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Grammar Question: Themself?

jotatejotate Registered User
edited September 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
This has been bugging me for a while. From a recent post I just made:
Anyone who considers themselves to be a beer drinker...

I typed "themself" at first, but that doesn't work because it's not a word. You can't turn the "self" singular and leave the "them" plural. Then I typed "himself", but I'm not necessarily referring to only males. I'm not comfortable saying "themselves" (though that's what I went with) because the subject ('anyone') is singular.

How do you turn himself/herself/themselves into a sexually ambiguous yet still singular referral?

aquabat wrote: »
stilist wrote: »
aquabat wrote: »
Yeah, when I was 4 my penis was my second favourite toy. My first was my Thunder Punch He-man. The best moments of my childhood was when I combined both of those.
You punched your own wang?

Thunder punched
jotate on

Posts

  • mastmanmastman Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    oneself

    mastman on
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    B.net: Kusanku
  • jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    English has no gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. Go ahead and use the plural form, the alternative (himself or herself) is much more horrible even if it's technically more correct.

    Edit: Hmm, 'oneself', didn't think of that. I don't usually see it coupled with 'anyone', though.

    jothki on
  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Themselves is used for singular as well though I've read that themself is catching on.

    Quid on
  • IreneDAdlerIreneDAdler Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    My 8th grade English teacher told me that the grammatically correct way to refer to a singular sexually indefinite subject is "his/himself" -- as in, "Everyone should bring his own lunch to the picnic," though it seems like substituting "their/themselves" is becoming acceptable in this age of PCness. I suppose that this is akin to how, in Frech, a group of people is always referred to by the masculine plural pronoun, unless they are all female.

    IreneDAdler on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • MKRMKR Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    It might also be helpful to note that dictionaries are derived from language, not the other way around. I don't think there is an "official" version. My rule with things like this is to use what sounds right, and be consistent about it.

    As for it not being a word, the definition of word in most dictionaries allows for pretty much anything to be a word.

    MKR on
  • jotatejotate Registered User
    edited September 2007
    We, being the highest members of society, should invent a word for this. I don't care if "themself" is becoming common place and therefore acceptable, it doesn't make any god damn sense to use a pluralized referral to describe a singular subject.

    So it's like...himself or herself. 'Itself' implies that he/she isn't a person. Oneself...hmm, I guess that works, but I don't know if I like the way it sounds.

    How about "heshelf"?
    Anyone who considers heshelf to be a beer drinker...
    Yeah, that'll do just fine.

    jotate on
    aquabat wrote: »
    stilist wrote: »
    aquabat wrote: »
    Yeah, when I was 4 my penis was my second favourite toy. My first was my Thunder Punch He-man. The best moments of my childhood was when I combined both of those.
    You punched your own wang?

    Thunder punched
  • whuppinswhuppins Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    jothki wrote: »
    English has no gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. Go ahead and use the plural form, the alternative (himself or herself) is much more horrible even if it's technically more correct.
    I'm reminded of a Futurama quote... "You are technically correct -- the best kind of correct!" I'd use himself because it's the most gramatically correct choice, if not the most PC one. I think these forums can handle it without erupting in a self-righteous torrent of gender-bashing. Or, hell, use herself.

    jothki's right, though: You're not going to find a third-person pronoun that's both singular and gender-neutral. If this were a situation that demanded political correctness, I don't see why you couldn't rephrase your sentence to, "People who consider themselves to be beer drinkers..."

    whuppins on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    While not technically correct, "themselves" would be the way to go. That will be correct in another 5-10 years. "Oneself" is really awkward. You could use "him/herself" as well, if you were really concerned about correctness.

    Thanatos on
  • ConvaelConvael Registered User
    edited September 2007
    Thinatos wrote: »
    While not technically correct, "themselves" would be the way to go. That will be correct in another 5-10 years. "Oneself" is really awkward. You could use "him/herself" as well, if you were really concerned about correctness.
    Yea... I was always taught to use him/herself when referring to a singular.

    Convael on
  • jotatejotate Registered User
    edited September 2007
    Heshelf rolls off the tongue, though.

    This is almost frustrating enough to make me want to move to a non-English speaking country.

    Almost.

    jotate on
    aquabat wrote: »
    stilist wrote: »
    aquabat wrote: »
    Yeah, when I was 4 my penis was my second favourite toy. My first was my Thunder Punch He-man. The best moments of my childhood was when I combined both of those.
    You punched your own wang?

    Thunder punched
  • naporeonnaporeon Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    There is no suite of gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English language.

