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They’re here, get used to them: why gender-neutral pronouns are not radical...


Stashed in: Grammar!, Grammar, Gender

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"Replacing the English language's gendered "he" and "she" pronouns with "they," "them," and "their" has been common for hundreds of years. These neutral pronouns are also becoming a tool for English speakers to move beyond a stark binary gender system. This is sometimes received as a radical version of language reform, but in truth, it's actually not all that grammatically exceptional."

Good to know. I've been using s/he but that is an awkward word too.

I am of two minds about this. 

I find it slightly ridiculous when "they" use "he/she" in a technical manual, for instance. As a women I do not feel excluded by "he" being a generic pronoun in, let's say, instructional literature.

But sometimes it might be necessary to emphasize that we do not know a gender of a person, or a gender is irrelevant (except it hardly ever is), so pronoun "they" comes really handy.  

In Russian, for instance, it is really hard to talk about oneself in past tense without revealing your gender - the verb forms are different. So it was a lot of fun for me to disguise my gender at some Russian forums and see how people choose to react. 

For better or worse we seems to be wired with the need to place people we meet (in various capacities) firmly into one or the other gender. I believe this is all subject to change :)

I agree with you, Masha. 

One of the bad things about English is the lack of a gender-neutral singular pronoun. 

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