If the word “you” can be both singular and plural, why can’t “they”? The Economist’s Johnson on this thorny subject with, as always, literate and often amusing comments. Quote unquote:
There are some instances where it unequivocally correct, grammatically speaking, to use “they” as a singular pronoun. For example, the indefinite pronouns, which are grammatically singular (“somebody is”/”everyone has”/”nobody does” etc.) require the use of “they” in tag questions and the like. For example:
Everybody knows what to do, don’t they?Nobody wants this, do they?Whenever I meet anyone who thinks travel is a waste of time, I want to ask them why.
A: Someone from head office wants to speak to you.B: Tell them they'll have to wait; I'm busy.
No native speaker, unless labouring under a very prescriptive notion of style, would ever say the following:
Everybody knows what to do, doesn’t he?Nobody wants this, does he or she?Whenever I meet anyone who thinks travel is a waste of time, I want to ask him or her why.
A: Someone from head office wants to speak to you.B: Tell him or her he or she will have to wait.
At the Spectator, Nick Cohen, a man of the left, has a go at Noam Chomsky on Ukraine. Quote unquote:
The people of the Ukraine may not have much to be grateful for, but they should be glad that they do not have the support of the relativist left. Its principles are pliable. Its morality is parochial. For believers trapped in its ever-shifting ideology, it is not enough that a stranger is a victim of oppression; they must be the victim of the right sort of oppression.
Are creative writing courses worth it? Hanif Kureishi in the Guardian says no, they are a “waste of time” and novelist Lucy Ellman describes teaching creative writing (which she used to do) as “the biggest con-job in academia”. For the defence: poet Tim Clare in a blog post titled Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Not If Your Teacher’s A Prick. Quote unquote:
Listen. Authors have a massive vested interest in pretending that writing a novel is some nebulous, mystical process only available to the anointed few. That it is mysterious and unteachable.Bollocks. Story is teachable. Style is teachable. Tone is teachable. Theme is teachable.I have been taught these things. I have taught them.If you can’t figure out ways to transmit this knowledge, then before you pronounce creative writing tuition useless and the system from which you draw your salary a pyramid scheme, allow me to introduce you to my friend Mr Occam and his miraculous razor.Could it be that the problem is you?
Everyone knows that the online edition of the Daily Mail is the most-viewed news website in the world. This is probably not true, just like everything else everyone knows, but it is often cited as the way to go for print media. PopBitch has crunched the numbers – doing that old-fashioned thing of looking at the ratecard, counting the ads and working out the income and then the costs – and wonders if it makes money. Quote unquote:
Totting up all of the ad opportunities they have per page, if they were true to their ratecard, they'd be clearing a billion pounds in annual revenue easily.But they aren't. Their announced annual revenue is £41 million - just 4% of what they reckon they could (and should) be earning for the space they offer. So what's going wrong?
Read on for the answer.