My three-year-old son just corrected my grammar. He was right. I, the English major and former high-school English teacher, was wrong.
Grady: Daddy, somebody at school kicked my foot today.
Me: It’s ok, Grady. I’m sure they didn’t mean it.
Grady: No Daddy, it’s just one person.
He was referring, of course, to my usage of “they” as a pronoun to replace “somebody.” My pronoun was plural, and his antecedent was singular. Pronoun/antecedent agreement. Oldest mistake in the proverbial grammar book, and I was guilty as sin.
I realize that some people use “they” to refer to an antecedent for which the gender is unkown (as I did). Nevertheless, despite common usage, it’s still grammatically incorrect. Things I *could* have said?
- It’s ok, Grady. I’m sure she or he didn’t mean it.
- It’s ok, Grady. I’m sure your friend didn’t mean it.
- It’s ok, Grady. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.
Anyhow, as with much of parenting, I wasn’t quite sure whether to be embarrassed, indignant, or proud. I’m posting it on my blog, so I must be proud. Now when he’s 15 and does it on a regular basis…then it won’t be quite so cute.