The other day I drew attention to a sad article by David Gelernter on the threat to the English language by people favouring the usages 'he or she' and singular 'they'. There is now a thorough criticism of the piece from Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log. I particularly enjoyed his examples of the kind of sentences we might be landed with by respecting Gelernter's preference for the supposedly gender-neutral 'he'. Like these:
Is it your brother or your sister who can hold his breath for four minutes?Pullum also points to the historical pedigree the singular 'they' has in English - including in Jane Austen. (Thanks: RB.)
The average American needs the small routines of getting ready for work. As he shaves or blow-dries his hair or pulls on his panty hose, he is easing himself by small stages into the demands of the day.