https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7

Singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year.

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So, big news! Singular 'they' has been declared Word of the Year!

MARRIOTT MARQUIS, WASHINGTON D.C.—JAN. 8—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.”

While editors have increasingly moved to accepting singular they when used in a generic fashion, voters in the Word of the Year proceedings singled out its newer usage as an identifier for someone who may identify as “non-binary” in gender terms.

“In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a 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.”

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.

The vote is the longest-running such vote anywhere, the only one not tied to commercial interests, and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead. It is fully informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words, but it is far from a solemn occasion.

Members in the 127-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars. In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead, they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.

Read the rest of this article here.. The rest of the article includes other words that were considered for the award.

3 years ago

21 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Carolyn250

I have been over ten years out of an English classroom- but I was not the teacher of whom you speak. I accepted "they" in the singular for ages, because "he or she" is awkward and not euphonic. I was pretty sure "they" (sing) would rise to common acceptance and time has proven me right. Usage and common sense tend to trump "correct" grammar every time.

Having read the responses- I think I need to clarify by example. I was teaching before gender issues were brought to the forefront of our consciousness (and I feel they need to be). But the thing that I accepted was more to do with ease of expression. Read the following sentences. "If anyone has lost his or her gloves, he or she can find many pairs in the lost and found."

Most of us (political or not), now say, "If anyone has lost their gloves, they can find many pairs in the lost and found." This change has been happening for years. In fact most people are blissfully unaware that "anyone" is singular.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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I knew I was fond of you for some reason ;)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SuperDescartes

Ok Carolyn, in that sense I agree with the use of they as a singular, and actually have been using it myself for last 15 years, and I think you are right in saying this change has been happening gradually. However, I'd still say he or she sounds more natural in certain contexts, such as in your original example, for me, he or she sings beautifully is more natural and easy.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pfiff
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That's awesome! I know how much it means for you, and for a host of other NB people. I wish there were more gender neutral terms to do with relationships, though -- parent and spouse and sibling exist for those relationships, but I don't know anything for aunt/uncle or child (without being diminutive).

I also majorly lol'd at the "MOST NOTABLE EMOJI (new category)". Thanks for sharing the article!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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I do too. I don't know how to talk about my sister's children without gendering them. The word "nibbling" has been suggested to me, but it feels unserious when I want to have a serious conversation about something related to them. It also feels like it has a degree of closeness to use such a cute sounding word. I've been pretty estranged from my biological family. So, it is awkward to use.:P

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WildSage
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I'm sending this to the high school english teacher that marked me wrong for using the singular they.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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No matter what response you get, just know that this bunny thinks you're a hero. :D

Edit And if you're NB, I'm so sorry that happened to you! I had the wonderful experience of my professors (mostly) being very supportive and teaching me how to use these pronouns while still being clear that I was talking about a singular subject. There is an art to it and it is achievable.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WildSage
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Aww. Bunny's are awesome.

I'm not NB and this was a long long time age. To be fair it was only one teacher that didn't allow they. Others were either more open to the singular they or to not hearing me argue about it :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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Haha, that's awesome that you put up resistance. That can be a scary thing to do when an authority figure is telling you you're wrong. I had to negotiate with a few of them and use the Ze pronoun set instead. But one way or another I was going to refuse to gender people I'd never met and who had never made their pronoun preferences known to me. Good luck in sending it. :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/otsogutxi
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I thought it would be a more 'recent' word.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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lol, right? Been around a while...

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sueefo

I saw the headlines about singular "they." Merriam-Webster Inc., which publishes dictionaries, also picks a word of the year so I went to their website to find out what it was. It turns out that it's not a word at all, but a suffix: "-ism." The video explains that some of words that were most looked up on their website ended with this suffix: terrorism, racism, socialism, fascism, communism, capitalism and feminism.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/ It's on their homepage under videos. Look for "2015 Word of the Year: Behind the Scenes."

Also on M-W's homepage: "The Awkward Case of His or Her."

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

So it's not official, but it's used a lot? Nice.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
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We don't have a language academy to declare it official or unofficial, at least not for American English. It's all about usage. Washington Post recently declared they would accept its singular usage for their newspaper. Here is the Article for That. WP covered this latest news with a lot of humor Here So, I think it's just a matter of time. So far line of "authority" on the matter that I'm aware of is simply people saying "you cannot use it because it is against grammar rules". But grammar rules are based on how people use a language. They've changed time and again. A really good quote I read from chirelchirel on Duolingo was "Prescriptivist approach sets a standard for the language, descriptivist approach accepts language as something that is always changing. When language has changed enough, the prescrivists change their rules to fit the language."

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EpicPowerHero

I always think that it is the people, not a board of any sort, that really decides our language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward
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That whole article was a good read. I especially enjoyed all the categories and entries at the end. It's hard to stay hip in this fast paced world :)

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ignatznkrazy
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I am a big fan of grammar rules because in some ways they can level the playing field--in other ways they do the opposite, but .... For quite a while I preferred "he or she" to "they," until I met people who identified as neither he nor she. It is quite nice that our language already had a tool to handle a concept that was pretty new for many of us. In a linguistics class I took, we talked about how this is (or might be) handled in languages with a strong grammatical gender. In those cases progress on this sort of new language might be very slow.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dr_Patriot

My friend it seems those on your side of our fun little battle are winning the linguists to their side. Those with me on the side of neutral he retaining its great prominence must "step our games up" as they say in sporting. This is fair play on your side. After all, neutral he and singular they are nearly in a state of mortal kombat.

Singular they really is- ahem- testing our might.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
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Dictionary.com announced their own Word of the Year _-----," identity,."

http://blog.dictionary.com/new-words-of-2015/

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ChocolateWish14

Cool!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/restorationlady

Oh, yes! This is amazing, thank you for sharing! :D

3 years ago
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