This post from Anthony Lee Collins reminded me of a post that I’ve been wanting to write for a while, even though the gender/sex part of using the singular “they” did not arise until the last couple seconds of the video.
A few weeks ago at work, a couple of editors in my department put together a presentation about the new trends in gender and language and how these are affecting our editing. I was kind of reluctant to hear about the butchering of our language and terms like “ze” and “zir” used as substitutes for the pronouns “he” and “him,” but the good thing about all this is that it shows that the English language is still alive and well. The bad thing is that this can get downright confusing when you have two (or more) different people who want to be called by two (or more) different sets of pronouns.
Apparently, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are all leaning toward using “their” instead of the awkward “his or her” or instead of using just “his” to cover all of humankind (because that’s *gasp* sexist!). Personally, I prefer “they” and “their” to any of the other oddball pronouns that are starting to be used (e.g., ze and zir, ze and hir, xe, ve, ne). But where it starts to get even more awkward is the singular “they.” When referring to a person who identifies as neither male nor female, it may eventually be appropriate and grammatically correct to say, “They is going to the store.” or “They loves cats.” It may be a long time coming before the singular “they” is widely used, and it’ll definitely take some getting used to, but thankfully, there are still some other ways to remove the dreaded “his” and “her” pronouns without having to use a new and potentially awkward and unrecognized term.