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Help! Crazy Font Sizes

P: n/a
I am playing with setting font sizes in CSS using em as unit of
measurement. All seems to be fine. Even Netscape Navigator shows the
characters very similar to IE, what is not the kind if px is used!

But!
when selecting the "Larger" or "Smaller" command from the menubar in
IE, font sizes increases from normal (1em) to, say, 6em or so _in the
first step_!!!
In the next step it seems to be 20em or say. Choosing "Smaller" makes
the text already unreadable in the first step: 2 pixels or so.

What in the hell is going on here?

Interestingly, Netscape 7.1 and Opera 7.2 both works well.

Does anyone have experience with this?

Kai
Jul 20 '05 #1
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38 Replies


P: n/a
> when selecting the "Larger" or "Smaller" command from the menubar in
IE, font sizes increases from normal (1em) to, say, 6em or so _in the first step_!!!
By 6em, I guess you mean six times as big as they were before you
changed the font size? Using em when describing something like this
isn't terribly helpful as what 1em is will change with the fontsize.
In the next step it seems to be 20em or say. Choosing "Smaller" makes the text already unreadable in the first step: 2 pixels or so.
I believe that by default IE on Windows will use something like 12px,
13px, 16px, 19px, 21px as the default body font sizes equating to
smallest, smaller, medium, larger and largest (I think there are
different defaults if you have a higher resolution screen), so seeing
such drastic changes does seem a little unusual.
What in the hell is going on here?


Unless someone can instantly spot something I can't, which they may
well do, I think it would be good to give a URL of a page where you
experience this, or failing that give some example markup.
Jul 20 '05 #2

P: n/a
Kai Jaeger wrote:
I am playing with setting font sizes in CSS using em as unit of
measurement.

when selecting the "Larger" or "Smaller" command from the menubar in
IE, font sizes increases from normal (1em) to, say, 6em or so _in the
first step_


IIRC, some versions of IE/Win have problems with font size set in em
units. Try using percentage instead. It will work as well in IE/Win
5+, IE/Mac, Moz, and Opera.

instead of h1 {font-size: 1.4em}
use h1 {font-size: 140%}

N4 has some problems with font-size: 100% for body, so you may want to
hide it from that browser.

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #3

P: n/a
*Kai Jaeger* <ka*@kai-jaeger.de>:

when selecting the "Larger" or "Smaller" command from the menubar in
IE, font sizes increases from normal (1em) to, say, 6em or so


Try setting

body {font-size: 100.01%}

--
The Sausage Principle: People who love sausage and respect the law should never
watch either one being made.
Jul 20 '05 #4

P: n/a
Christoph Paeper wrote:

body {font-size: 100.01%}


I'm curious - why the extra .01%?

--
To email a reply, remove (dash)un(dash). Mail sent to the un
address is considered spam and automatically deleted.
Jul 20 '05 #5

P: n/a
*kchayka* <kc*********@sihope.com>:
Christoph Paeper wrote:

body {font-size: 100.01%}


I'm curious - why the extra .01%?


For Opera 5 & 6.

<http://webdesign.crissov.de/temp/body-fontsize8.html> (or without the 8)

--
"Music is essentially useless, as life is."
George Santayana
Jul 20 '05 #6

P: n/a
Thanks to all the guys trying to help!

However, in the meantime I found out that using em is definitly no
good idea ("designing with web standard", zeldman). Not only that the
IE3 runs into trouble (I am willing to ignore good-old-day-browsers),
but even the newest browser have really large problems when selectors
using em are nested.

I have changed now to "xx-large" - "xx-small" settings, and it works
fine on modern browsers. Only Modzilla runs into problems when
enlarging gets too high, since only the fonts are enlarged, nothing
else - especially not the text container.

Again, thanks for help!

Kai
Jul 20 '05 #7

P: n/a
ka*@kai-jaeger.de (Kai Jaeger) wrote:
However, in the meantime I found out that using em is definitly no
good idea
You mean you found compelling evidence that makes you ignore expert advice?
Interesting.
but even the newest browser have really large problems when selectors
using em are nested.
You are supposed to understand what the em unit means. Then you'll know how
to use it. It suddenly becomes obvious that when _elements_ are nested
(which is what you actually mean here), the use of em _must_ have cumulative
effect. And, of course, there might be errors in browsers here, as in
everything in CSS.
I have changed now to "xx-large" - "xx-small" settings, and it works
fine on modern browsers.


That indicates lack of sufficient testing (or sufficient reading about other
people's tests). Browser bugs are rather common, and the actual effects vary
- after all, there's just a _recommended_ scaling factor. And it is
symptomatic that the recommended scaling factor was 1.5 in CSS 1 and then
dropped to 1.2 in CSS 2. Even with 1.2, you get a very coarse tool. Surely
if you wish to increase or decrease font size, if you can only do that in
steps of 20%, or in something that _might_ be 20% or something else, you are
in a rather awkward position.

