The singular pronoun “they” is the word of the decade, according to The American Dialect Society.
Formed more than 130 years ago, the American Dialect Society, along with organizations like Merriam-Webster dictionary, have chosen relevant words to represent a year a whole. In December, Merriam-Webster declared “they” its word of the year. The American Dialect Society chose “pronouns” (a singular person’s preference) as its word of the year, but highlighted “they” for the decade as a whole.
“When a basic part of speech like pronouns becomes a vital indicator of social trends, linguists pay attention,” American Dialect Society New Words Committee chair Ben Zimmer said.
“The selection of ‘(my) pronouns’ as word of the year speaks to how the personal expression of gender identity has become an increasing part of our shared discourse,” Zimmer said.
“That trend is also reflected in singular ‘they’ being chosen as word of the decade, with a growing recognition of the use of ‘they’ for those whose identities don’t conform to the binary of ‘he’ and ‘she.’”
In September 2019, singer Sam Smith, who identifies as nonbinary, announced their decision to use gender-neutral pronouns on Twitter.
“Today is a good day so here goes. I’ve decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out …,” the “Stay With Me” singer wrote.
The American Dialect Society’s membership includes linguists, historians, lexicographers (those who compile dictionaries), grammar experts and others who study language.
The organization also named “quid pro quo” as its political word of the year and “hot girl summer” as its slang of the year.