Ulysses 1.5 on MacUpdate promo

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KB
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Wed Apr 18, 2007 5:56 pm Post

Maria wrote:
Timotheus wrote:I just read on another site:

"The user can decide how many windows they wish to have open at any one time".

Should we express ourselves in similar ways?


Timotheus,

I do not think we should. It is a problem, and getting around is difficult, sometimes impossible. But sometimes it is, like in your example:

"Users can decide how many windows they wish to have open at any one time".

Maria


Actually, Im all in favour of this move. Yes, I know, "they" is generally the plural, so technically this is grammatically incorrect, but I think it is moving towards grammatically correct.

The trouble is that, in English, the third person impersonal (uh, or whatever it's called) is somewhat out of fashion. Historically, it would be "one", as in:

Code: Select all

One can decide how many windows one wishes to have open at any one time.


But nowadays we associate such archaic language with period drama. We need an alternative. When you do a degree in England, you get handed a manual laying down the law about what is acceptable language in an essay or dissertation. One rule is always that you must use "his or her" - which, whilst politically correct, is somewhat exhausting. At the same time, "his" really jars in modern contexts. So, I think we do need something to replace "one". And "they" is what we all use in the vernacular (well, except for Eats Shoots and Leaves snobs, I guess), so it makes sense to start making it official. Language changes, and that's a good thing, methinks. :)

All the best,
Keith

P.S. Welcome to Fehnman - I haven't really been following this thread until now, but I'm happy to see you in the discussion. 1.5 looks great.

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Wed Apr 18, 2007 6:22 pm Post

Timotheus wrote:I just read on another site:

"The user can decide how many windows they wish to have open at any one time".

Should we express ourselves in similar ways?


That's too passive. It would read better if it said simply: You can decide how many windows you want open at any time.

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Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:11 pm Post

Actually, the use of 'their' in the singular isn't all that new. The OED has it under #3:

"... Also so used instead of ‘his or her’, when the gender is inclusive or uncertain...."

With the first year of citation as 1420. :D

Or the most recent edition of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language:

p. 493

"The use of they with a singluar antecedent goes back to Middle English..."

The entire entry itself is worth reading, imo.

(Edited to add the Cambridge cite.)

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xiamenese
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Thu Apr 19, 2007 1:08 am Post

Studio717 wrote:Actually, the use of 'their' in the singular isn't all that new. The OED has it under #3:

"... Also so used instead of ‘his or her’, when the gender is inclusive or uncertain...."

With the first year of citation as 1420. :D

Or the most recent edition of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language:

p. 493

"The use of they with a singluar antecedent goes back to Middle English..."

The entire entry itself is worth reading, imo.

(Edited to add the Cambridge cite.)

And there I was thinking it had developed in my lifetime!
In the 1970s, a friend and I wrote a "Speaking Skills" textbook -- I suspect it was one of the first -- which was published by a very well known publisher of paperbacks. All short dialogues and exercises on them. When the editors got their hands on it, we were horrified to find that all the 'they's of this type had been changed to 'he or she' with a three-line whip that that was the publisher's house-style. We couldn't convince them that our book was for foreign learners of English, not a book on history, culture, science ... nor was it intended as a masterpiece of fiction ... so we had to re-write all the dialogues in question so as to avoid teaching foreign learners that they had to say thing's like "There's someone at the door ... see what he or she wants."
Mark

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 2:03 am Post

I'm sure many visitors here have read Denis Dutton's excoriation of editorial prigs.

http://denisdutton.com/what_are_editors_for.htm

If you haven't you should and if you have you may want to revisit it for renewed amusement (and occasional horror).

Dave

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:31 am Post

I don't doubt at all the above mentioned use of "they" is very old; but … … is it elegant? Does it sound well? Would Gibbon ever have written a sentence like "The reader can open as many books as they wish"? Would Macaulay have? And they are the masters of English prose, then and now.

My "Websters Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language" registers the above mentioned use of "they", but explicitly as "Nonstandard". And so it is, I believe.

Anyway, to my non native ears a sentence like "The reader can open as many books as they wish" sounds absolutely horrible.

And is it allowed to say "We should all be brothers"? Or should we all be "brothers and sisters"?
Last edited by Timotheus on Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:30 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:32 am Post

Maria wrote:Secondly, being male is being of higher value (at least in the academic world), which you can infer from the same post of mine. The letters and emails that address me as "Mr." (Herr) from Germany have increased significantly since I got my doctoral degree. This means that people in Germany still assume that a doctor working at university _must_ be male. It cannot be a woman, even if _he_ has the most female name you can think of, a name that is understood all over the world.