--
Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Jul 20 '05 #8

P: n/a
On Sat, 21 Nov 2003, Kai Jaeger wrote:
Thanks to all the guys trying to help!
But your responses contradict your thanks.
However, in the meantime I found out that using em is definitly no
good idea
I don't think you did. You just found a commentator that told you a
different story, but you haven't had time and depth of experience to
evaluate their advice yet.
("designing with web standard", zeldman).
A commentator that's not unknown to the denizens of this group...
Not only that the IE3 runs into trouble
IE3 "runs into trouble" with almost any significant use of CSS. In
any case, there are very few users, so it's not unreasonable to just
hide the CSS from them and leave them to get unadorned content. You'd
be a complete fool to let considerations of IE3 dominate your choice
of CSS strategy for current browser usage profiles.
(I am willing to ignore good-old-day-browsers),
I'm certainly _not_ prepared to "ignore" any browser that might be
still in practical use, but I don't mind them missing the
presentational details of CSS. After all, CSS is designed to be
optional: a properly-made web page will still give sensible access to
properly-marked-up HTML content, even when some or all of the CSS
features are switched off.
but even the newest browser have really large problems when selectors
using em are nested.
On the contrary: it's the old browsers that get nesting wrong.

(And authors who got accustomed to designing for the bugs of old
browsers, and now don't seem to be able to cope with spec-conforming
behaviour).
I have changed now to "xx-large" - "xx-small" settings,
thereby spitting in the collective face of the advice you got here.
and it works fine on modern browsers.
You haven't had the time or experience, in between posting your
original question and now, to evaluate that yet.
Only Modzilla runs into problems when
enlarging gets too high, since only the fonts are enlarged, nothing
else - especially not the text container.
If you think that's your problem, then there's something else that
you're doing wrong also.
Again, thanks for help!


Hmmm.
Jul 20 '05 #9

P: n/a
Kai Jaeger wrote [in part]:

I am playing with setting font sizes in CSS using em as unit of
measurement. All seems to be fine. Even Netscape Navigator shows the
characters very similar to IE, what is not the kind if px is used!


The basic problem is that em is relative to the size of the font
in the parent element. Although permitted, em (and ex) should
never be used to specify the size of the font. After all, what do
you mean when you use em to specify the font-size for the body
element (parent to all other elements)?

Good HTML design -- design that considers the person viewing the
page (the end user) -- should use only relative or percentage
sizes for fonts, leaving the body of the page with whatever
font-size the user chooses. That accommodates those users who are
visually handicapped and have to set special sizes, those users
who have larger or smaller monitor screens than we expect, laptop
users, etc, etc.

From the CSS1 specification (Section 6.1):
"Style sheets that use relative units will more easily scale from
one medium to another (e.g. from a computer display to a laser
printer). Percentage units (described below) and keyword values
(e.g. 'x-large') offer similar advantages."

--

David E. Ross
<http://www.rossde.com/>

Concerned about someone snooping into your E-mail?
Use PGP. See my <http://www.rossde.com/PGP/>
Jul 20 '05 #10

P: n/a
*David Ross* <no****@nowhere.not>:

The basic problem is that em is relative to the size of the font
in the parent element.
Only for 'font-size', else it refers to said 'font-size'.
Although permitted, em (and ex) should
never be used to specify the size of the font.
Huh? It always should IMNSHO.
After all, what do you mean when you use em to specify the
font-size for the body element (parent to all other elements)?
The browser's default, ideally adjusted by the user to his needs.
Good HTML design (...) should use only relative or percentage
sizes for fonts, leaving the body of the page with whatever
font-size the user chooses.


Absolutely, and that's what is accomplished by using 'em' for the task. Are
you contradicting yourself, or am I misunderstanding you?

--
"Right way turning, Listen we are learning.
Head's full of noise, Chicken's got no choice.
Heads are rollin', Chicken blood is stolen.
The rest of the chicken wants a picke-nicken" Guano Apes - We use the Pain
Jul 20 '05 #11

P: n/a
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*David Ross* <no****@nowhere.not>:
The basic problem is that em is relative to the size of the font
in the parent element.

Although permitted, em (and ex) should never be used to specify
the size of the font.


Huh? It always should IMNSHO.


I think percent is better than em. At 100%, it has the same effect as
1em, allowing the user's setting to dictate the font size, but keeps
things clearer for the author, and may avoid an IE/Win bug besides.

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #12

P: n/a
Brian wrote:
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*David Ross* <no****@nowhere.not>:
The basic problem is that em is relative to the size of the font
in the parent element.
That's not problem, that's by design and you can easily live with it.
Though, I must admit that sometimes I miss the proposed rem ("root's
em"?) unit which would allow me to set font-size relative to user's
default font size instead of relative to parent element's font size.
Although permitted, em (and ex) should never be used to specify
the size of the font.