    I would suggest perhaps making one up, as I did in college. I used it in papers, footnoting it so that professors would know what I meant, and it worked fine. Well, it worked fine until one professor finally pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, that I would do better to make sure that in future I not select a stem that was already associated (in Latin) with men. Hahahaha...oops.

    That, or you could go really non-standard and just use "theirself", or even "themself". I don't care if it's not in the dictionary...the correct answer is never to just go ahead and use a plural in place of a singular.

    naporeon on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    naporeon wrote: »
    There is no suite of gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English language.

    I would suggest perhaps making one up, as I did in college. I used it in papers, footnoting it so that professors would know what I meant, and it worked fine. Well, it worked fine until one professor finally pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, that I would do better to make sure that in future I not select a stem that was already associated (in Latin) with men. Hahahaha...oops.

    That, or you could go really non-standard and just use "theirself", or even "themself". I don't care if it's not in the dictionary...the correct answer is never to just go ahead and use a plural in place of a singular.
    The evolution of the English language disagrees with you. :P

    Thanatos on
  • naporeonnaporeon Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Thinatos wrote: »
    naporeon wrote: »
    There is no suite of gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English language.

    I would suggest perhaps making one up, as I did in college. I used it in papers, footnoting it so that professors would know what I meant, and it worked fine. Well, it worked fine until one professor finally pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, that I would do better to make sure that in future I not select a stem that was already associated (in Latin) with men. Hahahaha...oops.

    That, or you could go really non-standard and just use "theirself", or even "themself". I don't care if it's not in the dictionary...the correct answer is never to just go ahead and use a plural in place of a singular.
    The evolution of the English language disagrees with you. :P
    Uhmmmm...I believe we've had this discussion before, perhaps even in real life.

    I understand--hell, I celebrate--the fact that language is a diachronic process, not a synchronic snapshot. I think it's part of what makes communication great. In my opinion, if you verbalize something, and you are understood, you are correct...understanding is obviously the foundation of all language.

    That being said, however, the written word is clearly not the same as the spoken word. Changes in writing protocol, while often occurring suddenly (see the last 130 years history of German orthography), generally take a long time to build up the requisite amount of steam. In order to maintain clarity and as universal an understanding as possible, written conventions generally move at a more...stately pace than spoken ones. This is a necessary evil, as I see it, and perhaps why you see so many "grammar nazis" clinging so desperately to their comically outmoded Strunk & White manuals.

    Still, I'm not sure that I'd agree with your apparent claim that the evolution of the English language is speckled with many words that have successfully transitioned from "correct" use as plurals into similar use as singulars.

    naporeon on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    naporeon wrote: »
    Thinatos wrote: »
    naporeon wrote: »
    There is no suite of gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English language.

    I would suggest perhaps making one up, as I did in college. I used it in papers, footnoting it so that professors would know what I meant, and it worked fine. Well, it worked fine until one professor finally pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, that I would do better to make sure that in future I not select a stem that was already associated (in Latin) with men. Hahahaha...oops.

    That, or you could go really non-standard and just use "theirself", or even "themself". I don't care if it's not in the dictionary...the correct answer is never to just go ahead and use a plural in place of a singular.
    The evolution of the English language disagrees with you. :P
    Uhmmmm...I believe we've had this discussion before, perhaps even in real life.

    I understand--hell, I celebrate--the fact that language is a diachronic process, not a synchronic snapshot. I think it's part of what makes communication great. In my opinion, if you verbalize something, and you are understood, you are correct...understanding is obviously the foundation of all language.

    That being said, however, the written word is clearly not the same as the spoken word. Changes in writing protocol, while often occurring suddenly (see the last 130 years history of German orthography), generally take a long time to build up the requisite amount of steam. In order to maintain clarity and as universal an understanding as possible, written conventions generally move at a more...stately pace than spoken ones. This is a necessary evil, as I see it, and perhaps why you see so many "grammar nazis" clinging so desperately to their comically outmoded Strunk & White manuals.

    Still, I'm not sure that I'd agree with your apparent claim that the evolution of the English language is speckled with many words that have successfully transitioned from "correct" use as plurals into similar use as singulars.
    I'm fairly certain that I see that particular convention used in writing very frequently (using a plural as a gender-neutral singular).

    Maybe I'm wrong, but the impression I've gotten is that that is a fairly standard use of the language these days, frequently even in more formal settings.

    Thanatos on
  • naporeonnaporeon Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Thinatos wrote: »
    naporeon wrote: »
    Thinatos wrote: »
    naporeon wrote: »
    There is no suite of gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English language.

