by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/05/22 10:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/05/22/8521124.aspx
The title of this blog is yet another episode in the grand tradition of titles that do not match the content they introduce, with no substantial comment about either the Office Assistant in general or the pregnancy scandal in particular beyond the intro, in red.
Clippy, originally referred to in Office 97 Beta 1 as a "Thin pulsating wire", ended up alongside Scribble, the paper cat. Earl the Cat (shown below) was an out-of-the-box Office Assistant known for being a bad boy who was willing to hook up outside his species but did not overlook the "pulp-based morsel" (his words) in the Office box, who helped Scribble end up in a family way with a pack of Post-it notes. Please note that (as of a few minutes ago) not even the Wikipedia page on the Office Assistant refers to either of the latter two characters or others like Super Pup and certainly never discusses the more sordid aspects of the existence of Clippy or Earl or Super Pup (aka Nazi Pup), a topic for a future blog that some speculate I lack the pair to write. Given the untrustworthiness of this Blog as an official source according to my management, neither this blog nor any of the content therein is suitable as Wikipedia source content unless other corroborating sources are found....
Please note that the use of they in the first sentence of the introductory note is not an example of "Singular They" since they was referring to the plural noun titles.
Actually, It is actually a well-known fact in my bizarre dialect of English that every blog or title that I write that is clever is female and the rest are male (welcome to my world, we have shirts that 23-year-old girls are reportedly willing to wear). Since (due to the aforementioned rule) the gender of my blog content is always known, "Singular They" is as unnecessary as (in the words of Connecticut's own Tom Troy, the man who taught me everything I had no real need to actually know including how to make a divorce take a lifetime to accomplish) tits on a bull, and further "Singular They" is only seen in this blog periodically because I am not plagued by consistency and I am plagued by a desire to tell language mavens to get bent anytime they complain to and/or about me....
Singular They is a pretty well-known and described phenomenon. Whether one looks at the article on Wikipedia, the three articles on the new Language Log site, the 46-some articles on the archive Language Log site, any of the other places on the Internet where you might go for such things, or even the one singular time I mentioned it here, there is little that is left to be understood about it.
Except maybe on Facebook.
Now almost everyone I know who I am friendly or cordial with who is under the age of 60 is on Facebook now, with only a few exceptions that contain in them enough venom to fell any normal man, even though most of them are not on my actual "friend" list.
I'll include here the people who have unfriended me, including the special subgroup of passive/aggressive twits who did so without saying a word, which is simply too weird for me to even try to analyze; given that those who informed me they were doing it had good reason, I suspect the others of lacking either (a) the guts to do so or (b) the spine to hold up their guts long enough to do so, and I just write them off.
Just the other day, Eric Bakovic was talking about it in Singular they on Facebook, though he gave Facebook a little too much credit, claiming:
So, for example, a news item from a specified-male Facebook friend will show up on my news feed like this:
John Doe added "fried chicken" to his favorite foods.
An item from a specified-female Facebook friend will show up like this:
Jane Doe added "pizza" to her favorite foods.
And an item from an unspecified-sex Facebook friend will show up like this:
Kim Doe added "burgers" to their favorite foods.
Yet I routinely see notices like this one whether people have noted their sex or not
I don't see it as much any more, which suggests the remaining times might actually be Facebook applications rather than Facebook itself.
(Other Facebook coverage on Language Log other places like here and here -- which cover other examples of what I am talking about here)
But if Facebook is going to take the time to handle her/she and him/he differences in addition to distinguishing the possessive cases, including the generic issue between he/she/they, I wonder why they can be so silly as to introduce phrases such as they has.
Couldn't they go the last mile to take care of these few additional cases? :-)
On the other hand, they still can't handle simple locale stuff like I mentioned in Saying you want to be 1,00,000 strong may not be (and often is not) a typo! or non-Facebook complicated stuff like I mention in In a much better position to handle inserts, so why should I expect the complicated English stuff to be handled well?
English is really hard, obviously. You has no idea how hard, probably (don't feel bad, since neither does they).
This post brought to you by p (U+0070, a.k.a. LATIN SMALL LETTER P)
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