Merriam-Webster wordsmiths have announced ‘They’ – the personal pronoun – as their word of the year 2019.
This came about after an increase of 313 percent in definition searches on the Merriam-Webster website, compared with 2018.
Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and Merriam-Webster’s editor, expressed his surprise: “It’s a word we all know and love. So many people were talking about this word.”
Sokolowski and team monitor rises in searches and “they” began an upsurge in January 2019 thanks to the popularity of Californian non-binary trans model Oslo Grace who has been walking both male and female runways. The year saw many popular figures ‘coming out’ as non-binary and using they/them pronouns including singer Sam Smith, Queer Eye darling Jonathan Van Ness, and Sabrina actor Lachlan Watson.
When asked about their non-binary ID, Watson stated:
“I identify as both non-binary and pansexual, which are two very fancy ways of saying I don’t care.”
Oslo Grace walks both male and female high fashion runways
The American Psychological Association have since adopted “they” as a singular third-person pronoun in its latest style guide for scholarly writing.
“We believe writers should try to use a person’s self-identified pronoun whenever feasible,” said the chief publishing officer for the APA. “The singular ‘they’ is a way for writers to avoid making assumptions about gender when it is not known.”