Today’s earlier post presented me with one of my least-favorite grammatical dilemmas: which pronoun to use in concert with a non-gendered word such as “anyone” or “someone.” The sentence in question was, “And anyone who believes his promises deserves what they get: betrayal,” which is grammatically incorrect.
It wasn’t always such a problem. The default position used to be the pronoun “he,” which for centuries had stood in quite nicely for both men and women. But years ago it became a sexist no-no, and that left us with the PC but horribly graceless construction “he/she.”
Those of us who care about words and grammar are faced with a terrible dilemma. Do we go with the old-fashioned “he” or do we choose abominable “he/she,” or do we circumvent both by allowing ourselves the error of using the plural “they,” which does not conform to the singular “anyone,” but at least agrees with it in its lack of gender specificity? Or do we finesse the problem altogether by doing away with the sometimes-useful word “anyone” and go with a plural such as “people,” which allows us to use the gender-neutral “they?” I find myself alternating among the solutions rather randomly, sometimes choosing one and sometimes another, none of them particularly satisfactory.
You may laugh at these archaic little agonies of the grammatically persnickety. But those of us who care are stalwartly manning (that is, manning/womaning) the ramparts against the chaos of a linguistic free-for-all.
[NOTE: As usual when writing about grammar, I have checked and double-checked this post—because it is invariably the case that such essays are fraught with grammatical errors that seem stubbornly uncatchable.]