“Thanks to [Organization] for Their Help” — or Is It “for Its Help”?

A commenter, commenting on my “Thanks to Attorney.org for its kind words about our blog,” asks:

Unless one is British, would not the proper response be “Thanks to Attorney.org for its kind words about our blog, which it labeled its Blog of the Year”?

Or did I miss a revolution with respect to it (its) and they (their)?

I’m not sure there was a revolution, in the sense of a change in practice. But my sense is that current practice (whether or not it departs from past practice) is generally to treat organizations as a “they” rather than an “it” in thanks, perhaps because thanks naturally flow to humans rather than to entities. A few quick searches for “thanks to x for their” and “… for its” (with x being, for instance, Google, U2, and Exxon) suggest that “for their” is considerably more common, except, oddly enough, when x was UCLA (why is that?).

Unless I’m mistaken, this is a special case of what is called notional agreement. Alternatively, one can see it as an instance of ellipsis, in which “Thanks to x” is understood to mean “Thanks to the people at x.” But in any case, my sense is that treating the thanked entity as a plural group of people rather than as a singular organization, and thus using “their” instead of “its,” is indeed standard usage, though the opposite approach is standard, too (though apparently somewhat rarer).

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