‘Their' edges out ‘his'

The polls are now closed. There was a consensus, but it was not my consensus, so it doesn't count. I should not have asked for a vote. Permit me to explain. As every Constant Reader will recall, this was the question put before the house: Does the antecedent “everyone” take only the single referent “his”? Exempli gratia: On a doubtful proposition, does everyone still have only HIS opinion? Or have the rules changed so that everyone may now have THEIR opinion?

This was the tally: For the beloved old “his” opinion, 87. For the genderless plural, 91. Four readers opted for such abominable inventions as “his/her” and “her/him.”

Brenda Davis of Medford, Ore., spoke for the plurality: “Being a female, it always seemed demeaning to me that we had to use ‘his' when writing. … I've always preferred the use of, ‘Does everyone have their ticket ready?'”

Rocky Sasser of Somewhere in Cyberspace half-heartedly concurred: “I would much prefer a singular referent pronoun that was gender nonspecific without reducing a person to the status of an ‘it.' ‘Everyone has its' doesn't cut it. However, ‘his' no longer works as gender nonspecific and hasn't for a number of years. ‘His or her' is clumsy, ungraceful and uncomfortable. As bad as it sounds, the only other option I'm aware of is ‘everyone has their.'”

Don Murrell of Durango, Colo., spoke stoutly for the other side: “My wife and I cast an unequivocal vote for the old school construction using ‘his' to refer back to ‘everyone' and ‘everybody.' We were taught this usage in our high school composition class in the mid-1950s and such usage we retain.”

My own policy, as Constant Readers know, is never unintentionally to offend anyone. Thus I suggest a dignified retreat to plural constructions: Do ALL the guests have THEIR drinks? If they don't, open another bottle.