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Whoa, their!

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BY CHARLIE SLOVENSKY
Everyone has their pet peeves. This is one of mine, not theirs.
It used to be that everyone had his pet peeves. I’m willing to go so far as to say, “Everyone has his or her pet peeves,” in deference to a gender-sensitive audience. But the trouble with political correctness is that the full impact of the altered paradigm is not always thoroughly evaluated before the new status quo becomes established.
When it became acceptable to replace “he or she” with “they” or other various forms of “everyman,” it followed that the possessive “their” displaced “his or her.” But I simply can’t get used to “their” being used as singular. It clearly isn’t singular when you write, “Every hunter dreams of a gobbler making a beeline for their setup.” I cringed when I read that in a national magazine. I’m not citing the reference, because then I’d have to issue a citation to the author, and haul the editor and proofreader into grammar court as well.
I’m sure when two hunters are partnering on a tom, with one doing the calling and the other doing the shooting, it makes sense to hope the turkey comes to their setup. But “Joe and Dan” is not the same as “every hunter.”
When did it become grammatically acceptable to switch from singular to plural between a noun and its possessive forms? Have we become too lazy to deal with gender differences like “he” and “she,” or have we lost track of who “they” are? Why can’t we go back to using “his or her” as a gender-neutral, singular possessive expression? It’s neither “his” nor “hers,” but works for either and sounds a whole lot better than “their.”
Or, will it be, “to each their own?” Really? Is that next? ♦
—A member since 2002, Charlie Slovensky is from Dacula, Ga. He is a regular contributor to River Hills Traveler. Contact him at rs30019@bellsouth.net.
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