E instead of He or She

Denis   Mon Oct 09, 2006 7:51 am GMT
Is it true that in English "E" sometimes used instead of "He" or "She" to address boths males and females?
If so, is formal or informal and how often is it used?
JW   Mon Oct 09, 2006 1:01 pm GMT
Shakespeare sometimes substituded "'e" for "he," but he did this only to mimic actual speech sounds. Personally, I have never seen the letter "e" used as a gender neutral pronoun. And I hope I never do.
-Q-   Mon Oct 09, 2006 2:13 pm GMT
In some dialects "he" is pronounced as 'e, as well as in rapid speech in almost every English speaker: thus the sentence (as spoken in rapid speech):

can mean either:
The stuffy nose will give him trouble
The stuff he knows will give him trouble.

Note however " 'e " can never refer to "she"; only he. Also, you don't address males and females with "he", you use "you". If you meant "refer to" instead of address, then yes, in informal, rapid, or dialectal speech " 'e" can refer to "he", but not "she" unless you are using "he" to imply reference to both males and females: "Every man must do all that he is able to do.", because in this sentence you are probably referring to all men/women.
Denis   Mon Oct 09, 2006 2:39 pm GMT
-Q-, yes I meant "refer to", not address.

I read an article which says that "e" is used sometimes to avoid writing "he or she", e.g:
If anyone detects smoke, he or she must raise the alarm immediately.
Guest   Mon Oct 09, 2006 4:14 pm GMT
Lazar   Mon Oct 09, 2006 6:08 pm GMT
As -Q- says, pretty much every English speaker (including me) tends to pronounce "he" as "e" [i] in rapid connected speech. For instance, I would normally pronounce "I hope he's okay" as [aI "h7Up iz 7U"k_heI].

That said, I (like JW) have never seen or heard "e" used as a gender-neutral pronoun, and I am not in favor of creating any gender-neutral pronouns. (The proposals I've seen include "herm", "hesh", and a bunch of others, and whenever I see them in text, I find them kinda annoying.) The fact is, English already has (and has had for centuries) a singular gender-neutral pronoun, which is singular "they". Singular "they" is still considered "informal" or "colloquial", but it's very widely used in everyday speech.