Friday, March 13, 2009

Everyone, Anyone, & Their Kin

‘Ain’t it the truth?’

Today we set aside theology and all that for another kind of complaint:  the way supposedly smart people use the English language.

Yes, yes, I know that not every occasion calls for formal English.  In conversations we often bend the rules.

But in public speaking, in written public announcements, and in related venues, I expect to see some attempt to use the language correctly.  We are in the midst of a severe pronoun misuse problem lately.

So, Americans, get this through your thick skulls:  the words ‘everyone’, ‘someone’, ‘anyone’ (and a few others related words) are singular, not plural, in number.

This means that if you want to connect any of these words to another pronoun, it too must be singular.

Here is the sort of mistake that has become common:  “Everyone can pick up their copy of the book at the door.”  It is clear to most people that ‘their’ is plural – plural possessive, in fact.  But it should also be clear that ‘everyone’ is not plural.  You can do a little experiment to convince yourself.

Would you say ‘Everyone is going to the store.’ or ‘Everyone are going to the store.’?  The second way sounds wrong, and it is, because ‘everyone’ is singular.

But, maddeningly, one constantly hears and reads in the public forum things like, “Anyone can can cash their check at our bank for free.”

Why is this mistake so common?  It has to do with the inane views of feminism.  What should be said is, “Anyone can cash his check at our bank for free.”  Sometime in the last twenty-five years feminists convinced us all that this is a sin, because ‘his’ is masculine in grammatical gender.  It was contorted into an insult to use good grammar in this way.

People tried things like ‘his or her’ and ‘his/her’ but these were too awkward.  So rather than rub the feminist sensibilities in the wrong way, we have resorted to perverting the English language.

Yes, this is yet another one of the many benefits of feminism:  bad grammar.

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