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Written By: admin - Oct• 12•11

Lisa R. found this, and wonders if the patient in question was royalty.


This submission relates to my belief that languages do evolve.  I struggle with that notion, because evolution happens through repeated mutation, and sometimes linguistic mutations are actually errors.  It’s fascinating to go back and take apart a wrong-mutation evolution in retrospect (“apple-pie order” is one of my faves).  But it’s much less fun to watch that evolution happening when it’s pushing one of your buttons.

Personally, this is not one of my buttons.  When I read a sentence like this, it definitely trips my grammar alarm.  But then I go back, parse it, and think “Okay, I get what they did there.”  Because I’m pretty sure no ad agency worth its Mad Men would let this ad out of the door if the copy said “While he or she waited.”  If they didn’t want to do something radical (like using “she”) or potentially offensive (like going with “he”), this was the only choice.

For controversy-fueling, you can all check out this article.


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  1. DavidS says:

    “While waiting for a central line, your patient crashed.” Which circumvents the question of how grammar evolves, but seems to work. Personally, I prefer the gender-neutral “per.”

  2. Laura says:

    When I read that I was wondering who was waiting for the central line. Was it the nurses? the doctors? It didn’t occur to me that it was the patient waiting for the central line.

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