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Re: Comment on introduction pages

From: Eric Blake
Subject: Re: Comment on introduction pages
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2010 20:26:49 -0600
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On 06/03/2010 06:28 PM, Russ Allbery wrote:
> Eric Blake <address@hidden> writes:
>> Thanks for the report.  However, English is one of those silly languages
>> where the pronoun "his" can have a neuter sense rather than masculine,
>> and this is one of those cases.  Politically correct pundits are trying
>> to eradicate that usage, but personally, I'm still of the opinion that
>> "his" looks better than "his/hers", as long as you understand that the
>> usage is not locking down the gender of the antecedent.
> The long-standing gender-neutral pronoun in English is singular "their,"
> as used by such people as Jane Austen.  I would rewrite the sentence as:
>     "The developer expresses the recipe to build their package in a
>     Makefile"

A pedant would claim that it mixes singular and plural, but you are
correct that it is in common enough usage that "their package" doesn't
grate as badly on my nerves as "his/her package".

> I realize that also bothers some people who are overly well-trained in the
> specific style of English forced by Latin prescriptivists during a short
> portion of the history of the language, but it's grammatically correct in
> English and has been for hundreds of years.
> In general, please reconsider your position stated above.  Small things
> like this discourage women from participating in open source projects in
> little ways, and those little discouragements add up over time.  It's a
> very minor thing to change to make someone feel more welcome by not
> literally writing their gender out of the manual, and the reward is far
> stronger than the small loss of perceived elegance of wording.

I'm not the automake maintainer.  Propose a patch with the new wording
to automake-patches AT gnu DOT org, and it will likely be accepted if it
improves the wording.

Eric Blake   address@hidden    +1-801-349-2682
Libvirt virtualization library http://libvirt.org

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