As Alan Jacobs, an English professor and blogger at The New Atlantis, observed today, even those accustomed to older usages no longer find it strange to condone "they" as a generic singular noun:
Earlier in the week, a prominent language blogger, Mark Liberman, and two writers in the New York Times Magazine made a stronger case for the supposedly incorrect and non-traditional "they":
I "have long noticed that the British exercise more freedom in this matter than Americans do. But . . . I can't do it myself. Just can't. I've spent too many years thinking it wrong and doing the "he or she" thing to change now. On the other hand, it's nice to think that I have one less common error to correct when I'm reading my students' papers.
- "They" Goes All the Way Back to the King James Bible, says Liberman. "Some pockets of stubborn prescriptivist resistance remain, and it's a comfort to know that we can count on the Sword of the Lord to help mop them up.
- The Rule Was Cooked Up in the 18th Century, say Patricia T. O'Connor and Stewart Kellerman "It's a relatively recent usage, as these things go. And it wasn't cooked up by a male sexist grammarian, either"