What's Your Pronoun? Beyond He & She
Merriam-Webster has thrown its considerable weight behind the use of “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun, expanding its dictionary definition and then proclaiming “they” the 2019 Word of the Year. Traditionalists and other critics argue: miscarriage of meaning!
Pronouns, like gender-neutral bathrooms, are sparking a national debate, prompting new policies in schools and workplaces about which ones to use. In a discussion of his new book What’s Your Pronoun?, the University of Illinois’ Dennis Baron examines the issue and lends some valuable historical context. The search for a gender-neutral pronoun actually goes back centuries. Shakespeare used the singular “they,” and people have been coining new gender pronouns (beyond “hir” and “zie”) for generations.
Brown, a professor emeritus of English and linguistics at Illinois, joins author and KCUR Digital Managing Editor C.J. Janovy in a public conversation.