'They' Is Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year
Nonbinary celebs like Sam Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine have inspired wider conversations on pronoun usage.
2019 is the year of "they." Merriam-Webster has selected the pronoun as the word of the year!
Defined as "a pronoun of choice for someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female," searches for the definition of the nonbinary pronoun rose by 313% in the last year.
"Pronouns are among the language's most commonly used words, and like other common words (think go, do, and have) they tend to be mostly ignored by dictionary users," said senior editor at Merriam-Webster, Emily Brewster, in a statement. "But over the past year or so, as people have increasingly encountered the nonbinary use, we've seen searches for 'they' grow dramatically."
Merriam Webster says the word of the year winner is determined by data. Brewster concluded that "People were clearly encountering this new use and turning to the dictionary for clarity and for usage guidance."
Surely, the boost in visibility has come from some of the celebrities that came out as nonbinary this year and asked to be referred to as "they," including "Stay With Me" singer Sam Smith and Atypical star Brigette Lundy Paine. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal also spoke about her gender-nonconforming child during an Equality Act hearing with "they" pronouns in April.
Other top words of 2019 include "impeach" and "quid pro quo."