Gender-neutral pronouns are a lot older than the Daily Mail would have you believe
Barely a week goes by without the Daily Mail running a story about the “gender fascism” of transgender-inclusivity, frequently attacking the use of non-gendered pronouns.
The newspaper often attacks some of the terms non-binary folk prefer over pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’ – whether it’s people embracing the use of singular pronoun ‘they’, or proposed neologisms like ‘zie’ or ‘hir’.
The Mail jumps on every single chance to deride the linguistic shift as if it’s some new kind of political correctness, attacking universities, local councils and even libraries for allowing a pronoun choice..
But, as our favourite dictionary Merriam-Webster pointed out on Twitter this week, gender-neutral pronouns are a lot older than our tabloid friends would have you believe.
They recalled that the word ‘Thon’, short for ‘that one’, was proposed as a singular genderless pronoun as far back as 1934, making it into the second edition of Webster’s.
The listing in the dictionary states: “Thon. pronoun, singular and plural. Contraction of ‘that one’. A proposed genderless pronoun of the third person.”
Thon never quite took off and was dropped from the next edition of the dictionary, but it stands as a reminder that the discussion over pronouns is nothing new.
Plenty of languages aside from English do naturally have singular third-person pronouns.
In news that will presumably also upset the Mail, gender-fluid was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
First recorded in 1987, gender-fluid is an adjective that identifies a person who doesn’t identify with a single gender.