Thursday, April 16, 2015

Can ‘They’ Be Accepted as a Singular Pronoun?

Can ‘They’ Be Accepted as a Singular Pronoun? - WSJ

Dozens of gender-neutral pronouns have been put forth over the years, including “thon,” “xe” and “ze,” but all have failed to catch fire. “They” has the virtue of actually being in common use, and even grammatical sticklers may be coming around to it.
 The article discusses how Sweden is working around its similar issue and, while "they" for gender-neutral, third person singular works for me, I wouldn't be averse to learning and using a new word to do the specific work instead of pressing another into double duty. The alternatives above aren't winning me over but I don't have a better idea.

Sweden has "han" and "hon" for "he" and "she," and seems to be settling on "hen" for a gender-neutral alternative. It retains the general form of the other two words, making a simple substitution on the vowel in the middle. An elegant solution. In English, if we want to keep it short, we'd probably want to change the beginning of the word, at least, but keep the long 'e'. "Tee" was the first alternative that popped to mind, if I were proposing a new word to fill the gap. I'm close to the "ze" suggestion, but I'm not crazy about the idea of working a 'z' sound into everyday conversation. I find it dissonant and like it's current status as a seldom used letter.

A reader of this blog post may not like what they see in this sentence, for instance.

But, would the reader like what tee sees in this one?

Probably not. I try it with variations like "lee," "vee," etc. and haven't found anything that sounds right to my ear. "They" works, here's hoping the copy editors continue down the current path.

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