Author Topic: Episode #700  (Read 25693 times)

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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #225 on: December 31, 2018, 10:56:11 AM »
Bachfiend: Just to call your attention to the problem here:
What I said was that you are not reasonable. Specifically, in this matter, your position is not subject to change via reason or evidence. You don't appear to be willing to talk about why you believe what you believe, so there isn't a lot to talk about.

Everyone: Am I right in thinking Bachfiend is making an appeal to antiquity?

(Edited for clarity)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2018, 10:59:04 AM by brilligtove »
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #226 on: December 31, 2018, 02:40:15 PM »
Bachfiend: Just to call your attention to the problem here:
What I said was that you are not reasonable. Specifically, in this matter, your position is not subject to change via reason or evidence. You don't appear to be willing to talk about why you believe what you believe, so there isn't a lot to talk about.

Everyone: Am I right in thinking Bachfiend is making an appeal to antiquity?

(Edited for clarity)

No, I’m not.  You’re the ones appealing to antiquity with the claims that the singular they has been used since around 1375 CE.

I’m objecting to the recent use of the singular they for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender in order to avoid ‘offending’ the very small percentage of people who consider themselves to be of a different gender to that recorded on their birth certificates, and would prefer the use of ‘they’ being used when people are commenting.

‘He’ or ‘she’ mean ‘one and only one.’  ‘They’ means ‘two or more, or possibly two or more.’

You lot apparently think it’s acceptable to write ‘I saw John Smith this morning.  They are the chairperson of the ABC Corporation’ despite there being one and only one person of male gender.

There are cases where the singular they are acceptable.  Such as when a single person is of unclear gender such as:

A person left the room carrying their cup of coffee.’ The person’s gender isn’t known, so ‘their’ could be used (although it might have been better to have reformulate it as ’A person left the room carrying a cup of coffee.’)

’Anyone can succeed if they try’ is the correct formulation.  Previously ’Anyone can succeed if he tries’ would have been acceptable, but no longer.

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #227 on: December 31, 2018, 08:51:26 PM »
That’s all I’m saying.  I’m open to other uses of the singular they, but not in this case. 

Apparently Louis CK agrees with you.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #228 on: December 31, 2018, 09:23:55 PM »
That’s all I’m saying.  I’m open to other uses of the singular they, but not in this case. 

Apparently Louis CK agrees with you.

It took me a while, but I finally found what you’re referring to.

My point is that it’s ridiculous to ruin the beautiful English language by using the singular they when referring to single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender when it makes statements such as:

I saw John Smith this morning.  They are the chairperson of the ABC Corporation

possible.  There’s one and only one John Smith being referred to, he’s obviously male, and he’s also the chairman of a public company.  And there’s little possibility that he wants to be referred as ‘they,’ or that he regards himself as anything but male.

Obviously, if you’re commenting about a person who does prefer to be referred to as ‘they,’ then you might consider acceding, but you’re not obliged to use the singular they when referring to the great majority of single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender when it produces mangled sentences and loss of clarity.  Another example would be the sentence ‘Alex left the room with their laptop.’  Whose laptop?  Alex’s?  Someone else’s?  Is Alex Alexander?  Or Alexandra?  Should it be ‘his’ or ‘her?’

« Last Edit: January 01, 2019, 01:33:41 AM by bachfiend »
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #229 on: January 01, 2019, 01:14:10 PM »
I'm not particularly good at the 'name that fallacy' game (I'm much better with cognitive biases). Here's what I'm thinking. Criticism and correction welcome, of course.

Analysing the Strawman Arguments
I’m objecting to the recent use of the singular they for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender in order to avoid ‘offending’ the very small percentage of people who consider themselves to be of a different gender to that recorded on their birth certificates, and would prefer the use of ‘they’ being used when people are commenting.

This post shows Bachfiend's straw man in two parts, I think.

Misinterpretation: "...use of the singular they for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender"
My position: If the person's gender if clear, use the relevant pronoun. Otherwise make assumptions and corrections if required, or ask.