Huh? It always should IMNSHO.


I think percent is better than em. At 100%, it has the same effect as
1em, allowing the user's setting to dictate the font size, but keeps
things clearer for the author, and may avoid an IE/Win bug besides.


IMO, em is definately better than percentage because you can use em with
the same meaning in margin, padding and border whereas percentages mean
totally different things for those. The only reason to use percentage
instead is browser bugs. The only one I really care about is that one
must remember to say

html, body { font-size: 100%; }

I'd really want to apply the rule to just html element but older
versions of IE only support applying font size rules to body and it's
childs, IIRC. Also, the use of percentages in nested elements can cause
serious issues with Opera which incorrectly renders stuff like
div { font-size: 100%; }
combined with markup
<div><div><div><div><div><div> text </div></div></div></div></div>. For
those that are not familiar with this bug, Opera renders the above piece
of text way too small.

--
Mikko

Jul 20 '05 #13

P: n/a
Mikko Rantalainen wrote:
Brian wrote:
I think percent is better than em. At 100%, it has the same
effect as 1em, allowing the user's setting to dictate the font
size, but keeps things clearer for the author, and may avoid an
IE/Win bug besides.
IMO, em is definately better than percentage because you can use em
with the same meaning in margin, padding and border whereas
percentages mean totally different things for those.


Well, that was my point.

li {
font-size: 1.2em;
margin: 1.4em;
}

Same selector, but em means something different for those 2
properties. That makes it confusing for me.

li {
font-size: 120%;
margin: 2%;
}

Same problem, I suppose. However, margin is not related to font-size,
so it doesn't confused me. Unless, of course, you set the margin in
em, but in that case, you are explicitly making the connection.

My own preference is to keep it clear by always using percent for
font. YMMV, of course.
The only reason to use percentage instead is browser bugs.
To each her or his own.
The only one I really care about is that one must remember to say

html, body { font-size: 100%; }


But hide it from N4. ;-)

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #14

P: n/a
*Brian* <us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part>:

font-size: 1.2em;
margin: 1.4em;

Same selector, but em means something different for those 2
properties. That makes it confusing for me.
Yes, but 'font-size' is the only property for which 'em' differs (and has
to), whereas for percent each property needs an extra definition in the spec
saying how or whether it is to be interpreted. 'border-width' for example
doesn't percentages at all.
To each her or his own.


English, like many other languages, uses the male form of the third person
singular pronoun (here possessive) when the gender is indefinite.

--
It's so simple to be wise. Just think of
something stupid to say and say the opposite.
Jul 20 '05 #15

P: n/a
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*Brian* <us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part>:
font-size: 1.2em;
margin: 1.4em;

Same selector, but em means something different for those 2
properties. That makes it confusing for me.


Yes, but 'font-size' is the only property for which 'em' differs
(and has to), whereas for percent each property needs an extra
definition in the spec saying how or whether it is to be
interpreted. 'border-width' for example doesn't percentages at all


Agreed. That's why I don't use percent for border width. I use
percent for font-size and, sometimes, for margins.
To each her or his own.


English, like many other languages, uses the male form of the third
person singular pronoun (here possessive) when the gender is
indefinite.


Thank you for the lesson, but as it turns out, English is my
first language. And there is nothing grammatically wrong with "To
each her or his own." It is a bit more inclusive, though.

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #16

P: n/a
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*Brian* <us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part>:

font-size: 1.2em;
margin: 1.4em;

Same selector, but em means something different for those 2
properties. That makes it confusing for me.


Yes, but 'font-size' is the only property for which 'em' differs (and
has to), whereas for percent each property needs an extra definition
in the spec saying how or whether it is to be interpreted.
'border-width' for example doesn't percentages at all.
To each her or his own.


English, like many other languages, uses the male form of the third
person singular pronoun (here possessive) when the gender is
indefinite.


See http://www.julietremblay.com/about/philosophy.html for en excellent
example of how to avoid the often problematic issue of the gender-free
pronoun :)

--
PeterMcC
If you feel that any of the above is incorrect,
inappropriate or offensive in any way,
please ignore it and accept my apologies.

Jul 20 '05 #17

P: n/a
PeterMcC wrote:
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*Brian* <us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part>:
To each her or his own.


English, like many other languages, uses the male form of the third
person singular pronoun (here possessive) when the gender is
indefinite.


See http://www.julietremblay.com/about/philosophy.html for en excellent
example of how to avoid the often problematic issue of the gender-free
pronoun :)


No! That's a terrible example! :-/
In fact, I just mentioned to her that there is a grammatical error in
her artist statement. She has given me the green light to fix it.

