Monday, February 01, 2010

"Them"

I think the discussion about "inclusive" language is fascinating. I'm sympathetic with the traditional approach to pronouns, but one has to ask exactly what is traditional. For instance, in "The Blue Cross," a Fr. Brown mystery by Chesterton, one finds this sentence: "If Valentin's quick eye had caught a tall apple-woman, a tall grenadier, or even a tolerably tall duchess, he might have arrested them on the spot." I always thought this sentence would have required a "him," because of the "or" in the compound subject. Apparently not. And this was long before the pronoun wars and by a man who cannot be said to have been particularly sympathetic with the feminist linguistic or any other agenda. At least in the case of compound antecedents with an "or," them is allowable, even in traditional grammar.

My son the linguist thinks we should go back to using the southern ME pronoun "hem." I'm just joking. I don't think this would help at all. Nor do I think my son does.

2 comments:

Timothy said...

"Hem" hasn't entirely died out. We preserve it whenever we say "'em" instead of "them."

Robert Gotcher said...

Oh. We are all closet Cockneys, I guess.