Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Undefined gender
Thread poster: Sergio Betini

Sergio Betini
Local time: 18:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Apr 12, 2010

Hello guys!

Simple, but direct question.

When we do not know someone's gender, is it alright to use something like the below example?

If time were money, an unemployed person would be very wealthy, as he or she would have all the time in the world.

Can we get away from using "he or she" here?

Tks!
Sergio


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:27
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Sometimes you can Apr 13, 2010

Your example could be written as:
If time were money, an unemployed person would be very wealthy, having all the time in the world.
But quite often you can't avoid it.


 

Carlopez
English to French
Use plural Apr 13, 2010

In this instance you could, depending on context, use the plural:

If time were money, unemployed people would be very wealthy, as they would have all the time in the world.

But a lot of the time you can't avoid the "he or she" (as stated above).


 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:27
Romanian to English
+ ...
Third person plural Apr 13, 2010

I've often seen third person plural used gender-neutral third person singular.
In your example, this would be:

If time were money, an unemployed person would be very wealthy, as they would have all the time in the world.

Carlos, I see you posted the same solution, but fastericon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2010-04-13 07:00 GMT]


 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:27
English to Polish
+ ...
I've seen Apr 13, 2010

the words "he" and "she" being used "intentionally randomly" (one a at a time, obviously) when there was a number of dilemmas like this in the text. Not sure how correct this approach was but the text was a book, a number of books actually, written by Americans.

 

Helen Matthews  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
Just he/his Apr 13, 2010

This may be a little controversial in these days of absolute equality, but to be honest, sometimes (like in a contract etc.), assuming we don't know the gender e.g. of the Agent, I tend just to use 'he' as was once the case..... constantly writing 'he or she' makes for an extremely wordy solution, and the use of 'they' in these cases can be confusing, particularly as I personally would tend to use 'they' to refer to a company/organisation...

icon_smile.gif


 

xxxGrayson Morr  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:27
Dutch to English
Many ways, many preferences Apr 13, 2010

Previous posters have already suggested several of the alternatives to the "he or she" solution. There are many more, some ridiculous (such as inventing a new word like "Xe"), some confusing (S/He)....and everyone seems to have solutions they like and solutions they find awkward. I, for example, don't like the "they" solution, though I realize it is short, elegant, and clear; it's one of my (few, I hopeicon_smile.gif ) purist tendencies. "They" is and always will be plural to me, just like "data."

As a woman, I have never felt excluded by reading a text that refers to the generic human being as "he," and in short texts with one or two occurrences, this is what I use. In texts with many occurrences, I alternate between "he" and "she" in subsequent examples. (Unless the text is about prostate cancer or pregnancy.icon_wink.gif )

In any case, I discuss the approach to use with the end client. If I ever have a client who insists on "they," I'll use it, but so far all my clients have approved the method I've suggested to them.

Whatever you use, there will be readers who prefer a different solution, which is why Jack's alternative is ideal whenever possible - but be careful you don't end up with a contrived text.


 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:27
English
+ ...
Like Grayson, as a woman, I have never felt excluded, or offended, Apr 13, 2010

when reading a text that uses the masculine to indicate gender.

Some documents include a gender disclaimer stating that where the masculine gender is used it refers also to the feminine.

Examples:

"Unless otherwise stated, whenever the masculine gender is used, both men and women are included."
"The use of “he” and “him” throughout the FAQ is not meant to exclude female trainers in any way."
"Within these regulations, the alternating of gender in grammar is utilized. Any masculine reference shall also apply to females and any feminine reference shall also apply to males."


While googling to find examples, I came across this:

"Although the above were listed as "boy" and "girl" bookends, there is no reason why you couldn't use them in a baby of another gender."

Baby of another gender? I had to go to the site to read the rest of the text.

"Why shouldn't a girl like dinosaurs and technology? Likewise why can't a boy like a pretty princess, pink, and butterflies?"

(And what's this about using bookends in a baby?)




