Friday, August 24, 2018

PRO/AH/EDR> MERS-CoV (29): UK (England) ex Middle East, RFI, correction

MERS-COV (29): UK (ENGLAND) ex MIDDLE EAST, REQUEST FOR INFORMATION,
CORRECTION
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Date: Fri 24 Aug 2018 14:54
From: Steve Hawkins <steve.a.hawkins@btinternet.com> [edited]


Regarding the use of "they" in the MERS press release [see MERS-CoV
(28): UK (England) ex Middle East, RFI
http://promedmail.org/post/20180823.5983079], I think you will find
this is not a grammatical error but rather a use of a gender-neutral
pronoun that is, increasingly, preferred to identifying or mislabeling
the person concerned.‎ For example, there may have been only a few
women on a flight from Saudi Arabia, making them easier to identify,
or the writer may have been instructed to use gender-neutral pronouns
in general so as not to upset anyone in gender minorities.

--
Steve Hawkins
Luton, UK
<steve.a.hawkins@btinternet.com>

[Many thanks to our subscribers in the UK and a Twitter follower of
mine in the UK for signaling a translation issue in my moderator
comment to yesterday's post [MERS-CoV (28): UK (England) ex Middle
East, RFI http://promedmail.org/post/20180823.5983079]. I erroneously
did not follow my initial instinct to add [s/he] next to each use of
"they" in describing the patient with confirmed MERS-CoV infection in
the UK. We/I have heard from several individuals in the UK regarding
the use of "they" (3rd person plural) as a singular pronoun for an
unspecified gender.

Note the subtle differences in description of this usage between
Oxford and Webster's dictionaries (the former being the UK-preferred
dictionary, the latter being the USA-preferred dictionary):

Oxford, "third person plural singular used to refer to a person of
unspecified gender"

Webster, "often used with an indefinite third person singular
antecedent
e.g., everyone knew where they stood -- E.L. Doctorow
e.g., nobody has to go to school if they don't want to -- N.Y. Times"

So rather than blame my poor knowledge of grammatical usage for my
moderator comment, I'd like to explain my interpretation based on
common usage in the USA, with our current preference to use "s/he" and
"him/her" when there is an unspecified gender.

That being said, an apology is due to Public Health England and the UK
government for creating any problems with my comment, and an
acknowledgement on my side that I am not as bilingual as I thought I
was. - Mod.MPP]

[See Also:
MERS-CoV (28): UK (England) ex Middle East, RFI
http://promedmail.org/post/20180823.5983079]
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