They by Isabelle Rideout


Merriam-Webster has added they’ as a non-binary pronoun to their online dictionary! (Two months ago. Yes, I should have finished this a while ago.) No longer can anyone say that non-binaries using they/them pronouns are grammatically incorrect! Instead, a (digital) dictionary can be thrown at their ignorant head. 

Perhaps with more awareness of this modern use of they/them by non-binaries, we can be more mindful of excluding such persons by saying “he or she”? Truly, that would be fantastic. After all, singular ‘they’ has been in use for at least 700 years, and notable users include Jane Austen and William Shakespeare. And it’s not the first case of a plural pronoun becoming singular. Way back in 1660 George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, wrote an entire book labeling anyone who used singular ‘you’ a fool. He believed that only the traditional ‘thou’, ‘thee’, and ‘thy’ should be used. Nobody talks like that today. 

So here’s a shout out to all the teachers who’ve already eliminated “s/he” and replaced “he or she” from their handouts, permission slips, and anywhere else it might show up. Belonging, after all, is one of WMS’s core values.

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