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #18

P: n/a
In article <Fx*******************@wards.force9.net> in
comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, PeterMcC
<pe***@mccourt.org.uk> wrote:

See http://www.julietremblay.com/about/philosophy.html for en excellent
example of how to avoid the often problematic issue of the gender-free
pronoun :)


She's got a problem of parallelism in the second sentence. Her third
sentence is _not_ a good example (and maybe your smiley was intended
to indicate sarcasm). She could much better have written "An artist
who creates a portrait forms a triangle. ..." or "When creating a
portrait, an artist forms a triangle. ..."

Then of course there's the problem of what that paragraph _means_.
If anything.

But it's a nice-looking page ...

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com/
HTML 4.01 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
validator: http://validator.w3.org/
CSS 2 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
2.1 changes: http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/changes.html
validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Jul 20 '05 #19

P: n/a
Stan Brown wrote:
In article <Fx*******************@wards.force9.net> in
comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, PeterMcC
<pe***@mccourt.org.uk> wrote:
See http://www.julietremblay.com/about/philosophy.html for en excellent
example of how to avoid the often problematic issue of the gender-free
pronoun :)
She's got a problem of parallelism in the second sentence. Her third
sentence is _not_ a good example (and maybe your smiley was intended
to indicate sarcasm). She could much better have written "An artist
who creates a portrait forms a triangle. ..." or "When creating a
portrait, an artist forms a triangle. ..."


Some of this was already incorporated into a revision (before this
came up here, really!).
Then of course there's the problem of what that paragraph _means_.
If anything.
It's a little clearer now, I hope. More changes may be forthcoming.
But it's a nice-looking page ...


:)

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #20

P: n/a
"PeterMcC" <pe***@mccourt.org.uk> wrote in message news:<Fx*******************@wards.force9.net>...
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*Brian* <us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part>:
To each her or his own.


English, like many other languages, uses the male form of the third
person singular pronoun (here possessive) when the gender is
indefinite.


See http://www.julietremblay.com/about/philosophy.html for en excellent
example of how to avoid the often problematic issue of the gender-free
pronoun :)


Can't we just use the singular 'they'? Okay, so it's officially bad
grammar, but I see/hear it used more and more, and once it's reached a
certain level of usage it will become okay grammar (splitting the
infinitive, anyone?). I use it all the time and no-one's ever
complained (I doubt they've even noticed).

--- Stephen Morley ---
http://www.safalra.com
Jul 20 '05 #21

P: n/a
This has gone far off-topic, and I'm as much to blame than anyone, but
I cannot help myself.

Safalra wrote:
"PeterMcC" <pe***@mccourt.org.uk> wrote
Christoph Paeper wrote:
*Brian* <us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part>:

To each her or his own.

English, like many other languages, uses the male form of the
third person singular pronoun (here possessive) when the gender
is indefinite.
See http://www.julietremblay.com/about/philosophy.html for en
excellent example of how to avoid the often problematic issue of
the gender-free pronoun :)


Can't we just use the singular 'they'?


No. :-p Because there is no "singular they." They is plural.
Okay, so it's officially bad grammar, but I see/hear it used more
and more,
Lots of things are done more and more: using "who" a direct object,
using adjectives as adverbs, confusing their with there, or with
they're, using its instead of it's, or....

Dismiss it simplification, but we lose nuance and meaning in the process.
and once it's reached a certain level of usage it will become okay
grammar (splitting the infinitive, anyone?). I use it all the time
and no-one's ever complained (I doubt they've even noticed).


I notice. That doesn't mean I complain out loud about it, but I
notice. And it does make me think that what I'm reading was not
written with much thought.

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #22

P: n/a
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Brian wrote:
No. :-p Because there is no "singular they."
The users of the language have decided that there -is-, and there's a
remarkable amount of historical precedent behind it, no matter what
the theorists might say. (Now, where did I put that purist badge of
mine...)[1]

http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/austheir.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

etc.

[...] Dismiss it simplification, but we lose nuance and meaning in the process.


We gain it, since we otherwise have no sex-neutral singular 3rd
pronoun, and there is clearly a need for one. Artificial constructs
like s/he, hse, hir etc. are rated by many users of the language as
little short of laughable. So we might as well stay with the one the
has respectable historical precedent. The number of the verb usually
makes it clear whether the singular or plural sense is intended, or in
some cases the number is intentionally indefinite since the speaker/
writer doesn't know whether the matter involves one or more persons.

That really has nothing to do with a general degradation of written
language, which is a different topic entirely.

cheers

[1] maybe it's around here somewhere ;-)
http://ppewww.ph.gla.ac.uk/~flavell/vmteddy.html
Jul 20 '05 #23

P: n/a
us****@safalra.com (Safalra) wrote in
news:c5**************************@posting.google.c om:
Can't we just use the singular 'they'? Okay, so it's officially bad
grammar, but I see/hear it used more and more, and once it's reached a
certain level of usage it will become okay grammar (splitting the
infinitive, anyone?). I use it all the time and no-one's ever
complained (I doubt they've even noticed).


