thoroughly individuated singular they

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 19 17:46:18 UTC 2014

On Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:24 PM, Michael Newman wrote:
> My diss way back in the 1990s claimed that singular they added a generic
> sense to the referent. This (NSFW) Savage Love column has a letter (the
> third) where the writer's partner identifies as gender-neutral, and writer
> uses a singular they  as in
> One of our favorite things to do is for me to _____ their___
> I leave this sentence incomplete for any delicate sensibilities.
> The usage sounds unnatural to me (but it would as it completely violates my
> hypothesis) but so do the other pronouns proposed for non-cis-gender
> identified people. Still, worth noting.

Some interesting discussion of transgender pronominal usage on the
Colbert Report last night with guest Janet Mock:

(discussion of "they" around 1:30, "they" and other pronoun options at 3:50)


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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