But this is not true. If you were named "Sybille", you'd never ever get "Mr. Sybille Whatever"-mails. Neither so if you were named "Eva" or "Marilyn". Maria is by no means woman-only, as has been evidenced a hundred times, not least by Klaus Maria Brandauer and Christoph Maria Herbst.

I do agree though, that people most certainly assume Drs. to be male, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the term itself, but instead with experience. E.g., I don't see "Dr" as male-only (helps to live with a physician...ess, hehe), but I still think of "soldiers" as a lot of men with guns, and it still strikes me to see women in the army. It's just not common over here to have femal soldiers, but once it is, we don't need a term to differentiate the sexes within an otherwise perfectly neutral group.

Hope you know what I mean.

PS: Thanks, Keith, for having me. Hope you can find some time to do actual writing, as I know from my own experience, that this dev-stuff can get quite time-comsuming (fun as it is), leaving little space for anything else. I'd also like to congratulate on Scriv's success. Believe it or not, but your app has probably been the best thing that has happened to us, because now all the dissatisfied... men and women have found a home, and we have less apologizing to to. ;)

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:30 am Post

fehnman wrote:
Maria wrote:...
The letters and emails that address me as "Mr." (Herr) from Germany have increased significantly since I got my doctoral degree. ...


But this is not true. If you were named "Sybille", you'd never ever get "Mr. Sybille Whatever"-mails.
...


This is funny. You are in the position to judge what women experience? By declaring that all these letters that are adressed to me, addressing me as a man just do not exist?

There are already men who accept that women do have experiences, humiliating experiences, that men will never make. These men have no problems of speaking a modern language that includes women as equals, and they are fortunately not few.

The problem are those men that claim that "what women experience is not what women experience" because they, the men, just know what happens really. There are still too many of this kind in German society, but I am sure they will look back with a feeling of embarrassment in a few years.

The times have gone that people called me with a belittling touch "Fräulein" and my male colleagues respectfully "Herr", as it was still common 25 years ago. When I was young and stupid I did not mind and even smiled about those who insisted to be called "Frau". Now I say, they were right, I was wrong, and I owe their struggle a lot. Now I do struggle, and there are men who share these opinions.

Nowadays young women get their qualifications as "Kauffrau", while I still have my qualification as "Bankkaufmann". All this has gone astonishingly easily although people laughed in the beginning, and despite the problems of grammar we will find a way to a less sexist German grammar as well....

I got all the other arguments you made. I am not a radical who does not see the other side. I even can make fun about me using a "women's computer" (a Mac, not Linux) with some of my friends, just because I know they would never exclude me with the words the choose, and they respect my life being different from theirs. This is the difference compared to man who laugh about the weak and declare they are just talking fairy tails. Why do you not accept that others made experiences, have feelings about these experiences that should be accepted in a way like "OK, I cannot know that, but if it is like that, I will respect that." Alexandrias first post in this thread said it all.

And now, back to work.

All the best,
Maria

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:41 am Post

Maria wrote:
fehnman wrote:
Maria wrote:...
The letters and emails that address me as "Mr." (Herr) from Germany have increased significantly since I got my doctoral degree. ...


But this is not true. If you were named "Sybille", you'd never ever get "Mr. Sybille Whatever"-mails.
...


This is funny. You are in the position to judge what women experience? By declaring that all these letters that are adressed to me, addressing me as a man just do not exist?


Misquoted.
My "not true" referred to "most female name you can think of, a name that is understood all over the world".

Ma
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Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:51 am Post

fehnman wrote:
Maria wrote:
fehnman wrote:
Maria wrote:...
The letters and emails that address me as "Mr." (Herr) from Germany have increased significantly since I got my doctoral degree. ...


If you were named "Sybille", you'd never ever get "Mr. Sybille Whatever"-mails.
...


This is funny. You are in the position to judge what women experience? By declaring that all these letters that are adressed to me, addressing me as a man just do not exist?


Misquoted.
My "not true" referred to "most female name you can think of, a name that is understood all over the world".


Better now? My criticsm of your attitude works without quoting your "not true". Maria is certainly the most female name, nobody anywhere in the world (I know some countries) would think of a person called "Maria" as a man. There is the case of combination with male names, which is rare. Assuming that I am a man because there is the possibility of 1:1000 that I could have an additional male name is just as prejudiced as changing my name delibarately into "Mario" in order to qualifiy for an academic career.