Misinterpretation "...to avoid 'offending'"
My position: Use the person's preferred gender out of respect.1

Analysing Other Fallacies
I'm not clear on what the fallacy Bachfiend has engaged in is called - or even if it has a particular name. I guessed antiquity because it has an element of "because that's how it was" in it. I don't think citing the centuries long use of the singular they is fallacious in that sense... I was attempting to provide evidence to counter the claim that English has never used that construction. I am not clear that that is really a claim Bachfiend has made, however. I could well have misinterpreted or misunderstood his point, so that argument would be beside the point. I'd say related evidence that has been cited is probably on point and not fallacious, as it shows generally acceptable use (i.e., linguistics podcasts, lists of references, changing editorial standards in many publications).
_____
1I'm pretty sure that there are few people on this forum who think that I am motivated to avoid offending people.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #230 on: January 01, 2019, 02:38:57 PM »
I'm not particularly good at the 'name that fallacy' game (I'm much better with cognitive biases). Here's what I'm thinking. Criticism and correction welcome, of course.

Analysing the Strawman Arguments
I’m objecting to the recent use of the singular they for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender in order to avoid ‘offending’ the very small percentage of people who consider themselves to be of a different gender to that recorded on their birth certificates, and would prefer the use of ‘they’ being used when people are commenting.

This post shows Bachfiend's straw man in two parts, I think.

Misinterpretation: "...use of the singular they for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender"
My position: If the person's gender if clear, use the relevant pronoun. Otherwise make assumptions and corrections if required, or ask.

Misinterpretation "...to avoid 'offending'"
My position: Use the person's preferred gender out of respect.1

Analysing Other Fallacies
I'm not clear on what the fallacy Bachfiend has engaged in is called - or even if it has a particular name. I guessed antiquity because it has an element of "because that's how it was" in it. I don't think citing the centuries long use of the singular they is fallacious in that sense... I was attempting to provide evidence to counter the claim that English has never used that construction. I am not clear that that is really a claim Bachfiend has made, however. I could well have misinterpreted or misunderstood his point, so that argument would be beside the point. I'd say related evidence that has been cited is probably on point and not fallacious, as it shows generally acceptable use (i.e., linguistics podcasts, lists of references, changing editorial standards in many publications).
_____
1I'm pretty sure that there are few people on this forum who think that I am motivated to avoid offending people.

I’m not certain if we are disagreeing.  You seem to be saying that if you’re referring to a single specified person of readily ascertainable gender, then use ‘he’ or ‘she.’  If the person has a preferred gender different to that on the birth certificate, then use the pronoun preferred (and if a person does have a different preferred gender, then that person will almost certainly have changed his/her name to reflect the change, so that ‘I saw John Smith this morning.  He is the chairman of the ABC Corporation’ would be ‘I saw Joan Smith this morning.  She is the chairwoman of the ABC Corporation’ if John Smith had felt the need to alter gender).

If that’s what you’re saying, then we are in agreement.

It does leave the problem regarding Robert Galbraith though.  Is it ‘he’ or ‘she?’  Robert Galbraith is a pen name of Joanne K Rowling.

Am I committing a fallacy?  ‘They’ has always meant ‘two or more, or possibly two more.’  The singular they has never been applied to single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender until recently, when it was adopted as an ungendered 3rd person singular pronoun, instead of coming up with a new pronoun.

The commenters insisting on using ‘they’ for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender (such as John Smith or CarbShark) are the ones committing the fallacy in insisting that there’s a long historical precedent for something that never has existed until recently.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #231 on: January 01, 2019, 09:32:54 PM »
I’m not certain if we are disagreeing.  You seem to be saying that if you’re referring to a single specified person of readily ascertainable gender, then use ‘he’ or ‘she.’

Close, but not quite. You have specified your thought process on selecting a pronoun from the total list of "she" and "he". In all cases, my intent is to use the pronoun that the person prefers, as previously specified. My list of possible pronoun options includes "she" "he" "it" "they" or some other term if that is their preference.

Am I committing a fallacy?  ‘They’ has always meant ‘two or more, or possibly two more.’

The highlighted statement is why I asked if "appeal to antiquity" was an appropriate label for the fallacious argument. Whatever you want to call the error in reasoning, it is an error.

I'll start by looking at the generalized form of your claim, that "‘They’ has always meant ‘two or more, or possibly two more.’" We get:

Code: [Select]
[Word] has always meant [Definition].
This use of "always" makes this a claim that language does not change.[1] Absurd - or you are forced to claim that 'bad' meant the same think in 1890 as it did in 1990 (post Michael Jackson).