Splitting the infinitive was never incorrect *English* grammar; the notion
that it was wrong was propagated by "prescriptive grammarians" who wanted
to make English observe *Latin* grammar (out of a nostalgic belief that the
world had gone downhill since the fall of the Roman empire).
Jul 20 '05 #24

P: n/a
*Alan J. Flavell* <fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk>:
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Brian wrote:
No. :-p Because there is no "singular they."
The users of the language have decided that there -is-,


I'm to seldom in RL contact with native English speakers to judge it, but if
I see it in text, I regard it as an error of grammar[1], supposedly from a
non-native speaker.

If /I/ thought there was a need for a third person pronoun more gender
neutral than traditional "he", I'd use the neuter "it", but I don't. Anyhow,
the English language is indefinite in many other aspects as well.

If you want to see how silly it gets to politically correct a language that
has more gender specifity than third person pronouns, look for example at
recent German speechs that start with addressing the audience more
specifically than "Damen und Herren" ("Ladies and Gentlemen"): "Mitarbeiter"
becomes "Mitarbeiter und Mitarbeiterinnen" ("co-workers"). "Mitarbeiter
und -innen" was possible especially when written, but is only used sparely,
some informally write "MitarbeiterInnen" instead. English has only artifacts
of this, like actor/actress and prince/princess, but still I'm awaiting the
day they'll rename the SAG to Screen Actors and Actresses Guild.
Dismiss it simplification, but we lose nuance and meaning in the process.


We gain it, since we otherwise have no sex-neutral singular 3rd
pronoun, and there is clearly a need for one.


There's a difference between "there is clearly a need" and "some see a
need".
Artificial constructs like s/he, hse, hir etc. are rated by many users of the language as
little short of laughable.
That's why I made the remark before. Furthermore, "To each his own." can be
seen as a quote. Not a well-accented one, though.
The number of the verb usually
makes it clear whether the singular or plural sense is intended,


When the author knows English well enough. That you can't be sure of in
worldwide media like Usenet.

I know where I'd f'up this thread to in de.ALL, but am not sure for
international Usenet.

[1] Yes, I know, I myself am not free of grammatical errors. Not even close.

--
"Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen,
for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer."
Dave Barry
Jul 20 '05 #25

P: n/a
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Eric Bohlman wrote:
Splitting the infinitive was never incorrect *English* grammar;
Can sometimes promote confusion, though. Parse "to further change" ?

("further" = verb, "change" = noun, object of verb. Or not, depending
on other circumstances.)
world had gone downhill since the fall of the Roman empire).


What have the Romans ever done for us, anyway? SCNR. SPQR.
Jul 20 '05 #26

P: n/a
"Alan J. Flavell" <fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
What have the Romans ever done for us, anyway?


Times New Roman? No, probably not.
Jul 20 '05 #27

P: n/a
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Christoph Paeper wrote:
*Alan J. Flavell* <fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk>:
The users of the language have decided that there -is-, [..]
If /I/ thought there was a need for a third person pronoun more gender
neutral than traditional "he", I'd use the neuter "it",
This would be unacceptable to an English speaker, I would say.
If you want to see how silly it gets to politically correct a language
Excuse me, but this is irrelevant. The use if the "singular they"
goes back for centuries, this is not some sudden invention of the
extreme fringe of the Political Correctness Party.
has more gender specifity than third person pronouns, look for example at
recent German speechs that start with addressing the audience more
specifically than "Damen und Herren" ("Ladies and Gentlemen"): "Mitarbeiter"
becomes "Mitarbeiter und Mitarbeiterinnen"
....undsoweiterundsoweiter. Sind mir gut bekannt.

But I think you are imputing a parallel which does not, in fact,
apply. As I say, "singular they" has good historical support, whereas
your MitarbeiterInnen and DiplomandInnen and FernsehtechnikerInnen are
so on are new formations, as far as I can tell, produced in an
attempt to pacify a political-correctness lobby. We certainly don't
want this OT discussion to head off very far down _that_ thread!
Dismiss it simplification, but we lose nuance and meaning in the process.


We gain it, since we otherwise have no sex-neutral singular 3rd
pronoun, and there is clearly a need for one.


There's a difference between "there is clearly a need" and "some see a
need".


I say again, there is good historical support for this English
formation. You don't have to use it if you don't want to, but it _is_
a respectable part of the working grammar, and you gain nothing by
trying to lecture us that we don't need it, or worse, that it doesn't
exist.

Singular "they" has been used in English since the time of
Chaucer. [...]

says the original FAQ - look for "Gender-neutral pronouns" at
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/usage/english/original/
That's why I made the remark before. Furthermore, "To each his own." can be
seen as a quote.
It's also what we call a "stock phrase", and, as such, doesn't
necessarily throw much light on English usage in general, nor current
usage in particular.

