Dictionary 2

Merriam-Webster Adds “They” As Nonbinary Pronoun To Dictionary

Merriam-Webster recently added 533 words to its online dictionary, one of which was the word “they” as a singular pronoun for non-binary/gender non-conforming individuals. “They” has grown in popularity in terms of the preferred pronouns that individuals who don’t identify as male (he/him) or female (she/her) use. However, grammar snobs and ignorant people alike have criticized the use of “they/them” as a pronoun choice due to the implication that the word “they” carried, often referring to multiple people as opposed to one singular individual. Well, those people no longer have an argument, as one of the biggest resources for English grammar and vocabulary made it an official singular pronoun choice. 

Merriam-Webster themselves wrote a pre-emptive response to any academic critics who just can’t wrap their heads around gender expression and grammar use;  “We will note that ‘they’ has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s; that the development of singular ‘they’ mirrors the development of the singular ‘you’ from the plural ‘you’, yet we don’t complain that singular ‘you’ is ungrammatical; and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular ‘they’ in casual conversation and often in formal writing.”

Emily Brewster initially made the statement on the Merriam-Webster website and added how the company isn’t trying to be an image of social justice, however, individuals have been using this pronoun to identify themselves and their gender identity for the past decade, it’s just being more openly discussed now, so of course it’s in the dictionary. The English language in general is one of the most complex forms of communication that we know of, mainly for the endless amount of slang words, so a pronoun that doesn’t seem like it should be singular when it actually is, really isn’t that out of the ordinary in terms of words that Merriam-Webster approves of. 

For example, along with the addition of the “they/them” pronouns, Webster also added the terms vacay (vacation), sesh (session), and inspo (inspiration). So if you encounter a person who’s using their love of grammar as an excuse to be ignorant over someone’s choice of pronouns, ask them how they feel about those words first, and maybe tell them to mind their own business.

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“Overall you’re seeing workplaces, schools and hospitals recognize the current system of only offering ‘male’ and ‘female’ isn’t working for a lot of people,” says Gillian Branstetter, a media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, in an interview with The Guardian

“They/Them” as a pronoun choice has also been added into AP Style and Grammar books after 2018, and also is a gender identity option on drivers licenses in 14 states. The inclusion of these pronouns is so important to the normalization of LGBT+ individuals all around, as it is a community built on the acceptance of all gender identities and sexuality. Gender is a very hot topic, especially today, and the deconstruction of gender binaries and restrictions is becoming the biggest social revolution in America to date. Some parents are even choosing to raise their children as non-binary, meaning they don’t only buy pink things if they have a biologically female child and vice versa, and instead give the child their own choice to play, dress, and be whoever they want to be. So it only makes sense that academic resources begin recognizing these identities as truly valid, as they are. 

Pop culture is also seeing a rise in representation for the LGBT+ community, and especially non-binary individuals. Just recently famous singer Sam Smith took to social media to tell their massive following that their preferred pronouns are “they/them” and no longer “he/him”.

“I understand there will be many mistakes and mis-gendering but all I ask is you please please try,” Smith stated in a series of social media posts. 

Transitioning from referring to an individual as “he/him” or “she/her”  to “they/them” can be a major adjustment, especially if you’ve known them as one identity their whole life. However, it’s who they are, and is no different than them telling you they prefer pizza over hamburgers, it’s just a part of their identity, and it’s your job to accept that. You just have to choose to try instead of actively choosing not to, trust me, the latter is always much more difficult. 

“They: expanded to include this sense: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” It’s an expansion of a use that is sometimes called the “singular they” (and one that has a long history in English). When a reflexive pronoun corresponding to singular use of they is needed, themself is seeing increasing use.”