Singular they comes to Iowa

… along with same-sex marriage. From the new “Application to Marry in Iowa” found on the Des Moines Register’s site, in the “Affidavit of competent and disinterested person”:

“I, ______________ affirm that I am acquainted with _______________, and they are ____ years of age; and that I am acquainted with_______________,  and they are ____ years of age.”

This gets around the awkwardness of he or she or he/she or (s)he. Of course, this person (with is) would also have been possible.

(Hat tip to Steven Messamer.)

5 Responses to “Singular they comes to Iowa”

  1. Chris Waigl Says:

    Isn’t it strange and interesting that the main supporting piece of evidence that someone is acquainted with someone else is that they[1] know their[2] age?

  2. Bill Findlay Says:

    Its the other way about, Chris (hi!). Acquaintance is being offered as evidence of the veracity of the stated age.

    BTW why not: “I am acquainted with______, who is ____ years of age.”?

  3. Gavin MacDonald Says:

    @Bill Findlay: I assume because “and they are” is easier to understand among all the blanks than “who is”.

  4. John Lawler Says:

    That’s definitely part of it, but in fact the two sentences are not necessarily the same in meaning.

    The actual form has two conjoined assertions,
    separated, note, by a semicolon:
    (1) the attestor attests that they know _____; and
    (2) the attestor attests that _____’s age is _____ years of age.
    Both are separately attested to, and that fact is clear and conventionally stated.

    Whereas the proposed form uses a non-restrictive relative clause, which is often used for a separate attestation, true; but which may not be an accepted conventional legal statement of that, and therefore might have unpredictable consequences in court. Lawyers hate when that happens. So do bureaucrats.

  5. Bill Findlay Says:

    @John Lawler

    Are we reading the same sentence? I quote: “I, _____ affirm that I am acquainted with ______ , and they are ____ years of age;
    and that I am acquainted with_______ , and they are ____ years of age.”

    The assertions separated by semicolons refer to different persons. The assertions of acquaintance and of age related to one person are not separated by semicolons, but by commas.

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