But I was not arguing with the use of that phrase: I was only
addressing the issue of the "singular they".
I know where I'd f'up this thread to in de.ALL, but am not sure for
international Usenet.


I think alt.usage.english have already discussed it to death, and
don't want to hear it again. Here's another version of the FAQ:
http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxgender.html

Gruesse
Jul 20 '05 #28

P: n/a
*Alan J. Flavell* <fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk>:
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Christoph Paeper wrote:
If you want to see how silly it gets to politically correct a language

That "you" and the whole paragraph wasn't targeted specifically at you,
Alan, and "singular they".
Excuse me, but this is irrelevant. The use if the "singular they"
goes back for centuries,
May be, but my initial remark was on an instance of "her or his". If it had
been "To everyone their own", I would have stumbled over, but hadn't said
anything about it.
But I think you are imputing a parallel which does not, in fact, apply.
That's probably true, but it seems just so obvious.
and you gain nothing by trying to lecture us that we don't need it,
or worse, that it doesn't exist.


I know that every language is evolving, I just dislike active modifications,
especially if I can't see the need for them.

--
"Some people say I am a terrible person,
I'm not, I have the heart of a young boy,
in a jar, on my desk."
Stephen King
Jul 20 '05 #29

P: n/a
In article <Zp2xb.311369$Tr4.978490@attbi_s03> in
comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Brian
<us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part> wrote:
No. :-p Because there is no "singular they." They is plural.


I happen to dislike singular "they" rather strongly, but authors up
to and including Shakespeare have used it. You and I may not like
it, but singular "they" definitely exists.

http://alt-usage-english.org/excerpts/fxgender.html
http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/inde...?date=19980501

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com/
HTML 4.01 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
validator: http://validator.w3.org/
CSS 2 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
2.1 changes: http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/changes.html
validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Jul 20 '05 #30

P: n/a
In article <Zp2xb.311369$Tr4.978490@attbi_s03> in
comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Brian
<us*****@julietremblay.com.invalid-remove-this-part> wrote:
Lots of things are done more and more: using "who" a direct object,


That is at worst a minor sin: "who" is gradually taking over the old
functions of "whom".

What is a more serious sin IMHO is using "whom" in place of "who":
"Young Frederick, whom we thought was drowned, turned up at dinner
none the worse for wear."

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com/
HTML 4.01 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
validator: http://validator.w3.org/
CSS 2 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
2.1 changes: http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/changes.html
validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Jul 20 '05 #31

P: n/a
In article <Pi******************************@ppepc56.ph.gla.a c.uk>
in comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Alan J. Flavell
<fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
We gain it, since we otherwise have no sex-neutral singular 3rd
pronoun, and there is clearly a need for one.


If there is no gender-neutral third-person pronoun, Alan, what was
the third word in your sentence above? :-) And why is there
"clearly" a need for one? The Scandinavian languages seem to get
along fine using a form of "man" as the indefinite pronoun for "a
person".

But that's all theory. As a practical matter I agree that in today's
English, particularly in the US, a significant number of people are
offended by the use of "he" as generic pronoun for "a person".
Therefore a writer should not use it in that way, because it's bad
strategy to offend one's audience over a side issue.

But by the same token, since singular "they" offends a significant
number of people, a careful writer will eschew it as well.
--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com/
HTML 4.01 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
validator: http://validator.w3.org/
CSS 2 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
2.1 changes: http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/changes.html
validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Jul 20 '05 #32

P: n/a
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Stan Brown wrote:
in comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Alan J. Flavell
<fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
We gain it, since we otherwise have no sex-neutral singular 3rd
pronoun, and there is clearly a need for one.
If there is no gender-neutral third-person pronoun, Alan, what was
the third word in your sentence above? :-)


Foul! I said "sex-neutral". We aren't talking about sexless people
here, and you're surely not going to agree with Chr.P that English
should use "it" for a person of unspecified sex? Or are you??

Keep in mind that in German the usual word for girl is grammatically
of neuter gender (in fact, several different words for girl are neuter
- as are all words formed as diminutives, if I'm not mistaken;
certainly those formed with -chen or -lein).
And why is there "clearly" a need for one?
The fact that some respectable users of English since at least the
time of Shakespear, even Chaucer, have used "they" in this way, is
enough proof for me that a need was perceived and a workable solution
found.
The Scandinavian languages seem to get along fine using a form of
"man" as the indefinite pronoun for "a person".


Fine. And the Dutch get along with common gender, with no grammatical
distinction beween m and f, but only between common and neuter.

Does the fact that Germans (older Germans, at least) refer to a girl
with the pronoun "es" (it), for correct grammatical agreement with the
neuter noun, meet with your approval too?

