The pronoun ‘they’, used by non-binary people who identify as neither male nor female, was named word of the year by US dictionary Merriam-Webster.
In the English language, more and more people are exercising their right to choose the pronoun by which they are identified, regardless of their sex at birth – such as ‘they’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘he’.
Two months ago, the dictionary added the word ‘they’ as a non-binary pronoun that can refer to just one person.
“There’s no doubt that its use is established in the English language, which is why it was added to the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary this past September,” the website said, adding that searches for ‘they’ crossed 300 per cent this year as more and more people identify as non-binary – neither a man nor a woman.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Dictionary.com, the usage of a singular ‘they’ was grammatically correct and had been used since at least the late-14th century.
Non-binary people are enjoying increased representation on television and in pop culture. Among them is British artist Sam Smith, who recently revealed a preference for ‘they/them’ pronouns “after a lifetime of being at war with my gender.”
Tech giant Apple has added “neutral” emojis that don’t distinguish between gender to the latest version of its operating system.