The singular pronoun “they” has been named word of the year by American linguists.
The choice was made at an annual poll by the American Dialect Society on Friday in New Orleans, where voters also selected “(my) pronouns” – such as she/her, he/him or they/them – as their word of the year for 2019.
Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s new words committee, said: “When a basic part of speech like the pronoun becomes a vital indicator of social trends, linguists pay attention.
— American Dialect Society (@americandialect) January 4, 2020
“The selection of ‘(my) pronouns’ as Word of the Year speaks to how the personal expression of gender identity has become an increasing part of our shared discourse.
“That trend is also reflected in singular ‘they’ being chosen as word of the decade, with a growing recognition of the use of they for those whose identities don’t conform to the binary of he and she.”
“They” is often used as a personal pronoun by those who identify as gender non-binary.
In September 2019, singer Sam Smith announced they were changing their pronouns to “they/them”, saying: “After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.”
According to the society’s website, their word of the year can be any “vocabulary item”, word or phrase, that has been particularly prominent or notable over the previous 12 months.
Today is a good day so here goes. I’ve decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out. I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but fuck it! I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you. P.s. I am at no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be non binary but I can’t wait for the day that I am. So for now I just want to be VISIBLE and open. If you have questions and are wondering what this all means I’ll try my best to explain but I have also tagged below the human beings who are fighting the good fight everyday. These are activists and leaders of the non binary/trans community that have helped me and given me so much clarity and understanding. @tomglitter @munroebergdorf @transnormativity @alokvmenon @katemoross @glamrou @travisalabanza @twyrent @chellaman @jvn @lavernecox @stonewalluk @glaad @humanrightscampaign @mermaidsgender Love you all. I’m scared shitless, but feeling super free right now. Be kind x
A post shared by Sam Smith (@samsmith) on Sep 13, 2019 at 6:57am PDT
The 2019 winner beat “ok boomer” – described as a “retort to someone older expressing out-of-touch or condescending views” – to the title, as well as “cancel” and “Karen”, a “stereotype of a complaining, self-important white woman”.
Other words or phrases considered for word of the decade included “meme”, “climate”, “#BlackLivesMatter” and “woke”.
“They” had previously been named word of the year in 2015.
The vote was carried out by a collection of linguists, etymologists, historians, writers and students at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside on Friday in a tradition dating back to 1991.
Amid the Donald Trump impeachment and Ukraine controversy, “quid pro quo” was named political word of the year.