In the process of grumbling about Air Google’s new digs, Warren Meyer notes:
By the way, if anyone read the fabulous book Barbarians and the Gate, they** will remember RJR Nabisco’s construction of a corporate aircraft palace in Atlanta marked the beginning of the end of that company’s fiscal extravagance.
Which, shortly thereafter, became the beginning of the end of that company, period.
But what I wanted to talk about was the footnote connected to “they”:
I know this is grammatically incorrect, but I am exhausted with English’s lack of a third person singular gender-neutral pronoun and hate saying “he or she.” English is a language built bottom up from actual usage, so lacking any better idea, I support “they” as the solution.
It’s a legitimate gripe, and “he or she” does sound somewhat clumsy. Still, I’ve used it fairly often, on those occasions when I haven’t decided simply to reword the whole sentence just to get out of using that particular construction. (And once in a while I’ll use “she” as the default, partly because of some vague concept of “fairness” and partly because I write stories in a fantasy universe with a preponderance of female characters.)
“They,” I suspect, can migrate from plural to singular; “you” did it, largely supplanting “thou” along the way. And what will we miss if — when — it does? Not much, really.