O o oo, I think there are two Germans fighting a German war on an international forum that has no interest in the problem. I apologize to all. And I hope you do not take it too serious (well, it is a serious problem in my eyes, but I am not at all shouting at the moment) ...

Best,
Maria, like always, in good mood :wink:

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 1:45 pm Post

This reminds me of the old George Carlin routine, where he wonders if a Lady's Man will end up being called Person's Person...

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 4:06 pm Post

Actually, even 'person' is regarded as being sexist...some people want to change the spelling to 'persun' to avoid the word 'son,' being a male title.

Personally that strikes me as being a little over the edge. The whole 'political correctness' song and dance routine gets tiresome fast.

Ever read the Politically Correct Bedtime Stories? Hilarious, and scary at the same time...

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:51 pm Post

I don't doubt at all the above mentioned use of "they" is very old; but … … is it elegant? Does it sound well? Would Gibbon ever have written a sentence like "The reader can open as many books as they wish"? Would Macaulay have? And they are the masters of English prose, then and now.


I kind of disagree with this soft of attitude. :) And I'm actually a bit of a grammar-snob. There is a pub down the road from me called "The Two Halve's" - I cannot pass it without getting angry at that apostrophe. But at the same time, there are certain constructions that are grammatically correct but oh-so-ugly. Contorting a sentence just to avoid ending on a connective, for instance. The idea of a split infinitive (a nonsense in English, as it goes - there is no such thing except in the heads of old-fashioned grammarians with a penchant for Latin).

Language changes. I don't see Gibbon or Macaulay as the great gatekeepers to good English. Maybe they were in their day, but that was then, this is now, as the saying goes. The worst kind of writer is the one who tries to emulate Jane Austen.

To my native ears, "The reader can open as many books as they wish" doesn't sound so bad. Elegant? No. But serviceable and less verbose than, "The reader can open as many books as he or she may wish".

Language only has any value so long as it can be understood. As Nietzsche said (back to the Germans :) ) - a quote that is in one of the panes of Scrivener I like it so much - "Good writers... prefer to be understood rather than admired."

It's like that caption from the Guardian I moaned about in my blog sometime ago: "Dan Chiasson... he has a lot about which to be smug." Grammatically correct, but horrible. "He has a lot to be smug about" is so much better. Language evolves...

All the best,
Keith

P.S. Fehnman -

PS: Thanks, Keith, for having me. Hope you can find some time to do actual writing, as I know from my own experience, that this dev-stuff can get quite time-comsuming (fun as it is), leaving little space for anything else.


Yep, that's what I'm finding. :( I keep saying, "After I get this next little thing fixed and the next update out, then I can lay off development and write..." One day. :)

I'd also like to congratulate on Scriv's success. Believe it or not, but your app has probably been the best thing that has happened to us, because now all the dissatisfied... men and women have found a home, and we have less apologizing to to


:D Ulysses was pretty much the only tool of its kind available for a long time (it's kind of the "Godfather" of apps such as Scrivener, Copywrite, Avenir, Jer's and Storyist in a way, I guess :) ), so I suppose it was understandable that everybody (including me :) ) was knocking at your virtual door and asking for lots of stuff that didn't really fit your vision. I have total respect for the way you have maintained that vision - I now know how hard that can be sometimes.

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:53 pm Post

I'm probably putting my head in a noose here (although that's never stopped me before), but...

... what's wrong with ""Readers can open as many books as they wish"?

In the choice between infelicity on the page and the ear, and arguable incorrectness, there's almost always a work-around. In English, at least.

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Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:16 pm Post

Khadrelt wrote:Actually, even 'person' is regarded as being sexist...some people want to change the spelling to 'persun' to avoid the word 'son,' being a male title.

Personally that strikes me as being a little over the edge. The whole 'political correctness' song and dance routine gets tiresome fast.

Ever read the Politically Correct Bedtime Stories? Hilarious, and scary at the same time...


Haha. This cracked me up for some reason. Persun. Okay, I agree, people can go a bit overboard with this kind of thing. It can get dogmatic, and anything that gets dogmatic eventually spills over into either absurdity or something rather scary and potentially dangerous.

I think there's being sensitive and aware of the impact of language on thought and behavior, and then there's being a bit overly sensitive. But I'd rather have it get a little absurd than to not have the discussion at all.

Alexandria
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