Admittedly, you didn't claim that all words always held the same meaning. You're making the smaller claim that
Code: [Select]
[Specific Word] has always meant [Definition]where the specific word is 'they'.

This does not hold up better than the general claim as it stands. Unless we can specify some selection criteria for the [Specific Word] we can just go through the dictionary with every word until we're back at the general case. We need to be able to say which word at least, and ideally why that word? What makes it special and unchanging where other words can undergo gay transformations.[2] I think your claim makes more sense if the structure of the statement is altered:
Code: [Select]
[Specific Word] means [Definition] because [Reason].
In this case the word is 'they' and the reason is 'always':
Code: [Select]
‘They’ means ‘two or more, or possibly two more’ because it has held that meaning for a long time.
That's a fine claim to make.[3] I'm honestly curious about what you believe and why you believe it. We can't talk about that until you recognize that your "always" claim is not based on evidence or reason.
___
[1]I'm stepping through an argument, not pulling a straw man on you.
[2]I do ask you indulge me a little sass.
[3]Perhaps it is based on a value you hold about preservation of meaning, or a desire for continuity. Personally, I prefer new words for new meanings over new meanings added to old words ('homosexual' over 'gay' for example).
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #232 on: January 02, 2019, 01:10:28 AM »
I’m not certain if we are disagreeing.  You seem to be saying that if you’re referring to a single specified person of readily ascertainable gender, then use ‘he’ or ‘she.’

Close, but not quite. You have specified your thought process on selecting a pronoun from the total list of "she" and "he". In all cases, my intent is to use the pronoun that the person prefers, as previously specified. My list of possible pronoun options includes "she" "he" "it" "they" or some other term if that is their preference.

Am I committing a fallacy?  ‘They’ has always meant ‘two or more, or possibly two more.’

The highlighted statement is why I asked if "appeal to antiquity" was an appropriate label for the fallacious argument. Whatever you want to call the error in reasoning, it is an error.

I'll start by looking at the generalized form of your claim, that "‘They’ has always meant ‘two or more, or possibly two more.’" We get:

Code: [Select]
[Word] has always meant [Definition].
This use of "always" makes this a claim that language does not change.[1] Absurd - or you are forced to claim that 'bad' meant the same think in 1890 as it did in 1990 (post Michael Jackson).

Admittedly, you didn't claim that all words always held the same meaning. You're making the smaller claim that
Code: [Select]
[Specific Word] has always meant [Definition]where the specific word is 'they'.

This does not hold up better than the general claim as it stands. Unless we can specify some selection criteria for the [Specific Word] we can just go through the dictionary with every word until we're back at the general case. We need to be able to say which word at least, and ideally why that word? What makes it special and unchanging where other words can undergo gay transformations.[2] I think your claim makes more sense if the structure of the statement is altered:
Code: [Select]
[Specific Word] means [Definition] because [Reason].
In this case the word is 'they' and the reason is 'always':
Code: [Select]
‘They’ means ‘two or more, or possibly two more’ because it has held that meaning for a long time.
That's a fine claim to make.[3] I'm honestly curious about what you believe and why you believe it. We can't talk about that until you recognize that your "always" claim is not based on evidence or reason.
___
[1]I'm stepping through an argument, not pulling a straw man on you.
[2]I do ask you indulge me a little sass.
[3]Perhaps it is based on a value you hold about preservation of meaning, or a desire for continuity. Personally, I prefer new words for new meanings over new meanings added to old words ('homosexual' over 'gay' for example).

You’ve formulated your comment in a poor way.  If you’re arguing that ‘they’ (however it was spelt) ever meant anything other than ‘two or more,’ then where is your evidence?

I’m not appealing to antiquity.  The proponents here of using ‘they’ to refer to single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender are the ones who are appealing to antiquity in that ‘they’ historically has been used in other ways, but not in relation to single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender.

The use of ‘they’ as the pronoun for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender is a recent development to satisfy a very small minority who want recognition for their self-identication with a gender other than the one they were recorded on their birth certificate as having. 

Using ‘they’ for all persons would be silly.  I don’t know whether everyone is obliged to follow suit.  Using ‘they’ for single persons loses clarity and information too.  Alex left the room carrying their laptop is possible using ‘they’ as the 3rd person singular pronoun.  Whose laptop?  Alex’s?  Someone else’s?  Alexander or Alexandra?  His or her?
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Offline swan

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #233 on: January 02, 2019, 09:29:54 AM »

Offline brilligtove

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #234 on: January 02, 2019, 10:44:37 AM »
* brilligtove sits back bemused as Bachfiend completely misses the point.