Hmmm, how about a stylesheet for this??? ;-}
Jul 20 '05 #33

P: n/a
In article <Pi******************************@ppepc56.ph.gla.a c.uk>
in comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Alan J. Flavell
<fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
On Wed, 26 Nov 2003, Stan Brown wrote:
in comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Alan J. Flavell
<fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
>We gain it, since we otherwise have no sex-neutral singular 3rd
>pronoun, and there is clearly a need for one.
If there is no gender-neutral third-person pronoun, Alan, what was
the third word in your sentence above? :-)


Foul! I said "sex-neutral". We aren't talking about sexless people
here, and you're surely not going to agree with Chr.P that English
should use "it" for a person of unspecified sex? Or are you??


No, of course not. Did you miss the smiley?

(In passing, I wonder what the difference might be, in the context
of English grammar, between "sex-neutral" and "gender-neutral".)
Keep in mind that in German the usual word for girl is grammatically
of neuter gender
"Where is the turnip?"
"She is in the kitchen."
"Where is the beautiful and accomplished English maiden?"
"It has gone to the opera."
http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/awfgrmlg.html
And why is there "clearly" a need for one?


The fact that some respectable users of English since at least the
time of Shakespear, even Chaucer, have used "they" in this way, is
enough proof for me that a need was perceived and a workable solution
found.


Here, joking aside, I must respectfully disagree. I don't think we
have any particular evidence that "they" was a considered choice,
much less that it was a considered choice to get around a perceived
problem of using "he" to refer to an unspecified person of
unspecified sex. Since this whole problem blew up in the 1970s and
1980s, and only in English, I doubt very much that Chaucer or
Shakespeare would understand it if you pointed it out -- or would
take it seriously. Their attitudes toward the sexes were _not_
modern, and they cannot be judged on the same basis as a
contemporary writer.

Please understand that I am not saying it's not a real problem. I
believe it's a problem to be taken seriously because a significant
number of people perceive it to be a problem, not because there is
any intrinsic _grammatical_ reason why "he" can't be used to refer
to an unspecified person of unspecified sex.

The objection, I think, is similar to the objection to using certain
words for body parts and bodily functions in polite company -- not
because there's anything wrong with the words themselves, but
because using them is likely to give offense. (And the fact that
great writers have used those words does not mean that we should use
them in everyday speech.)
The Scandinavian languages seem to get along fine using a form of
"man" as the indefinite pronoun for "a person".


Fine. And the Dutch get along with common gender, with no grammatical
distinction beween m and f, but only between common and neuter.


As do the Danes and Bokmaal-speaking Norwegians.
Does the fact that Germans (older Germans, at least) refer to a girl
with the pronoun "es" (it), for correct grammatical agreement with the
neuter noun, meet with your approval too?


Well, when they come to me for permission, I'll consider the matter.
:-) <-- note smiley

My point was simply that it's impossible to use _grammatical_
grounds to object to "he" as generic singular pronoun for persons.
The grounds for objecting (and I do not dispute them) are extra-
linguistic, as is demonstrated by the fact that no similar
objections are raised in related languages.

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com/
HTML 4.01 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
validator: http://validator.w3.org/
CSS 2 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
2.1 changes: http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/changes.html
validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Jul 20 '05 #34

P: n/a
On Thu, 27 Nov 2003, Stan Brown wrote:
My point was simply that it's impossible to use _grammatical_
grounds to object to "he" as generic singular pronoun for persons.
It's not a purely grammatical question, I agree. Did I ever suggest
that it was? What I was trying to rule out was the use of a purely
grammatical argument in an attempt to disqualify the "singular they".
The grounds for objecting (and I do not dispute them) are extra-
linguistic, as is demonstrated by the fact that no similar
objections are raised in related languages.


Let me understand you correctly. You are asserting that other
languages do not object to using the masculine 3rd pronoun to refer to
both sexes? Or which languages do you mean by "related languages"?

Der Direktor oder die Direktorin trägt die umfassende
Führungsverantwortung für das Institut. Er oder sie entscheidet
über die Planung, die Forschung, die Dienstleistungen [..]

If you replace "er oder sie" by "man", which was what you seemed to be
hinting at earlier, it simply does not make sense. And the same would
be the case in English if you wanted to use "one" instead of "he or
she" (or "singular they").

Let's wrap this up. We're way off topic, and I don't think we're
doing any good.
Jul 20 '05 #35

P: n/a
In article <Pi******************************@ppepc56.ph.gla.a c.uk>
in comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets, Alan J. Flavell
<fl*****@ph.gla.ac.uk> wrote:

several questions, and then:
Let's wrap this up. We're way off topic, and I don't think we're
doing any good.


Oh.

