Why was this question(https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/225083/on-referring-to-a-specific-definite-person-whose-gender-is-known-as-they) voted to be put on hold as being POB by a user while his question(English parts of speech — better new treatments) is far from being objective? I smell double standard.

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    The second question you linked to was asked and answered going on 3 years ago now, around the time EL&U has just entered Beta and its charter was being formed. At that time, the site was still figuring itself out, and the "rules" were much more amorphous and less clear. In other words, questions from that time period aren't indicative of the situation as it stands today, where the second question, if it were asked again, probably would be put on hold as POB.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2015 at 9:13
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    As a more recent example, here's an entertaining and thought-provoking question which was put on hold only yesterday for being too theoretical (opinion based)
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2015 at 10:01
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    I voted to close not so much because of your question, which I think is interesting and quite reasonable, but because after most responses say contributors don't accept the 'John scratched their head' usage (see Erik Kowal's answer, for instance; tchrist's proviso is important) you add another counterexample to this view saying 'But what about ...'. How about adding a proportionate number of examples of 'John scratched his head' and 'Joan scratched her head'? Don't you like the responses people are giving? Eventually, you enter the 'But I've found 6 examples, so it must be acceptable' camp Feb 4, 2015 at 10:25
  • By the way, I really appreciated the answers to the question I asked all that time ago. They helped me further realise the magnitude of the problem. None claimed 'You must use this treatment ...'. With your question, the responses are all agreed on how to regard the 'John scratched their head' usage. The 'every boy and their dog' usage is different, distancing (but not insulting). You don't have to agree yourself, but at least be prepared to accept that most people here don't consider the usage acceptable Feb 4, 2015 at 10:26
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    I'm inclined to think that this question should be closed because it is a thinly-disguised personal attack.
    – Hellion
    Feb 5, 2015 at 21:28
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    @Hellion No. My point is that if my question should be closed as POB, his question should also be closed. In short, I'm asking the community for fairness. Feb 6, 2015 at 1:32
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    That's not the point your question is making as it is currently written. Right now it basically says "Edwin is a hypocrite for voting to close my question." But 4 other people agreed that your question deserved to be closed and you're not asking about them; nor are you asking what it is about your question that makes people think it's POB.
    – Hellion
    Feb 6, 2015 at 4:40

1 Answer 1


Questions about whether a particular usage is considered acceptable are entirely answerable, even from a descriptivist point of view: "In 2013 a majority of the usage panel at Murgatroyd's Unabridged Dictionary considered this to be an acceptable construction," would be a fine answer. "In this Language Log post from last August, Prof. John Frink stated that 'opinions about this particular permutation are still very much up in the air,'" would be another. An answer might note an apparent lack of scholarship on the topic, but propose a course of action based upon similar usage trends. Or one might simply note that there is no consensus to be found, and that would be the answer.

In a very real sense, all of usage is about opinions. Just because a question involves opinions in some way doesn't make it POB. That ain't what it's for.

The question should be reopened.

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    While I agree with your point about usage questions, I feel compelled to point out that you are not able to answer the question that was actually asked ("Why did so-and-so vote to close my question when he himself asked a question that was just as bad, if not worse?"); the only person who can legitimately answer it is EdwinAshworth.
    – Hellion
    Feb 5, 2015 at 21:26

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