[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:04 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:09 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:11 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:12 GMT]


 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:27
English to Polish
+ ...
ha ha Apr 13, 2010

Suzan Hamer wrote:


"Although the above were listed as "boy" and "girl" bookends, there is no reason why you couldn't use them in a baby of another gender."

Baby of another gender? I had to go to the site to read the rest of the text.

"Why shouldn't a girl like dinosaurs and technology? Likewise why can't a boy like a pretty princess, pink, and butterflies?"


brilliant!

Nb. it may be easier to guess what the poor author had in mind when you're a non-native speaker!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
So we've got the saying wrong! Apr 13, 2010

Suzan Hamer wrote:
(And what's this about using bookends in a baby?)


It should be:

"Children should be seen and read, but not heard"

I can imagine the whole brood sitting quietly on a shelf, between their bookends, waiting to be taken down.

Lovely!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Seriously, though Apr 13, 2010

Suzan Hamer wrote:
Some documents include a gender disclaimer stating that where the masculine gender is used it refers also to the feminine.

Examples:

"Unless otherwise stated, whenever the masculine gender is used, both men and women are included."
"The use of “he” and “him” throughout the FAQ is not meant to exclude female trainers in any way."
"Within these regulations, the alternating of gender in grammar is utilized. Any masculine reference shall also apply to females and any feminine reference shall also apply to males."


I would certainly recommend a disclaimer in a contractual document. I don't translate them, but it's certainly something to think about - do you need to suggest to the client that a clause is added in the English version, if it isn't necessary in the source language?

I'm not sure I like the idea of flip-flopping between the two, though. That sounds as though it could read in a very weird way and have me wondering just what it was the writer was implying.

I don't normally mind being included in the masculine gender if it's clearly done for ease of writing, but I do get annoyed when I see it used for things that "normally" interest men more than women as I've always been more interested in cars, planes and trains than in sewing, knitting and tapestry making.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:27
German to English
plural + they = usually possible and easy Apr 13, 2010

As already stated, the simplest solution is usually to convert the statement into a plural form. In this way, you end up with a gender-neutral sentence by means of a technique that 99% of your readers do not even notice (= truly neutral). This is a very simple solution that works much more often than has been suggested above.

Using "he or she" seems generally frowned upon and is clumsy. Using "he" for "he or she" is technically misleading (not saying what you mean), although it seems to have once again lost the offensiveness that it gained in the '70s and '80s. Using a singular noun plus "they" is gramatically wrong and should not be used in formal writing (even if it sometimes is used there).


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 18:27
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I always use "he or she" Apr 13, 2010

"He or she" is the form I use.

Example:

The Manager is responsible for the budget. He or she needs to allocate funds.

If you meet a lawyer and want to use his or her services, ask how much he or she would charge.

The form with "they" for the singular sounds odd.


 

Richard Robinson  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:27
Hungarian to English
+ ...
conservative and flexible Apr 13, 2010

I usually tell my students that though writers can play around with language and break unwritten rules, translators should probably play on the conservative side - unless the source text provides a good reason for doing otherwise.

In this case it would mean opting for 'he' rather than 'they' in a contract or legal translation. However in sociology or education I think he/she or even they is quite acceptable. I've even read teaching aids published by OUP where 'she' was used throughout, because the majority of language teachers are female.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:27
French to English
+ ...
"they" is fine even in legal contracts Apr 13, 2010

Richard Robinson wrote:
In this case it would mean opting for 'he' rather than 'they' in a contract or legal translation.


As I do get contracts to translate from time to time, I've discussed this in the past with a couple of people who do draft contracts for a profession, and their opinion seems to be that "they" is absolutely fine even in legal contracts.


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Undefined gender

Advanced search







WordFinder Unlimited
For clarity and excellence

WordFinder is the leading dictionary service that gives you the words you want anywhere, anytime. Access 260+ dictionaries from the world's leading dictionary publishers in virtually any device. Find the right word anywhere, anytime - online or offline.

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search