I’ve got to thank my students, who helped me out with this pronoun stuff. It’s a habit, but it’s not too hard to break.
Yes, practice—I am trying my best to master this new way of using they despite the fact that, make no mistake, it’s hard. In contrast to the deliberateness of writing, speaking casually is a largely subconscious, not to mention very rapid, act. In addition, pronouns, like conjunctions and suffixes, are a very deeply seated feature of language, generated from way down deep in our minds, linked to something as fundamental to human conception as selfhood in relation to the other and others. I’ve been using they in one way since the late 1960s, and was hardly expecting to have to learn a new way of using it decades later. I thought I had English pretty much under my belt.
We’ve been trained for years to address people one way, and he doesn’t even mention one aspect to it: not acknowledging the gender of the person you’re talking about has been considered offensive.
But as McWhorter explains, “they” is fine as a plural pronoun, has been for centuries, and has only been shunned by those weird grammarians who try to impose the structure of old dead languages on English. I’ve been finding it easier and easier to adapt to reasonable pronoun usage.