--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Cortland County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com/
HTML 4.01 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
validator: http://validator.w3.org/
CSS 2 spec: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
2.1 changes: http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/changes.html
validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Jul 20 '05 #36

P: n/a
Alan J. Flavell wrote:

Der Direktor oder die Direktorin trägt die umfassende
Führungsverantwortung für das Institut. Er oder sie entscheidet
über die Planung, die Forschung, die Dienstleistungen [..]


Small question out of interest. Say in above, if you wanted to point
out that all "Direktoren" are male, how would you express this given
only the two gender-specific terms?

Interessanterweise waren alle Direktoren dieser Schule männlich.
--> wouldn't make sense if "Direktor" would be taken as gender-
specific, as politically correct language tries to point out

Interessanterweise waren alle Direktoren und Direktorinnen
dieser Schulle männlich.
--> also doesn't make sense, since a female cannot be male

It seems in any case there's need for a gender-neutral word, as opposed
to two gender-specific words, because sometimes the gender is of no
importance to what you're trying to say. And when it becomes important
later in the text, than that creates a weird situation in PC-speech.
What is now considered masculine by some once was considered neuter
removing above awkwardness.
So if I want to say "Direktor" when I'm talking about the group of
persons, I would use the masculine (neuter), and when I would be
pointing out a specific individual (not a job title), I would use the
masculine or feminine version (depending on the Direktor's gender of
course).
Jul 20 '05 #37

P: n/a
*Philipp Lenssen* <in**@outer-court.com>:
Alan J. Flavell wrote:
Der Direktor oder die Direktorin trägt die umfassende
Führungsverantwortung für das Institut. Er oder sie entscheidet

English 'singular they', if I understand it correctly, mapped to German
would read

... Sie entscheiden ...

As a matter of fact, this "Sie" could also be read as directed at the
reader.
Small question out of interest. Say in above, if you wanted to point
out that all "Direktoren" are male, how would you express this given
only the two gender-specific terms?

Interessanterweise waren alle Direktoren dieser Schule männlich.
This would be (even politically) correct German IMO, or:

Interessanterweise gab es an dieser Schule
· noch keine Direktorin.
· noch keinen weiblichen Direktor.
· nur männliche Direktoren.
· nur Direktoren, keine Direktorin.

In the first and last variants, you may also use the plural Direktorinnen,
because none out of one is exactly as much as none out of many. The second
one shows that biological and grammatical gender don't necessarily have to
be the same, "der weibliche Direktor" (f/m) == "die Direktorin" (f/f) or
(one of the few opposite examples): "die männliche Krankenschwester" (m/f)
~= "der Krankenpfleger".

Of course all this can be and is used for jokes. Imagine our army had
changed its traditional rank names for female officers; we would have
"Hauptfrauen" now, although the Bundeswehr is far from being a harem.
--> also doesn't make sense, since a female cannot be male
Umm, no I won't...
What is now considered masculine by some once was considered neuter
removing above awkwardness.
Exactly! Males are the real handicapped ones, because females even have
their own grammatical gender!!1 And doctors!!!11 And parking lots!!!!111
Once upon a time I freaked out a teacheress of mine with this faked
attitude. Who says school wasn't fun?
So if I want to say "Direktor" when I'm talking about the group of
persons, I would use the masculine (neuter), and when I would be
pointing out a specific individual (not a job title), I would use the
masculine or feminine version


That's what every sane speaker does, except when he thinks it would thought
as appropriate for the situation to use the p.c.ed version. Oh, I used "he".
Unconscious. Really. I swear to whoever-you-want.
F'up2 poster

--
Sehr geehrte Bürgermeister und Bürgermeisterinnen,
Bürgerinnenmeister und Bürgerinnenmeisterinnen!
Jul 20 '05 #38

P: n/a
On Fri, 28 Nov 2003, Philipp Lenssen wrote:
Alan J. Flavell wrote:
Der Direktor oder die Direktorin trägt die umfassende
Führungsverantwortung für das Institut. Er oder sie entscheidet
über die Planung, die Forschung, die Dienstleistungen [..]


Small question out of interest. Say in above, if you wanted to point
out that all "Direktoren" are male, how would you express this given
only the two gender-specific terms?


Just to make this crystal clear: I was using the above example to
refute the suggestion that other languages than English were happy to
use a pronoun such as "man" in a non-sex-specific way, and that
therefore the problem which I had been describing for English simply
didn't exist in other languages.

I did not for a moment wish to launch some fresh proposal for changes
in the German language!

The analogy is anyway incomplete, since in English "the Director", (as
indeed many, though not all job descriptions in English) is not
sex-specific, and does not need two different forms to make it
sex-inclusive. The pronoun, on the other hand, *is*: as soon as you
refer to the Director as "he" or "she" then you are ready to want a
non-sex-specific pronoun. Or at least, some of us are ready.

[now really trying to finish this OT thread off - setting f'up to
poster]

Jul 20 '05 #39

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