He? She? It?

Whether it’s a boy or a girl or a man or a woman or a cat or a dog, we can now just say “they.” As in:

Whoever is work­ing on the for­mu­la, they bet­ter not blow up the build­ing.”

It’s per­fect­ly accept­able, as of recent (to say “they,” not to blow up the build­ing).

Don’t you agree it’s always been awk­ward, when you didn’t know the gen­der of the per­son in a sen­tence, to have to write “he/​she” or “he or she”? Frankly, I usu­al­ly write “it” whether it’s a per­son, ani­mal or a slice of piz­za (which is some­times a dan­ger­ous for­mu­la con­sid­er­ing one’s choice of top­pings). So we’d just say “they” which up till now was not prop­er gram­mar, espe­cial­ly in pro­fes­sion­al writ­ing such as a news­pa­per col­umn.

But now it is. “He/​she” can now be prop­er­ly referred to as a sin­gu­lar “they.”

According to the Washington Post,

We know about sin­gu­lar they already — we use it every­day with­out think­ing about it, so this is bring­ing it to the fore in a more con­scious way, and also play­ing into emerg­ing ideas about gen­der iden­ti­ty,” said lin­guist Ben Zimmer, lan­guage colum­nist for the Wall Street Journal, who presided over the vot­ing…”

Word of the Year for 2016

The arti­cle also announces:

Singular ‘they,’ the gen­der-neu­tral pro­noun, has been named the Word of the Year by a crowd of over 200 lin­guists at the American Dialect Society’s annu­al meet­ing in Washington, D.C.…”

I’d nev­er heard of WOTY, but I do of course fol­low Pantone’s Color of the Year. This year it’s Colors of the Year — yes, plur­al, as in “they” (or is that sin­gu­lar?). See the 2016 Colors of the Year. I doubt I’ll use them much unless some­one is hav­ing a baby.