    I would suggest perhaps making one up, as I did in college. I used it in papers, footnoting it so that professors would know what I meant, and it worked fine. Well, it worked fine until one professor finally pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, that I would do better to make sure that in future I not select a stem that was already associated (in Latin) with men. Hahahaha...oops.

    That, or you could go really non-standard and just use "theirself", or even "themself". I don't care if it's not in the dictionary...the correct answer is never to just go ahead and use a plural in place of a singular.
    The evolution of the English language disagrees with you. :P
    Uhmmmm...I believe we've had this discussion before, perhaps even in real life.

    I understand--hell, I celebrate--the fact that language is a diachronic process, not a synchronic snapshot. I think it's part of what makes communication great. In my opinion, if you verbalize something, and you are understood, you are correct...understanding is obviously the foundation of all language.

    That being said, however, the written word is clearly not the same as the spoken word. Changes in writing protocol, while often occurring suddenly (see the last 130 years history of German orthography), generally take a long time to build up the requisite amount of steam. In order to maintain clarity and as universal an understanding as possible, written conventions generally move at a more...stately pace than spoken ones. This is a necessary evil, as I see it, and perhaps why you see so many "grammar nazis" clinging so desperately to their comically outmoded Strunk & White manuals.

    Still, I'm not sure that I'd agree with your apparent claim that the evolution of the English language is speckled with many words that have successfully transitioned from "correct" use as plurals into similar use as singulars.
    I'm fairly certain that I see that particular convention used in writing very frequently (using a plural as a gender-neutral singular).

    Maybe I'm wrong, but the impression I've gotten is that that is a fairly standard use of the language these days, frequently even in more formal settings.
    I'm just curious about some examples of words that have started out plural, but are now A-OK to use in the singular...in written Standard English, mind.

    If it is really so frequent (which I am not really arguing...I just can't think of any examples), you should be able to point to many examples of this happening, in "formal" situations or otherwise.

    naporeon on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    naporeon wrote: »
    Thinatos wrote: »
    naporeon wrote: »
    Thinatos wrote: »
    naporeon wrote: »
    There is no suite of gender-neutral singular pronouns in the English language.

    I would suggest perhaps making one up, as I did in college. I used it in papers, footnoting it so that professors would know what I meant, and it worked fine. Well, it worked fine until one professor finally pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, that I would do better to make sure that in future I not select a stem that was already associated (in Latin) with men. Hahahaha...oops.

    That, or you could go really non-standard and just use "theirself", or even "themself". I don't care if it's not in the dictionary...the correct answer is never to just go ahead and use a plural in place of a singular.
    The evolution of the English language disagrees with you. :P
    Uhmmmm...I believe we've had this discussion before, perhaps even in real life.

    I understand--hell, I celebrate--the fact that language is a diachronic process, not a synchronic snapshot. I think it's part of what makes communication great. In my opinion, if you verbalize something, and you are understood, you are correct...understanding is obviously the foundation of all language.

    That being said, however, the written word is clearly not the same as the spoken word. Changes in writing protocol, while often occurring suddenly (see the last 130 years history of German orthography), generally take a long time to build up the requisite amount of steam. In order to maintain clarity and as universal an understanding as possible, written conventions generally move at a more...stately pace than spoken ones. This is a necessary evil, as I see it, and perhaps why you see so many "grammar nazis" clinging so desperately to their comically outmoded Strunk & White manuals.

    Still, I'm not sure that I'd agree with your apparent claim that the evolution of the English language is speckled with many words that have successfully transitioned from "correct" use as plurals into similar use as singulars.
    I'm fairly certain that I see that particular convention used in writing very frequently (using a plural as a gender-neutral singular).

    Maybe I'm wrong, but the impression I've gotten is that that is a fairly standard use of the language these days, frequently even in more formal settings.
    I'm just curious about some examples of words that have started out plural, but are now A-OK to use in the singular...in written Standard English, mind.

    If it is really so frequent (which I am not really arguing...I just can't think of any examples), you should be able to point to many examples of this happening, in "formal" situations or otherwise.
    I'm actually referring specifically to singular gendered pronouns being replaced with gender-neutral plurals. I don't think there really is a change other than that.

    Thanatos on
  • deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    "his or herself"

    Or, better yet, alternate within your entire writing. Use "her" the first time and "him" the second time then back to "her" and continue doing so throughout whatever you are writing.

    deadonthestreet on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Or, better yet, alternate within your entire writing. Use "her" the first time and "him" the second time then back to "her" and continue doing so throughout whatever you are writing.
    This, while not entirely incorrect, is a bad idea because it can become very confusing to the reader. You should decide on what you want to use, and consistantly use it. Switching like that makes for very poor writing.

