Himself vs Herself

Created 8 years ago by Matt,
Last updated November 24th 2009, 3:27:57 pm
I have noticed whilst reading numerous academic papers, blogs and articles etc., that the Authors tend towards using a the female term to refer to people of an unknown gender, whereas I always understood the default to be the male pronoun. for example: We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate Herself about the laws of the land: source I have often wondered to myself, why this is, I wondered whether it was that no-one would get offended at using the female term, but some might get offended if the female term was not represented. Maybe it isn't that at all, perhaps it's just lazyness, as the correct grammer would be to use both e.g. We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate Himself or Herself about the laws of the land: Suspended hyphenation may be accetable, Him- or Herself, but the nearest I could find to an appropriate shortened version would be to use Themselves (but not Themself), but I get the impression that is only acceptable in British English (En-UK?). I think I will try to use the full terminology. Does anyone know and English expert who can tell me the correct usage? :)

Comments

  1. I think it very much depends on the gender of the writer, in all honesty. I would tend to use 'himself', for example, where as a female writer may tend towards herself. The problem is that there is really no neuter proun that does the job. In French for example, I would suspect the default position would be to use lui or lui-même (masculine), unless the grouping was exclusively female (at which point you'd switch to elle). And, as many parts of English grammar have French origins, I would suspect a similar technique should prevail in English. In Spanish of course one could use the 'usted' form. The closest in English would be to use 'oneself', but this doesn't give the right sense becuae it would indicate the first person here, not the third. The easiest way of all is to avoid the construction if possible use something like: "We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for lay people to educate themselves about the laws of the land" - ds on Wed Dec 16 2009 15:11:52 GMT+0000 (UTC)