Merriam-Webster named gender-neutral ‘they’ the word of the year


In September 2019 one of the biggest dictionaries of the American variant of the English language followed the footsteps of other major dictionaries, such as Oxford English Dictionary and, editing the article about the personal pronoun ‘they’. The edition clarified that ‘they’ can be used not only in the meaning of plural, it can also refer to one person if their gender is beyond the male-female binary. Merriam-Webster dictionary announced, that their changes and updates are motivated by social changes and news (and gender-neutral pronouns are indeed an issue for discussion worldwide. For example, Sam Smith’s coming out as non-binary, followed by pronouns twist, cause a bang in media), but the main priority is still the language. The purpose of any dictionary is to follow changes in language, and especially in its most flexible and unstable part – the lexis, the vocabulary, to reflect it as correct as possible in correspondence with the current demand of the speakers.


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