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Hu? What?

Are we sure it’s time for another debate about gender-neutral pronouns? Because I could swear we just had one.

Okay, here’s the thing. It’s very easy to invent a gender-neutral pronoun. It’s very hard to get anyone to use it, which is why we have this discussion every few years, when some earnest linguist takes another shot at it. What they all seem to not realize is that we’ve more or less already settled on a perfectly good gender-neutral pronoun:

The most common solution, using “they” or “them,” irks grammarians when the subject is singular.

Far as I’m concerned, they can take their irk and stick it, along with every silly attempt at inventing a new word no one will ever use, where the sun don’t shine. If you want to be technical, an invented word like “hu”, which last I checked ain’t in the dictionary, is also a grammatical error, so what’s the difference? I say the market has spoken, and it has decided that “they” and “them” (and “their”, too) can be singular as well as plural. Deal with it.

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  1. William says:

    I’ve always found “he or she” or “she/he” to work perfectly fine as “gender neutral” pronouns.

  2. Tim says:

    I could easily come up with a contraction that means “she, he or it”, but I don’t suppose many people would want to adopt it.

  3. Justin says:

    Why can we not consider “they” to be an unfamiliar (intentional or otherwise) form of he or she? Thank tous vs vous.

  4. Charles Hixon says:

    Y’all fixin to genderize y’all?

  5. William says:

    Justin & Kuff: Because “they” is — and is understood to be — a plural.

  6. But William, the point is that people are already using and understanding the word “they” (and “them” and “their”) as singular and non-gendered in context. All it will take is for grammarians to formally recognize this, as they have with the technically incorrect construction “It’s me”. We don’t need a new word when we already have one that is in place and working.

  7. Personally I cringe at the use of they with a singular nearly every time. For the most part, though, it’s almost always easy enough to rewrite the sentence if it bothers you, and speaking as a language lover and grammar stickler (relatively, for a blogger), I despise the notion of making up a new word even more.