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Forum, Oct. 6: ‘They,’ ‘them’ can be accommodated


Saturday, October 05, 2019
‘They,’ ‘them’ can be accommodated

The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse, writing in the Valley News as a grammarian (“A grammar nerd makes the case for ‘they,’ ” Sept. 24), defended the use of the plural third person “they” for people who do not conform to gender expectations. This prompted fresh thoughts, as did the recent decision at Dartmouth College to let students choose their own pronouns. Whatever one may think of the sociocultural implications of gender fluidity, the objection to using the plural “they” to refer to a single person is probably misguided. Consider that in grammatical constructions involving the first and second persons, we use plural forms for single persons already, without thinking it odd in any way.

Royalty, of whatever sex or gender, have habitually referred to themselves as “we” even when only one person was involved. Hearing a joke in questionable taste, Queen Victoria is reputed to have said, “We are not amused.” She was not speaking for her whole family, and it would be an error to conclude that she suffered from a multiple personality disorder, or that she had doubts about her gender.

In constructions involving the second person, “you” is a gender-neutral plural; the singular would be “thou” which is also gender-neutral. Furthermore, “you” was formal or respectful while “thou” was familiar. Nowadays we say “you” regardless of gender or number, and the distinction between respectful and familiar has been abolished. Among the last people who appreciated these distinctions were the Philadelphia Quakers who, believing all people to be equal, used “thou” for the singular and “you” for the plural.

It is only in the third person singular that the problem of gender-specific pronouns (her/him) arises, and if a person is gender nonconforming, it is possible by using the plural form to accommodate “them” quite easily within existing grammatical rules. Logically, “they” could also be accommodated by using the gender-neutral “it,” but most people would find that offensive, and courtesy should trump logic.

VIJAY THADANI

Norwich

The evil sexism of our culture

I am open to admitting that what I’m about to say perhaps illustrates my own internalized racism. Is anyone else troubled by the guilty verdict in the murder trial of the police officer in Dallas (“Dallas cop gets 10 years in prison for killing her neighbor,” Oct. 3)? Let me clarify: I believe that Amber Guyger, because she is a woman, was treated differently then white men accused of similar crimes.

In our culture — a culture that gives men a “boys-will-be-boys” pass on all manner of sexual harassment, that minimizes and marginalizes and objectifies women and girls at every turn, that allows rape culture to flourish while constantly blaming the victim for these crimes, that hides behind arguments of free speech when discussing the violence inherent in our pornographied world, or that holds women to an entirely different social standard then men — in such a culture, it feels troubling to me that most of the white, male police officers accused of similar crimes walked while Amber Guyger didn’t.

I’m not suggesting that Guyger is innocent. I’m not suggesting that the racism that drives such actions should be ignored. What I am saying is that in our culture, in our country, sexism pervades every nook of the American social fabric; that women and girls are held to a different standard then are men; and that we men, we fathers, we brothers, don’t really seem to care enough to speak up about these truths. I apologize if this letter seems to minimize or discount the racism that also tears us apart. I don’t apologize for saying that sexism is an evil we must commit to combating.

DAN WEINTRAUB

Quechee

Sen. Bennet offers path to victory

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will hold a town hall on Tuesday, at 1 p.m., at Colby-Sawyer College’s Ware Student Center. I encourage you to come and listen to one of America’s most thoughtful and effective leaders.

Bennet has been an important, pragmatic voice in the Senate since 2009. As a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” he co-authored a comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly and remains the framework for future reform. He has worked to reform No Child Left Behind, promote clean energy, preserve public lands, combat climate change and curtail the opioid epidemic. He helped write and pass bipartisan farm bills in 2014 and 2018, assisting our farmers and ranchers. He has called for a public Medicare option to increase the number of insured and wrote a book on election security.

Before politics, Bennet was an international lawyer and director of a major investment company that turned around failing businesses. As superintendent of the Denver public schools, he oversaw innovation and higher student achievement that continues.

Bennet serves on the intelligence and finance committees. His floor speech during the government shutdown went viral. I urge anyone interested in what real political leadership looks like to view it.

This progressive, results-driven record earned him a historically difficult election win and a reputation for taking difficult stances without compromising his values. As a “purple state” leader, he offers a winning general election path through victories in states like his, and ours. Not insignificant as you consider choosing.

PETER V. SPANOS

New London

Raise the ‘RINO’ flag

What has happened to the “Grand Old Party”? The Republicans I admired — and sometimes voted for — were people of honor, patriotism, courage and fiscal responsibility, as exemplified by John McCain and Dwight Eisenhower.

Many of the people who now claim to belong to that party have been called “Republicans In Name Only,” or “RINOs.” Perhaps those folks should forgo using the elephant as a symbol and adopt the rhinoceros.

FRAN R. HAUGEN

East Thetford