    Thanatos on
  • naporeonnaporeon Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    Yeah.

    When forced to use a singular pronoun in a situation with ambiguous or uncertain gender, I generally just use "her", and stick to that throughout the document.

    One day, I will attempt to make up a new range of neutral pronouns, but only after careful research.

    :)

    naporeon on
  • SpecularitySpecularity Registered User
    edited September 2007
    According to my AP Style Handbook, "themself" (or "themblank") is never to be used in reference to a singular entity. "Oneself" or even "itself" is more appropriate.

    That said, both of those are really awkward, so unless you're getting graded by a grammar Nazi, I say use "them" as it's become a more comfortable term in everyday conversation. Even seeing the other two written down would make the reader take pause.

    After all, isn't "grammar" really just the ability to get your point across? It's been warped now to imply following a rigid set of rules, but I think being understood is more important. Just a thought, though.

    Specularity on
  • capable heartcapable heart Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    I'm as super grammar-fascist as anyone, and even I like the "themself."

    capable heart on
  • Dulcius_ex_asperisDulcius_ex_asperis Registered User regular
    edited September 2007

    After all, isn't "grammar" really just the ability to get your point across? It's been warped now to imply following a rigid set of rules, but I think being understood is more important. Just a thought, though.


    Absolutely true. We're discussing this in my Advanced Grammar course now.


    As for the OP, I'd say, "Everyone who considers themselves a beer drinker"


    makes sense? It sounds right to me.

    Dulcius_ex_asperis on
    there there, we all have urethras
  • darthmixdarthmix Registered User
    edited September 2007
    The most elegant solution is to make the subject itself plural. This usually doesn't alter the meaning of the phrase. Instead of
    Anyone who considers themselves to be a beer drinker...
    say
    people who consider themselves to be beer drinkers...
    When this isn't possible, give yourself permission to use a gender-specific personal pronoun. Just don't always choose the masculine pronoun. Alternate.

    Using "they" or "them" to refer to a singular subject is not just improper; it's logically incorrect. I frown on it.

    *frowns on it*

    darthmix on
  • Dulcius_ex_asperisDulcius_ex_asperis Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    darthmix wrote: »
    The most elegant solution is to make the subject itself plural. This usually doesn't alter the meaning of the phrase.


    Indeed. I guess Everyone/themselves isn't entirely the most correct way to do it, but I assume there is more than one person that considers himself a beer drinker. So I used everyone/themselves. But yours is better.

    Dulcius_ex_asperis on
    there there, we all have urethras
  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited September 2007
    jotate wrote: »
    This has been bugging me for a while. From a recent post I just made:
    Anyone who considers themselves to be a beer drinker...
    Mothafuckers who likes them some 40s!
    D:

    I would rephrase to say "themselves."

    MichaelLC on
    Jokerman wrote: »
    If sigs were still a thing this would be mine.
  • darthmixdarthmix Registered User
    edited September 2007
    darthmix wrote: »
    The most elegant solution is to make the subject itself plural. This usually doesn't alter the meaning of the phrase.


    Indeed. I guess Everyone/themselves isn't entirely the most correct way to do it, but I assume there is more than one person that considers himself a beer drinker. So I used everyone/themselves. But yours is better.

    Everyone/themselves is perfectly fine for its own sake; it's just not the most illustrative example of the underlying grammatical principle, since "everyone" is still technically a singular noun. (We say 'Everyone is waiting,' not 'Everyone are waiting.') There are a handful of singular nouns in English that invariably refer to a group, rather than just one person. For those it's generally acceptable to render pronouns in the plural form. There's flexibility. You can say "Everyone for themselves" but you can also say "Everyone for himself."

    The lesson remains that, in general, using a plural pronoun for a singular subject is a no-no. Yeah, I know that a lot of English professors and even some style guides encourage first-year writing students to do it. I don't care. It's awkward, sloppy English. Either convert your subject to the plural, or use a gender-specific pronoun. If you're worried about sexist language - and I do think it's appropriate to worry about such things - alternate the gender of your pronouns.

    darthmix on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited September 2007
    I think what it comes down to is that you can have two out of three: correctness, gender-neutrality, and good flow. If you want the first two: "oneself," or switch back and forth; the last two: "themselves;" the first and the last: "himself" or "herself."

    Thanatos on
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