Grammarians call "Singular They" Abominable
As you realize that this matter is purely of a political agenda in the name of gender-inclusive or gender-neutral translation philosophy. It seems, in their attempt to politicize basic linguistics to portray the original language forms of using a generic he as discriminative, and to portray themselves as feminism in 20th century. They have violated the grammar rules for their politics, and I will try to demonstrate that there is no such thing as "singular they" which started only in the 20th century to substitute another absurd and misguided practice of "he or she"; these fancy constructs are as modern as pregnant men.
I notice some people arguing that singular they has been traced back to 1375. They would quote the Oxford English Dictionary, on the entry on They:
- In anaphoric reference to a singular noun or pronoun.
Use of they to refer to a singular antecedent has sometimes been considered erroneous.
a. With an antecedent that is grammatically singular, but refers collectively to the members of a group, or has universal reference (e.g. each person, everyone, nobody). Sometimes, but not always, used to avoid having to specify the gender(s) of the individual(s) being referred to; cf. sense A. 2b.
a1375 (▸c1350) William of Palerne (1867) l. 2179 Hastely hiȝed eche wiȝt..til þei neyȝþed so neiȝh..þere william & his worþi lef were liand i-fere.
c1450 (▸?c1400) Three Kings Cologne (Cambr. Ee.4.32) (1886) 6 Noman was hardy in all þat countrey to sette aȝens hem, for drede þat þey hadde of hem.
1548 Hall's Vnion: Henry VIII f. lxxxv Euery one visered himselfe, so that they were vnknowen.
1698 A. Boyer & J. Savage tr. P. Le Lorrain de Vallemont in T. Hearne Ductor Historicus I. ii. iv. 130 Leaving every Body to their liberty of believing what they pleas'd.
1749 H. Fielding Tom Jones III. viii. xi. 251 Every Body fell a laughing, as how could they help it. View more context for this quotation
1858 W. Bagehot in National Rev. Oct. 476 Nobody fancies for a moment that they are reading about any thing beyond the pale of ordinary propriety.
1874 G. W. Dasent Half a Life 3 Every one likes to keep it to themselves as long as they can.
1955 Househ. Guide & Almanac (News of World) 211/1 Everybody can make good pastry if they have the ‘know-how.’
2014 Dalby (Queensland) Herald (Nexis) 21 Oct. 16 Each member [of the women's touch football team] found something they could improve on in the future.
But all of these examples are not singular they. They are using everyone, everybody and each as collective, for the group. Some English professors would find this wrong, but I think this is not completely wrong, in case we assume everyone as collective. It becomes a trick question, and even English stackexchange answers don't give any substantial evidence for their assertions. Those examples can easily be discarded as bogus, to find cultural and historical support of the oxymoron "singular they".
However, nouns- anyone, no one are unambiguously singular, and they cannot receive the plural pronoun they. The real grammarians call this practice an abomination as they fight to defend and preserve the heritage and history of English as well as the logic in communication in this modern dark age. To quote from the preface of Gwynne’s grammar : the ultimate introduction to grammar and the writing of good English, originally published 2013, London:
Throughout the history of the English language up until the last few
decades, the pronoun “he,” when referring to an unnamed person, has
been used to include both sexes. In other words, it has been used for
two purposes: to refer to a member of the male sex in particular and
to a member of the human race of either sex. In Britain at least, the
second use was never considered remotely inappropriate or
uncomfortable—female speakers and authors used it in this general
sense without hesitation or objection....
This of course has changed, the use of “he” to embrace either “he” or
“she” now being held by some people to be offensive to women. The
result of this has been unfortunate, to say the least. Because saying
“he or she,” “him or her” and “his or hers” when speaking about people
generally is often disagreeably clumsy, a way of avoiding doing so has
arisen which is offensive to logic and common sense and shockingly
illiterate when in writing. In place of “he or she” and the rest, the
words “they,” “them” and “their” are now often used, even when
referring to only one person, as in “Anyone who considers this modern
practice acceptable has lost their mind.”
