I can’t believe Motivated Grammar has been around for over two years and I haven’t heard of it until now—its tagline, for Pete’s sake, is “Prescriptivism Must Die!”—but thanks to an e-mail from peacay, my ignorance has been remedied. It’s written by Gabe Doyle, a graduate student in Linguistics at the University of California, San Diego (here‘s his academic website: “My research mostly relates to the issue of what it means to know a language. How is a language represented in the mind? How does one decide what to say in a given situation, or whether a sentence is grammatical? Where, if anywhere, should a distinction be drawn between competence and performance?”), and his motto is “Grammar should not be articles of faith handed down to us from those on high who never split infinitives but always split hairs.” And in a recent post, as a public service, he has assembled a resource I will be sending people to:

I’ve wanted for some time to have one place to send everyone who complains about singular they, a single page that can debunk whatever junk they’re peddling against it. There’s been lots of great stuff written about why singular they is acceptable, but every time I want to smash the arguments against it, I have to waste time jumping through old Language Log posts and books and whatnot, so I figured I’d finally go about summarizing it all. Without further ado, here’s the evidence for singular they, and why you ought to stop “correcting” it.

I like his style, and I offer him a sadly belated welcome to the linguablogosphere.


  1. Looks like a neat place, I’ll have to start lurking there, as well.
    I can’t imagine having time to write a (well-thought out, interesting) blog. I have a hard enough time finding a moment to read my favorites. Usually I tell myself that the generous hosts of such sites have more free time than I do… but with a graduate student joining the ranks…

  2. Maybe they simply require less sleep. Améie Nothomb only needs four hours.
    Not that she has a blog, as far as I know.

  3. Amélie

  4. Yes, Gabe’s site is great. You’ll enjoy it.

  5. Last year Gabe had a great two-part takedown of the silly debate analysis peddled by the Global Language Monitor, from which I liberally quoted in a Language Log post.

  6. “Grammar should not be articles of faith handed down to us from those on high who never split infinitives but always split hairs.” He seems to enjoy paradox, eh?

  7. That’s a good point, dearieme.
    Maybe, like the privilege of ‘freedom of speech’, grammar is a case where intolerance of intolerance makes paradoxical sense.

  8. Time to re-read “Here Lies Miss Groby” by James Thurber.

  9. “He seems to enjoy paradox, eh?”
    I guess para is the part of doxa where ortho and hetero part ways, right?

  10. Looks like Amélie Nothomb does have a blog, but she’s only written one post, so that’s not where she spends her time:

  11. Oh, thanks.

  12. Look at that. She writes one article and gets 1,323 comments. She ought to harness that energy.

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