Merriam-Webster Officially Recognizes 'They' As a Nonbinary Pronoun

Image: Associated Press

Merriam-Webster has put its imprimatur on the use of “they” as a nonbinary, gender neutral pronoun, adding that definition to its dictionary, along with hundreds of other words.

They announced it on Twitter, where conservatives predictably lost their shit. But as Merriam-Webster acknowledged on their website, the expanded definition merely reflects an increasingly common usage of the “singular they.” As the dictionary’s senior editor Emily Brewster told the Guardian, “Merriam-Webster does not try to be at the vanguard of change in the language.” Brewster added, “Over the past few decades, there has been so much evidence that this is a fully established use of ‘they’ in the English language. This is not new.”

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In an updated blog post, Merriam-Webster addressed critics who argue that using “they” to describe one person is grammatically incorrect, which includes many rightwingers who seem to only care about grammar when it comes to the pronouns queer people choose to identify themselves with:

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.

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It’s not quite as newfangled as it seems: we have evidence in our files of the nonbinary they dating back to 1950, and it’s likely that there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun they out there.

Just use “they!” It’s not that hard!

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