Two days after the 30 day Blog Challenge and my brain is on ‘overload’. So much information just itching to come out. So, I’m doing my normal early morning scanning of the internet like Ward Cleaver would reach for his morning coffee and read the paper at the breakfast table. Here I am reaching for my lemon water and snooping around news pages online in the modern day “Leave it to ‘Valerie’” sitcom.
While surfing with my mouse in hand; I happened upon an article about how a ‘Glass of red wine equals 1 hour at the gym”, so ‘they’ say. And then I got to thinking about many other articles that I read where ‘they’ were saying that ‘wine’ isn’t good for you – I became unconscionably perplexed at what to believe and the real mystery of who ‘they’ are anyway?
I searched and searched and asked my closest and most dearest friend – my “Google Bible” and was having the hardest time finding out who “they” were. After all I had been hearing about “them” all my life.
The first recollection I remembered having of ‘them’ was way back in the old days when I was just a young teen and my fashion conscious mother trying to force me to wear some nasty spearmint green outfit for school because, as she so eloquently put it, “that’s what they’re wearing”. And that was ‘all she wrote’ because those words were magic to my ears and I just automatically obeyed and wore the confounded getup; all for the reason that “they” are wearing it too? Who are “they”?
“They won’t let you get away with that.”
“They tell us everything we eat will kill us.”
“They say every cloud has a silver lining.”
You hear about ‘them’ constantly — on radio talk shows, in bars, at political rallies, on the job.
The thing is, nobody seems to know exactly who they are. And just why is it so important to us to know what they think, anyway?
That little four-letter word is more complex than it lets on, representing everything from lazy language usage to the pangs of paranoia. Psychologists and linguists have reason for examining the pronoun.
Let`s see what they have to say about they, shall we?
There’s the positive ‘they’ that my mother used in the example above – “that’s what THEY’RE wearing”
`And then there`s the paranoid they as in `They`ll never let that happen` — the sinister they of the conspiracy mavens.`
But “they-think“ is not just limited to people who have seen the movie JFK 17 times. In some minor way, most of us assume once in a while that somebody is out to get us or is sitting in judgment of us.
You never know where ‘they’ will pop up. In fact, maybe YOU are one of them.
You`re definitely a ‘they’ if you work for the Internal Revenue Service, a college admissions program or a law enforcement agency. Anybody in a position of authority gets branded a ‘they’ pretty quickly.
Think about this….most people have a tendency to believe whatever they read, and they use ‘they’ as a general, generic authority. But they’re not reading carefully enough to see who’s saying it.
To illustrate, try this little thought experiment. Imagine me, as the writer of this article, was a member of the media –I would be a ‘they’ if there ever was one.
You might assume –not really knowing me very well, and if you want to bequeath the writer power and authority — that she is wearing a suit, perched rigidly in a straight-back chair while composing this article and poring over books checked out of a library’s etymology section.
But what happens to your image of me when I confess that I’m not wearing a tie, I’m sitting on my right foot, my desk is cluttered with notebooks, pens and envelopes, and I haven’t found a good place to hang up my raincoat? Suddenly, I’m not an authority. I’m just an average Jane trying to make sense of a confusing topic.
To be sure, most of us use they for innocuous reasons. We’re simply being a bit lazy at worst, conversational at best.
For instance, when we tell each other around the office cooler that, “They say it’ll rain on Friday,“ we’re summing up what we have learned. Most likely, the listener doesn’t expect to hear, “Well, the National Weather Service is estimating a 70 percent chance for precipitation, while Accu-Weather pegs the likelihood at 80 percent.“
There are still more reasons for creating artificial ‘theys’. Linguists say we do so when we’re uncomfortable with somebody or some group.
Take your average bigot, for example.
Think about this for a moment…We tend to use pronouns when we discriminate against a group.. Rather than refer to a minority by their full name, we call them ‘they’. It seems to be a way of avoiding things that we don’t like.
We might just hear a Presidential candidate address a convention of African-Americans as “you people“ — which is just another way of saying ‘them’.
The lesson to be learned here, perhaps, is to watch your ‘theys’, as much as your p`s and q`s, before you speak. If your listener is paying attention, you may be grilled about just what you mean by ‘they’. And your efforts to address a subject quickly will, in fact, take a longer time than you planned.
So slow down.
Consider your subject.
Choose your words with care and precision.
After all, haste makes waste.
Or at least that’s what ‘they’ say.