Saturday, March 19, 2016

Gender-Neutral Singular Pronoun

As we seem to take two steps forward and one back, I am still amazed at our forward progress. The bathroom bills are the one-step back that seems to haunt us for the depths of social ignorance.  However, the republican controlled state legislatures seem to be winding down, with no real damage having been done yet.  So let’s keep the pressures on and support the political parties and organizations that support us.

On the positive steps forward front, the 2015 American Dialect Society's Word of the Year is “They” - Denoting gender-neutral used as a singular pronoun. "They" with this specific definition: gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, as a non-binary identifier.

Note what the The American Dialect Society said:


In its 26th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted for they used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun as the Word of the Year for 2015. They was recognized by the society for its emerging use as a pronoun to refer to a known person, often as a conscious choice by a person rejecting the traditional gender binary of he and she.

Presiding at the Jan. 8 voting session were ADS Executive Secretary Allan Metcalf of MacMurray College and Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. Zimmer is also executive editor of Vocabulary.com and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

The use of singular they builds on centuries of usage, appearing in the work of writers such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. In 2015, singular they was embraced by the Washington Post style guide. Bill Walsh, copy editor for the Post, described it as “the only sensible solution to English’s lack of a gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun.”

“In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a (great) deal of discussion, and singular they has become a particularly significant element of that conversation,” Zimmer said. “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language.”

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