Merriam-Webster Has Named Their Word Of The Year For 2019
'They' has been crowned the 2019 word of the year in what has been described as a huge win for non-binary people.
According to the American dictionary, searches for 'they' surged in 2019 by an incredible 313 per cent, likely due to increasing awareness surrounding non-binary celebrities and identities.
While 'they' is hardly a new word for any English speaker, it is taking on a new meaning. 'They' has become the pronoun of choice for many non-binary people who feel 'she/her' or 'he/him' can't accurately describe them.
Once strictly a collective pronoun used to describe two or more people or things, 'they' has steadily transformed into a singular personal pronoun as well. The genderless nature of the word has been embraced by the genderqueer community.
It is for this reason that Merriam-Webster declared 'they' as the most significant word of 2019.
"The shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years," read a statement on the dictionary's website.
Merriam-Webster then pointed towards a number of global events that sparked interest in the word this year -- namely Sam Smith's own coming out.
The British singer-songwriter made headlines in March when they announced they are non-binary. They took to Instagram in September to confirm that their pronouns are they/them.
"After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am," they wrote in an emotional Instagram post.
I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try.
The 27-year-old's announcement led to a spike in interest in the term 'non-binary' and what it means. Although the exact meaning can change from person to person, it is widely defined as a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman.
Regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth, often non-binary people feel they identify with a number of genders, and sometimes no gender at all.
By incorporating 'they' into the dictionary as a singular pronoun and highlighting it as their word of the year, Merriam-Webster are striving towards developing a language that is more inclusive and better equipped to handle social change.
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