Given the weight of tradition and authority supporting the
all-embracing use of “he,” I could easily justify defending it
prescriptively and forcefully. I should, moreover, be in good company
if I did, even among recent authors. I give two examples, each from a
book that I wholeheartedly recommend in “Further Reading” at the end
of this book.
The up-to-date edition of The Economist’s authoritative Style Guide
says in a section called “political correctness”:
Some people believe the possibility of giving offence, causing
embarrassment, lowering self-esteem, reinforcing stereotypes,
perpetuating prejudice, victimising, marginalising or discriminating
to be more important than stating the truth, never mind the chance of
doing so with any verve or panache. They are wrong … Your first duty
is to the truth.
You also have a duty to grammar. The struggle to be gender-neutral
rests on a misconception about gender, a grammatical convention to
make words masculine, feminine or neuter …
If you believe it is “exclusionary” or insulting to women to use “he”
in a general sense, you can rephrase some sentences in the
plural … But some sentences resist this treatment: “Find a good
teacher and take his advice” is not easily rendered gender-neutral. So
do not be ashamed of sometimes using “man” to include women, or making
“he” do for “she.”
And, so long as you are not insensitive in other ways, few women will
be offended if you restrain yourself from putting “or she” after every
Simon Heffer, in his Strictly English, published as recently as 2010,
is if anything even more emphatic. His opening of the book is a
Preliminary Note titled “A Word About Sex,” where he says:
We have no single pronoun to cover the phrases he-or-she, him-or-her and his-or-her. An attempt has been made in the last century or so to
fill this void with they, them and their. I regard that as
abominable and want no part of it … I adopt the old rule that “the masculine will be taken to include the feminine wherever necessary.”
This implies no offence to my women readers. It implies my desire to
avoid the tedious verbosity of sentences such as “every writer likes
to ensure that his or her command of the language …” So when you read
“every writer likes to ensure that his command of the language …”
please be assured that I am thinking of Jane Austen, George Eliot,
Virginia Woolf and Barbara Pym as much as I am of anyone else.
Therefore, dear readers, I am compromising for one of only two times
in this book. On the one hand, I for the most part have taken trouble
to avoid using “he” to cover both sexes, though I never do what Mr.
Heffer regards as abominable—for instance, using “their” when
referring back to “anyone” or “no one.”
Jen Doll writing in the the atlantic 2013, laments about the irrationality of it:
Don't do something because it's easy and everyone else is doing it. If a word sounds like it's landing with a horrid thump in your ear, it's landing that way to at least some of your readers. Every time I see a singular they, my inner grammatical spirit aches. ..[ ].. The easy fix is not necessarily the best one, and they is not the solution to our pronoun ills. The singular they is ear-hurting, eye-burning, soul-ravaging, mind-numbing syntactic folly. Stop the singular they. Stop it now.
As we see, "anyone", "no one" kind of words leaves no room for confusion that they are singular nouns, unlike "everyone". How much more does the phrase an unbeliever or an inquirer in 1 Corinthians 14:24 NIV refers to singular nouns! It is a cultural disaster to destroy fundamentals of language this way.
Today almost all style guides and dictionaries such as the Chicago style guide 17th edition may approve the usage of the "singular they", or in the coming days may even a married bachelor, pregnant man, and a square circle for that matter. These have no validity in the linguistic natural rules of any language. Whether the modern translator's attempt to corrupt language for their theological agendas like changing the neuter gender for Spirit into masculine, or their practice of gender or changing the generic he or mankind for politics, it should not be accepted in a rational culture which claims to worship Truth. What began as an agenda labelling itself as feminism, did not take it many decades to start erasing the identity of women itself. The so-called pluralists and sensitive camp should not be surprised at our dismay and disregard for such translation. These minor things cumulatively build up into ignorance and illiteracy of literature, culture and the scripture that we witness since the 20th century.