Footnotes and emphasis added by me for clarity.

You’ve formulated your comment in a poor way.  If you’re arguing that ‘they’ (however it was spelt) ever meant anything other than ‘two or more,’ then where is your evidence?[1]

I’m not appealing to antiquity.  The proponents here of using ‘they’ to refer to single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender are the ones who are appealing to antiquity in that ‘they’ historically has been used in other ways, but not in relation to single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender.[2]

The use of ‘they’ as the pronoun for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender is a recent development to satisfy a very small minority who want recognition for their self-identication with a gender other than the one they were recorded on their birth certificate as having.[3] 

Using ‘they’ for all persons would be silly.[4]  I don’t know whether everyone is obliged to follow suit.  Using ‘they’ for single persons loses clarity and information too.  Alex left the room carrying their laptop is possible using ‘they’ as the 3rd person singular pronoun.  Whose laptop?  Alex’s?  Someone else’s?  Alexander or Alexandra?  His or her?

TL;DR of my previous post: Your position is not supported by evidence or by logic. I did not make an argument about the meaning of 'they' in that post. The first bit describes my position. The second bit exposes the logical flaw in your position, and more generally in the position of any position that claims [word] means [definition] because [historical].

I'm honestly curious about what you believe and why you believe it. We can't talk about that until you recognize that your "always" claim is not based on evidence or reason.

To be fair, you could also demonstrate that my evidence or the reasoning based on it are flawed. You have done none of these.

___
[1]Your straw man, previously exposed. Related to [1].
[2]My beside the point error, previously acknowledged. Related to [2].
[3]Evidence that exposes the logical flaw in your position. I'm pleased you agree it is true.
[4]Your straw man, previously exposed. I have not taken this position, and agree that it would be silly (in today's English).
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Offline Swagomatic

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #235 on: January 02, 2019, 01:55:59 PM »
This is turning into an "Old Man Yells at Cloud" scenario. 


ETA: (and I say that as an old man with a history of yelling at clouds)
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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #236 on: January 02, 2019, 04:06:18 PM »
This is turning into an "Old Man Yells at Cloud" scenario. 

That's what they said.
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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #237 on: January 02, 2019, 04:23:01 PM »
This is turning into an "Old Man Yells at Cloud" scenario. 


ETA: (and I say that as an old man with a history of yelling at clouds)

My position is that with single specified persons, ‘he’ or ‘she’ should be used as the 3rd person plural pronoun if the gender of the person is known.  ‘It’ and ‘they’ should be avoided.  ‘It’ because it dehumanises the person.  ‘They’ because it lacks clarity, because in almost all cases it refers to two or more persons, often many people.

If the gender of the person isn’t known, then avoid the 3rd person singular pronoun.  Just repeat the name of the person whenever necessary.

If a single unspecified person is being referred to, then ‘they’ is acceptable.  Or reformulate it in the plural.

I saw John Smith this morning.  He is the chairman of the ABC Corporation.

This argument started because CarbShark originally quoted from a poem.  And then another commenter wrote that CarbShark’s quote was true.

Anyone can succeed if they try.

An American can do anything if they try.  Americans can do everything if they try.


Using the singular they for single specified persons of readily ascertainable gender lacks clarity, as in Alex left the room with their laptop.

Using the singular they to avoid offending the very small minority of people who prefer to be referred to with ‘it’ or ‘they’ is just silly and political correctness gone mad.  If there were gendered 2nd person singular pronouns (eg ‘youm’ for males and ‘youf’ for females), then they’d have cause for complaint.  But there aren’t any.

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Offline bachfiend

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #238 on: January 02, 2019, 04:25:03 PM »
This is turning into an "Old Man Yells at Cloud" scenario. 

That's what they said.

Swagomatic has said he’s an old man, so it should be ‘that’s what he said.
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Offline Swagomatic

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Re: Episode #700
« Reply #239 on: January 02, 2019, 05:00:25 PM »
This is turning into an "Old Man Yells at Cloud" scenario. 

That's what they said.

Swagomatic has said he’s an old man, so it should be ‘that’s what he said.

I would be okay with either pronoun.  I'm easy like that.
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