Tuesday, August 13, 2013


"It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own," he told hundreds of Israeli students in a speech. "Palestinians have a right to be free people in their own land." ~ President Obama

On March 21st of this year, the USA Today published the foregoing quote from Obama of something he said during his trip to Israel.

Their is an Old Norse word, þierra, which entered into English about the year 1200. It is the possessive (genitive) form of the third person pronoun they. Their replaced the word hiera.

Their is the THIRD PERSON possessive determining adjective. Most often, a speaker says the word right before saying a noun. So you might hear, their houses or their dogs.

The right use of the word their relies upon a preceding third person subject noun or third person subject pronoun. English speakers ought to recognize the former because of the letter 's', which signals to listeners such. Likewise, English speakers ought to recognize the third person subject pronoun every time they hear it. It's the word they.

Obama should have said: It is not fair that Palestinian children can not grow up in a state of their own. Obama could have said: It is not fair that a Palestinian child can not grow up in a state of his own. 

When Obama said the phrase a Palestinian child, he spoke a singular noun of the subordinate clausethat Palestinian children can not grow up in a state of their own.

Various grammarians have different labels to name such clauses. Some name them as complements. Others say declarative content clauses.

However, the subject of what Obama said is the singular pronoun it. The main, independent clause Obama spoke is It is not fair.

For years, feminists have attacked English, wishing to rid it of good, useful words. They hate the word woman because they hear the word man. Yet, man is the English word for person. It does not mean male.

English speakers once had a word for male men. That word was wer. You recognize the word wer in the word werewolf.

What feminists fail to see is that with English, it is males who get shorted. English speakers have reverence for females. That is why they get their own pronouns — she, her, hers. English speakers care little to differentiate between males and sex-irrelevant things.

Obama, feminists and the great swath of middling intellect Americans reveal likely how languages change. Because such suffer from the equivalent of functional illiteracy in speech, they drive out good speech with their popular, bad forms.

You can think of it as Johnson's Grammar Law — bad language use drives out good, much like Gresham's Law — bad money drives out good — as coined by perhaps the greatest economist of all-time, Henry Dunning MacLeod. 

Interestingly, Obama gets it right when he says "their own land", tying that to Palestinians as shown in the second sentence of the quote. That Obama can get it wrong in one sentence and then get it right in a sentence right after reveals profound disorder in his mind and reveals the war that goes on in the minds of many during major upheavals in languages. You are witnessing the change of English in action.

On a side note, oddly, Obama seems to be hung up on trying to define fairness everywhere he goes, from taxes in America to territorial borders of Middle Eastern people.

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