go on the ends of verbs when sarcasm is indicated. Perhaps solely for written work (it can be a silent suffix).

I'll even go so far as to suggest "duh" as this new suffix.

"I hadduh no idea."
"Foregoing proper medical treatment in favour of homeopathic remedies isduh a great plan."
"I loveduh American Idol."

snarkophilus
2006-Aug-21, 09:41 PM
"牠".

Though AFAIK, it doesn't matter whether it's determinate or not.

Sorry, I meant "animate but indeterminate." If one were to write the sentence, "A person should lock his doors at night," would he use the male character or the female character? Or would he perhaps use the inanimate one?

Donnie B.
2006-Aug-22, 12:25 AM
I think it's time that English developed a sarcasm suffix. Just a little -(xyz) to go on the ends of verbs when sarcasm is indicated. Perhaps solely for written work (it can be a silent suffix).

I'll even go so far as to suggest "duh" as this new suffix.

"I hadduh no idea."
"Foregoing proper medical treatment in favour of homeopathic remedies isduh a great plan."
"I loveduh American Idol."Not bad at all.

Another possibility would be 'heh': I really thinkheh that Bart Sibrel's on to something.

Jens
2006-Aug-22, 01:38 AM
Sorry, I meant "animate but indeterminate." If one were to write the sentence, "A person should lock his doors at night," would he use the male character or the female character? Or would he perhaps use the inanimate one?

Ah, I understand now. Yes, that's a good question. It's a tiny bit complicated, because (I'm not entirely confident of this) in Chinese it's common to say "person must ..." The word for "a person" is simply "ren" and "he/she" is "ta," so obviously there's no saving in Chinese to say "he" or "she" rather than "a person." Also, in Chinese it isn't always obligatory to use a subject. So you might say, "a man came. After enter, ate food." Again, I'm not really that good at Chinese, so I may be wrong. One point where this might come up is, since the pronunciation is the same, suppose a person is telling a story and uses "ta" without specifiying whether it's male or female. What would the transcriber do? I suspect they'd use the male pronoun, but don't really know.

Incidentally, in Japanese, which I do know well, there are two pronouns for people, "kare" for "he" and "kanojo" for "she". And you can never use either of them if you don't know the gender of the person. You would have to be "that person". But there still is a sexist element, because a group of mixed males and females would be the plural of "he" and not of "she."

Oh, and come to think of it, in Chinese it's the same. When there is a class of boys and girls together, you use the plural of "he" not "she." Though of course, this is only in writing. In spoken Chinese they're equivalent.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Aug-22, 11:31 AM
As I understand, the Chinese characters for "he" and "she" were created under Western influence.