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Merriam-Webster included a gender-neutral pronoun before you were born

Josh Jackman March 16, 2017

Back when homosexuality was illegal, trans rights were unheard of and gender was widely presumed to be completely binary, one dictionary was going against the grain.

Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary of 1934 featured the gender-neutral pronoun “thon” – short for “that one” – and continued to include the word until 1961.

In an article on its site, the dictionary also gently rebuked those who make “one of the most common complaints” about English, pointing out gender-neutral pronouns exist in its pages.

“The fact that this lack of a word is entirely imaginary (we do have words for this) has not stopped a number of people from proposing solutions to the problem.”

Merriam-Webster supports using “they,” “them” and “their” in this way, but way back in the 30s, “thon” almost claimed this linguistic ground for itself.

Coined in 1858 by attorney, composer and inventor Charles Crozat Converse, Merriam-Webster said there was mass enthusiasm for the word to be fully accepted into English.

“Whenever a newspaper columnist wrote an article bemoaning our language’s lack of a gender-neutral third-person pronoun, several people would write letters to remind the paper that thon had been coined back in 1858.”

The word was also “used in crossword puzzles for several decades,” the dictionary reported, before recommending that readers not despair, as they, their, and them are still with us.

Merriam-Webster has long been a keen supporter of LGBT rights, and recently added “genderfluid,” “cisgender” and “genderqueer” to its dictionary.

The company’s Twitter account has been especially vocal about the subject since changing its tone last year.

The company has also attracted widespread praise for its shade-heavy subtweeting of the Trump administration.

From mocking Trump’s spelling mistakes to making pointed remarks about Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the dictionary has never missed an opportunity to let loose with some sass.

More: 3rd gender, dictionary, english language, gender, gender neutral, GenderFluid, genderqueer, language, merriam-webster, thon

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