27 October 2008

One Story: Respect for Tradition

One Story is a marvelous magazine (and not just because they published me -- that should, perhaps, be held against them...) and I can testify that it makes a great gift for people who like to read but generally feel too busy to do so, because receiving a nicely-produced story every three weeks or so in the mail is great fun.

One Story now and then asks for donations, because the magazine is a non-profit and doesn't run ads. Clifford Garstang pointed out that a recent solicitation included this description of the "Editor" donation level:
Editor: $100 – I’ll pay one author for their story
Mr. Garstang notes that there is, according to certain interpretations of English usage, a problem with agreement between the one author and the plural pronoun their.

What he doesn't say, though, is that One Story is simply showing their respect for the history of English literature and the language itself. According to the indispensible Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, here are some of the writers who have used this construction:
Chaucer: "And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame,/They wol come up..." ("The Pardoner's Prologue")

Shakespeare: "And every one to rest themselves betake" ("The Rape of Lucrece")

The King James Bible: "...if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses"

Jane Austen: "I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly" (Mansfield Park)

Thackeray: "A person can't help their birth" (Vanity Fair)

W.H. Auden: "...it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy" (Encounter, Feb. 1955)
For further exploration of this fine tradition, click here.