Word of the decade! Neither he nor she; US linguists vote for gender inclusivity

FE Online
Word of the Year, Word of the Decade, American Dialect Society, singular they, my pronouns, social media, gender inclusivity, non binary, gender diversity, gender fluidity

"Pronouns: They/them" is an increasingly popular manner in which an individual now clarifies that they do not necessarily conform to the gender norms of the society. When a person uses these pronouns, it means that they relate to a gender that is neither completely male nor completely female. Now, the American Dialect Society has voted this singular 'they' as the Word of the Decade, recognising the increasing use of the pronoun.

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The society also conferred its Word of the Year honour upon "(my) pronouns", which is increasingly becoming the common practice of introducing the pronouns that one identifies with, in correspondence like emails or on social media.

The decisions were taken by around 350 members of the society in its annual meeting held in New Orleans on Friday, where academics, graduate students and word lovers voted by a show of hands. In a statement declaring the results, the committee said that the pick for the Word of the Year reflected how personally expressing one's gender identity had become a part of the social discourse.

Earlier in 2015, the society had declared singular 'they' as its Word of the Year. The increasing impact of social media in such awards is clear from the list of other words up for consideration.

Contenders for the Word of the Decade included "#BlackLivesMatter" which was trended by social media users to protest against the alleged police brutalities against African Americans, "#Climate" indicating the increased concern and interest in climate change, and "#MeToo" which was a mass movement highlighting the widespread workplace sexual harassment faced by women across different sectors.

Meanwhile, for the Word of the Year category, the society had options like "OK Boomer", a phrase used on social media to mock an elderly person specifically from the baby boom generation whose views are not considered to be in line with contemporary social opinions, "cancel", the culture of withdrawing support from something or someone that is deemed unacceptable, and "Karen", used for a stereotypically self-important, complaining and demanding woman.