Can’t Find a Real Reason to Attack Someone? Make it Up!

I guess we all need to be aware of the use of gender specific pronouns in what we write.

Yeah, I’m referring to a post I saw today by our friend Jim the Firefighter that calls out one of The Usual Suspects for something so ridiculous, it boggles the mind.

The post by the Grande Dame concerns a short post by Sam Harris recommending a podcast by one Dan Carlin. It’s a quick post with a link to Carlin’s page and a recommendation from Sam to his readers to listen to the podcast.

Not much to complain about there, right?

Oh no! the problem is that in the first sentence, Sam dares to refer to his subject with gender specific pronouns. The massively sexist (I guess) sentence is this:

From time to time one discovers a person so good at his job that it is almost impossible to imagine him doing anything else.

I’m not sure what would have been acceptable since it is apparent that Dan Carlin is a man.

Maybe the following rewrite will help instruct Sam in the future:

From time to time one discovers a person so good at their job that it is almost impossible to imagine that person doing anything else.

When did it become unacceptable to use gender specific pronouns?

I realize that The Usual Suspects have zero love for Sam Harris but this is just trolling his site, looking for any excuse to attack him (There! I did it!).

Even more curious is where she (oops!) attacks Harris’ The End of Faith:

The End of Faith was like that on every damn page, and after awhile I couldn’t stand it any more.

Well, after 9 years, The End of Faith is still doing fairly well on Amazon. How about any of your books?

8 thoughts on “Can’t Find a Real Reason to Attack Someone? Make it Up!

  1. So, does it address the claimed sexism to restate as: “From time to time one discovers a person so bad at her job that it is almost impossible to imagine her doing anything else” – ?

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    • As I wrote in my tweet back to you, we should all start using “it”. Gender neutral. So:

      “From time to time one discovers a person so bad at its job that it is almost impossible to imagine it doing anything else”

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  2. “From time to time one discovers a person so good at their job that it is almost impossible to imagine that person doing anything else.”

    While “his/her” or “his or her” is quite clunky, I prefer that to using “their” to refer to one individual. You could call that old-fashioned, but what’s in my mind is that people are, in fact, individuals.

    On the other hand, when the sentence refers to a specific person – as Harris’ line did here – there is no reason to include both genders in the line, AFAICT. But YMMV. Or, Benson’s MMV 🙂

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  3. And “it”, while it might tickle some ppl’s funny bones, is not acceptable IMO. Shame on you. 50 lashes with a wet noodle. And other punishment disproportionate to the “crime”. 🙂

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    • I’ll take the punishment. I really don’t understand why I’m not allowed to use gendered pronouns. She’s a “she” He’s a “he” It’s “his” or “hers”; “him” or her”. Am I that stupid that I cannot use the proper pronoun for any individual?

      Does using the correct pronoun offend so many people that now we have to avoid using perfectly acceptable grammar?

      I need to ask my sister. She’s (oops!) a PhD in English.

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  4. First of all, to substitute “they” just doesn’t sound grammatically correct. Although it’s commonly accepted now in everyday speech, the singular “they” is still incorrect grammatically and a source of debate among academics.

    Substituting “he or she” is not only unnecessary (since we know the subject is a “he”), but I suppose that would also be discriminating against people who are intersexed, right?

    This whole thing is too stupid for words.

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    • It is stupid, isn’t it? I refuse to allow The Usual Suspects to defame those that are actually doing good in their professional lives as well as being spokespeople for atheism/skepticism.

      I see little skepticism from that crowd.

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  5. Sorry, but PhDs don’t count anymore. All that matters is “lived experience,” and you’ve had the wrong kind due to privilege. Best just to defer to OB on everything. She’s clearly a superior being.

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