Does "person" have a genre?

Nicolas   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 04:11 GMT
Although I made several searches on the Internet to find whether the word "person" is masculine or feminine (e.g. "Each person should bring her/his own lunch..."), all I was able to find as an answer was an old thread of messages posted here a few weeks ago. No definite conclusion was reached in that debate and the parties agreed that both should be used (e.g. "his/her").

Using both allows one to circumvent the problem in one's everyday writing, but from a linguist's perspective, not reaching a satisfactory answer is quite frustrating. Therefore, I allow myself to open the debate once again and to provide my own opinion, hoping that this may spark among the users of this bulletin board some new reflections.

I believe that since the word person derives from the French word "personne", which is feminine in gender, we should probably use it with "she", "her" and "hers" in order to respect its etymology. It is often used as a masculine word, but I do not see any logical reason to that, except tradition; and if one really wants to respect tradition, then one might as well go back all the way to the origins of the word and use the word "person" with the gender it had when it was first introduced in the English language.
Someone   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 05:10 GMT
English words do not have gender.
Tex   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 05:41 GMT
Unlike many European languages, English is blessedly free of gender. Why do you want to make it more complicated by resurrecting dead conventions? A lot of our nouns come from Norman French. Would you suggest we keep track of the genders of all of them, just so we can properly form the possessive pronoun for, say, "each flower"? What about the germanic nouns? Must we remember that "every door" is feminine, while "every boat" is neuter?

What possessive pronoun would you use with "Who", "everyone" and "no one"? What are the genders of those words? And really, who cares?

I strongly disagree that there is consensus on "his/her". "His/her" sounds stilted and artificial, and breaks the flow of a sentence. When I hear someone use it, my first impression is that this person is more concerned with being P.C. than with getting her point across (unless of course her point is to be P.C.)

It does bother me a little bit to hear people reinforce sexist occupational stereotypes with sentences like "every doctor has his own stethoscope", or "every flight attendant pushes her own cart". But let's be realistic - nobody in her right mind is going to think that "every person" is male just because I use the male possessive.

One amusing solution is to invent a completely synthetic word like "herm" or "shis". Use it, and I guarantee people will be ROFL. Except for Willy who will be taking notes.

I don't pretend to have the answer, but "his/her" certainly isn't it. Maybe everyone need to come up with they own answer. That's what makes a language live...
Someone   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 06:44 GMT
It's impoper, but most people use the the third person plural. One might say "They went to the store." even if it was only one person.
ssHHHHHHHHHHHH   Tuesday, May 04, 2004, 23:13 GMT
What do you mean by ''Does ''person'' have a ''genre''. What do you mean by ''genre''. Should ''genre'' be ''gender''.
Josh   Friday, May 07, 2004, 02:42 GMT
"His/her" would preferably be replaced with "their." Therefore, the following sentence would be "Each person should bring their own lunch." Instead of "Each person should bring her/his own lunch." His/her is not only gender oriented, but very confusing. Their is much more common.