Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Who's They?

"Ask your real estate agent if they are a realtor." Who's they?
"Ask your real estate agent if he (or she) is a realtor."

"Someone bumped into my car, but they drove away." Who's they?
"Someone bumped into my car, but she (or he) drove away."

"My friend saw last night's Southpark episode, and they said it was funny." Who's they?
"My friend saw last night's Southpark episode, and he (or she) said it was funny."

I think it all started when grammar teachers decided that teaching students to diagram sentences was just too much trouble. Since many government school teachers are near-illiterate themselves, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

A number of years ago, I took a few of the elements of the UCSD Extension Writers Program. One of the classes was a grammar refresher. The first thing the instructor had us do was diagram sentences. Unfortunately, most of those in the class had never been exposed to sentence diagramming. Those few of us who had familiarity with it had, to a man (woman), gone to school in other states.

The problem with this shows up throughout the younger population. They can't put together a decent sentence in writing, and not really even in speaking. Stories of Freshmen in colleges and universities being unable to deal with English 101 are heard every year. I've heard thatat times in some colleges a majority of new freshmen have to take remedial English classes.

Today's youth can't speak, they can't write--neither can they scribble a legible sentence, nor can they compose a sensible sentence. I've been told by many younger adults, "I don't read very much." or "I hate reading." They don't read because they can't read.

Obviously, there are many young people who can read--they are the ones who become engineers, doctors, writers and even (shudder) attorneys. I suspect that those who study these things will tell you that these people had a lot of help, interest and pressure from their parents while growing up.

What's wrong with the sentences above? Both of the objects have to be either singular or plural. Agent....he. Someone....she. Friend....he. Or, Agents....they, etc.

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

2 comments:

TWC said...

when i was a lad Fullerton JC had 4 pages of bonehead english classes in the catalogue. The pre-req classes in real English, sometimes called English 100 numbered about 10.

Col. Hogan said...

What a coinc...

I took my English 100 class at Fullerton JC in 1971. First college class I ever took. Aced it!