A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Category Archives: Whim

Third person singular human

It has often been noted that English is deficient because it lacks a third-person pronoun that can refer to any person, without respect to sexual gender. Although some claim that “he” can refer to anyone in sentences like (1), most linguists agree that maleness is much more salient in these cases than a generic sense.

(1) Everyone should do his own work.

There are at least six common solutions proposed:

  1. Use he or she (or she or he). (Everyone should do his or her own work.) This includes everyone, but at the cost of more words.
  2. Use impersonal they. (Everyone should do their own work.). This includes everyone, and there is ample practice (both contemporary and historic) to support its use, but the plural sense is still somewhat salient.
  3. Use she. (Everyone should do her own work.) This “makes it fairer” by compensating for past male pronoun use, but the femaleness is even more salient (the ‘female’ tending to be more marked than the ‘male’–and, of course, some will say this is the point). I see this frequently in philosophical writing, sometimes combined with a strategy for alternating between ‘he’ and ‘she.’
  4. Use a newly invented term, such as e and ir. (Everyone should do ir own work.) This potentially solves the problem, but has never caught on; nor do I suspect it will.
  5. Assert forcefully that ‘he’ includes ‘she’ and deny there is a problem. (Everyone should do his own work.) This is just wishful thinking.
  6. Rewrite to remove the generic construction. (Our motto should be: Do your own work! or You should do your own work.) This is nothing wrong with this solution; it takes more effort, though, and sometimes the result is awkward. (Work must be done only by the person who is responsible for said work.—Is that awkward enough to prove my point?

I had the mad idea last night of another solution: Start using he/him/his to only refer to the generic third person, and invent a new series of pronouns for male references (for example, e/im/is). At one grammatical swoop, we fix all the generic third person problems, and force saliency on the marked gender case (Everyone should do his own work./Each girl should do her own work./Each boy should do is own work.). This solution is no more likely to achieve consensus than (4) above. But just in case the English Academy dictates this use, I want credit for inventing the Fitzgerald pronoun.

Things you can get down in …

I saw the expression “get down in the wheat” for the first time today.

Epoch success

The 1234567890 Epoch captured on the web!

Epoch odometer

The gospel bin

Radiant Redbird
[Amazon.com] MP3 Albums > Christian & Gospel > Country Gospel > Sort Low to High

  • God’s Gonna Ride a Harley
  • Golden Bowls of Compassion
  • Radiant Redbird
  • When Santa Claus Met Jesus
  • Pale Rider
  • Time is a Space
  • Mama was Judged
  • Tha Chronicles of Junglistic Hip Hop (EP)
  • Jesus Is My Spotter – the Race Car Driver’s Anthem
  • Orca Chantress Beluga Shaman

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Who knew? Balloons in the movies

I had no idea balloons played such a role in the movies: see VSL.

100 most common English words

First, take this fun quiz.

And then …
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A response to Mark‘s tagging me.

Seven factz about me:

  1. Will Fitzgerald didn’t use a computer until he was 23. It had cards.
  2. It is difficult for Will Fitzgerald to refer to himself in the third person.
  3. Despite his descriptivist linguistic training, Will Fitzgerald tries to distinguish ‘between’ and ‘among’.
  4. Will Fitzgerald was known as “Bill” until he was 33.
  5. Will Fitzgerald has half of a house named in his honor. He doesn’t know why.
  6. Will Fitzgerald once made his ESL class erupt in laughter by referring to ‘green Jewesses’ instead of ‘green beans’. (judias verdes vs. judías verdes).
  7. Will Fitzgerald (who has moved around a lot) has been a member or active participant of a Methodist church(United Methodist, Roseville), a Southern Baptist church (Calvary Baptist, Roseville), an independent fundamentalist church (First Church, Wellston), a Reformed Church in America congregation (University Reformed, East Lansing), an Evangelical Presbyterian church (Evangelical Presbyterian, Carbondale, now affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America), a Spanish Baptist church (Iglesia Evangélica Bautista de Gracia, Barcelona), a Presbyterian USA church (North Presbyterian, Kalamazoo), a Christian Reformed church (Immanuel CRC, Kalamazoo), a Mennonite USA/Brethren bi-affiliated church (Reba Place Church, Evanston, now just Mennonite-affiliated), two independent Christian communities (Reba Place Fellowship, Evanston and Church of the Sojourners, San Francisco), a Canadian Anglican church (Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton) and two Mennonite USA churches (Pine Grove, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Mennonite Fellowship. He has more or less made up his mind.

That was fun, Mark. Rather than tag seven others, I present to you this fish tank. Click on the tank to feed the fish.

The Book of Psalms

The evolution of a Ruby programmer

# The evolution of a Ruby programmer

def sum(list)
  total = 0
  for i in 0..list.size-1
    total = total + list[i]

def sum(list)
  total = 0
  list.each do |item|
    total += item

def test_sum_empty
  sum([]) == 0

def test_sum_one
  sum([10]) == 10

def test_sum_several

def sum(list)
  total = 0
  list.each{|i| total += i}

def sum(list)
  list.inject(0){|a,b| a+b}

class Array
  def sum
    inject{|a,b| a+b}

describe "Enumerable objects should sum themselves" do

  it 'should sum arrays of floats' do
    [1.0, 2.0, 3.0].sum.should == 6.0

  it 'should sum values in sets' do
    require 'set'
    Set.new([1,2,3,3,3,2,1]).sum.should == 6

  it 'should join arrays of arrays' do
    [[1],[2],[3]].sum.should == [1,2,3]

  it 'should concatenate arrays of strings ' do
    ['a','man','a','plan'].sum.should == 'a man a plan'.gsub(/ /,'')

  it 'should work on hash tables, too -- appending their key/values' do
    {:a => 3, :b => 4}.sum.find_all{|a| a.is_a? Numeric}.sum.should == 7

module Enumerable
  def sum(zero=false)
    zero ? inject(zero){|a,b| a+b} : inject{|a,b| a+b}

# Greenspun's 10th Rule of Programming version (suggested by BenD's comment)

module Enumerable
  def reduce(by,zero=false)
    zero ? inject(zero){|a,b| a.send(by,b)} : inject{|a,b| a.send(by,b)}

  def sum(zero=false)