I want to apologize today to the hundreds of students whose papers suffered my red, and later purple, ink to note an error in pronoun agreement for the use of the plural they instead of the singular he or she.
Having grown up with parents who spoke a heavy Appalachian dialect, I was forced to learn Standard English as a second language when I decided my freshman year in college that I loved language and literature and wanted to share my passion for great writers. When I decided to become an English teacher, I worked hard to make the rules I’d learned from my high school English teachers a part of my spoken language. The first time I went back home for a break, I practiced my new dialect…until one of my friends said to me, “Will you stop with the i-n-gs! You sound like you’re readin’ out of a book.”
That was the moment, years before I heard the term, that I learned to codeswitch—to shift back and forth between the dialect I’d learned at home and the language I needed to use in the English classroom. Continue reading Masculine? Feminine? Neutral? Or Just Confusing?