Third person neutral pronoun!

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jan 23 16:07:48 UTC 2008

On Jan 23, 2008 9:58 AM, James Smith <jsmithjamessmith at> wrote:
> Serendipitously, Tom Zurinskas has led us to an
> obvious neutral third person pronoun, one that we've
> heard used for years.  But it just now registered with
> me!  On Don Blaheta's web page on phonetic alphabets,
> linked through Tom's e-mail, Don writes "...e will
> specify what scheme e's using to transcribe it to
> ASCII."  Some speakers of English have been using this
> neutral "e" for years; why have the rest of us been so
> blind and deaf to it?

On Dennis Barron's comprehensive list of suggested epicene pronouns,
"e" or "E" is listed as being proposed in 1890, 1977, 1978, 1982,
1988, and 1989:

Perhaps it just needs to be reintroduced a few more times before it catches on!


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