That’s Just What They Would Say

(Preposterous Universe) – Sean Carroll:

The announcement we wait for every year has finally come in, and the American Dialect society has chosen their Word of the Year! That word is: “they”. It beat out other finalists such as “ammosexual.”

You might think that dubbing “they” as the Word of the Year is some sort of lifetime-achievement award, since the plucky pronoun has been part of English for quite a long time. But the prize has been given, not for the word itself, but for a particular usage that has been gaining ground for a while now: the singular “they.” We most commonly use the word to stand for the plural: “Jack and Jill went up the hill, but once there they realized they had forgotten their pail.” More and more, however, we’re seeing it used to denote one person at a time, when their sex is unknown to us: “The robber left no fingerprints, but they did leave a note to taunt the police.” …

preposterousuniverse…2016/01/12…say

imrs

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