When someone from Britain speaks, Americans hear a "=?iso-8859-1?q?British=09accent?="...
hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Fri Oct 7 22:57:14 CEST 2005
On Friday 07 October 2005 06:24 am, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
> > "Some village in Texas is missing their idiot".
> > I personally found it odd (and essentially
> > non-grammatical) not because either the singular or plural forms should
> > be mandated but because this one manages to mix them up. So
> > "Some village in Texas are missing their idiot"
> > "Some village in Texas is missing its idiot".
> Yes, that's the puppy.
> I think where the people are getting confused is that it is (arguably)
> acceptable to use "their" in place of "his or her", as in:
In a Texas dialect, "their" is construed to mean "singular third person
of indeterminate gender". It's considered rude to use "it" to apply to
a sentient, and "his or her" is "PC" (and therefore a great sin ;-) ).
What's going on up above, is that "village" is being construed as
singular, but also sentient, since it's a group of people.
This is a simplification, since the actual grammar fluctuates -- I think
this is in the process of happening as the language evolves. Self-conscious
Texans simply try to avoid using constructs with an indeterminate third
person singular, substituting plurals wherever possible. So it's not
very consistent -- and quite a few of us attempt to assimilate our
speech to what we think is "Standard American English".
But you *will* occasionally hear pronouns here which do not occur in
"proper" English, such as "theirself" -- which shows what's going on
in the speaker's mind. They know the subject is singular, it's just
that you didn't realize that "their" could *be* singular. :-)
You also see there, the tendency to normalize reflexive pronouns to
the possessive + self form:
yourself y'all's selves
Whereas so-called "proper" English is inconsistent (read "broken"):
his or her self
The same thing happened to "you", of course, ages ago, which is why
we almost never use the ONE TRUE singular 2nd person, which is "thou".
In fact, hardly anyone remembers the correct thou conjugations of verbs
anymore. Or even that it *is* singular. I read an really annoying
book once which kept trying to say things like "thou are" -- if
you're going to use "thou", at least conjugate correctly!
It's "thou art".
Of course, just to keep y'all on your toes, we Texans have not only
construed "their" to singular, but also "you", and added a new
plural "y'all". As in "Why can't y'all get y'all's selves together
and understand that how a person talks is their own business."
Terry Hancock ( hancock at anansispaceworks.com )
Anansi Spaceworks http://www.anansispaceworks.com
More information about the Python-list