'They' is named word of the decade
The singular pronoun “they” – often used by people who identify as gender non-binary – has been named word of the decade by US linguists.
It was chosen by a panel of language experts during an annual poll by the American Dialect Society in New Orleans, where voters also selected “(my) pronouns” – such as she/her, he/him or they/them – as their word of the year for 2019.
Ben Zimmer, chair of its new words committee said: “When a basic part of speech like the pronoun becomes a vital indicator of social trends, linguists pay attention.
“The selection of ‘(my) pronouns’ as Word of the Year speaks to how the personal expression of gender identity has become an increasing part of our shared discourse.
“That trend is also reflected in singular ‘they’ being chosen as word of the decade, with a growing recognition of the use of they for those whose identities don’t conform to the binary of he and she”.
According to the society’s website, their word of the year – a tradition dating back to 1991 – can be any “vocabulary item”, word or phrase that has been particularly prominent or notable over the previous 12 months.
In September 2019, British singer Sam Smith announced they were changing their pronouns to “they/them”, saying: “After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.”
The 2019 winner beat “ok boomer” – described as a “retort to someone older expressing out-of-touch or condescending views” – to the title.
Other words or phrases considered for word of the decade included “meme”, “climate”, “#BlackLivesMatter” and “woke”.
Amid the Donald Trump impeachment and Ukraine controversy, “quid pro quo” was named political word of the year.
“They” had previously been named word of the year in 2015.