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December 11 2019

They As Singular is Merriam-Webster Word of the Year

by Charlotte Hays

Say it ain’t so, Merriam-Webster.

Merriam-Webster has made the singular form of “they” its Word of the Year.

May I reject the notion that "they" has a singular form?

Neverheless NBC reports:

Merriam-Webster's 2019 Word of the Year is "they" — the singular pronoun that has gained popularity as a way to refer to nonbinary people who identify as neither exclusively male nor female.

The decision, which was entirely data-driven and announced Tuesday morning, came after searches of the word trended all year, according to the dictionary's editors.

“Pronouns are among the language's most commonly used words, and like other common words (think ‘go,’ ‘do,’ and ‘have’) they tend to be mostly ignored by dictionary users,” Emily Brewster, senior editor at Merriam-Webster, said in a statement. “But over the past year or so, as people have increasingly encountered the nonbinary use, we've seen searches for ‘they’ grow dramatically.”

“They” was looked up 313 percent more this year than the last year, Merriam-Webster revealed.

The choice of  "they" used as a singular pronoun reflects a certain amount of confusion over sexuality, which is certainly a feature of the year now ending.

Oddly enough, however, it is not the ideological aspect of this development that bothers me most. It is the assault on grammar and logic. 

A person demanding to be called they may confuse us, but this sort of thing is so ripe for satire that it will become fairly harmless.

The use of they to refer to a singular antecedent, on the other hand, shows we aren't thinking clearly. Making this mistake reflects a decline in grammatical knowledge. It is utterly illogical.  

In other words, it’s the perfect Word of the Year for 2019.

But shame on an Oxford English Dictionary for trying to justify this barbarity.

The original OED was compiled by the great Dr. Johnson, and they would not like this one bit.   

 





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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