Notes from a Linguistic Mystic

Not long ago, I discussed the increasing usage of “their” as a gender neutral English pronoun, as in “every student was on the edge of their seats during lecture.” I’d highly recommend you go back and read the original post if you haven’t, it really explains the issue more thoroughly.

In that post, I touched on my belief that “their” would soon be the de-facto gender neutral pronoun, and pointed to the fact that it’s on a billboard as a good sign. Well, I’m quite happy to say that I’ve got more evidence in favor of that. Generally, when a new generation (or those respected within that generation) begin using language in a certain way, acceptance to the mainstream isn’t far behind.

I’ve stopped using the facebook as some of their policies and alliances really, really creep me out. However, I recently spotted (while on a friend’s account) the following message in their creepy little “News Feed”:

Holly has changed their profile picture.

Now, I understand their motivation, as they likely don’t even want to try guessing a person’s gender (or using their database to do so) for every update. However, the fact that they’ve used “their” rather than “his or her” is pretty interesting. Same situation as I discussed before, but much more blatant.

I hope that now that the Facebook is hailing “their” as an acceptable genderless possessive pronoun, more and more young people will start to pick it up and use it and its counterpart, “they”. Now we just need to get Snoop Dogg and Bill O’Reilly using it, and society will be all set. Hey, a man can dream, right?


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