Everyone..his? their?

We have discussed the problem of "everyone..their", as in "Everyone should wash their own dishes"  I said: In the good old days "his" stood for both genders, but feminists denounce that as male chauvinism. "·His?her" is clumsy, so "their" is the lesser of two evils. From the UK. George Sassoon writes: I believe that in English law "his" stands for both genders, the concept being expressed as "the male shall be held to embrace the female"!Of course the question does not arise in Istvan Simon's native tongue, there being no gender at all in Hungarian. 

RH: Just five minutes ago I discussed this problem with a Stanford colleague. In the US the idea that the male embraces the female is male chauvinism. One could say the female embraces the male. Hence the American dislike of linguistic male chauvinism. George mentions "English law", and I suppose that is true also of American law, since laws were written in the good old days. As for new laws, I imagine the old rule is still followed.  I do not know Hungarian, so I consulted the chapter on it in the Compendium of the World Languages. While there are no genders, it is possible to distinguish between, say, a male teacher (a tanár) and a female teacher (a tanárnó).  Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language, like Finnish. Is Finnish likewise genderless?  How come?

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 8, 2004