What’s in a word? Everything. A whole history, an entire story, an enduring legacy. Keeping with this, American English dictionary Merriam-Webster decided to recognise the non-binary pronoun ‘they’ as its word of the year for 2019.
In September this year, the word had officially been added to the dictionary, along with 533 other words including ‘deep state’, ‘escape room’, ‘Bechdel test’, ‘dad joke’, ‘colorism’, to name a few. In the same month, British singer and songwriter Sam Smith, who identifies as a non-binary person, insisted on being referred to as ‘they/them’.
View this post on Instagram
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. I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but fuck it! I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you. P.s. I am at no stage just yet to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be non binary but I can’t wait for the day that I am. So for now I just want to be VISIBLE and open. If you have questions and are wondering what this all means I’ll try my best to explain but I have also tagged below the human beings who are fighting the good fight everyday. These are activists and leaders of the non binary/trans community that have helped me and given me so much clarity and understanding. @tomglitter @munroebergdorf @transnormativity @alokvmenon @katemoross @glamrou @travisalabanza @twyrent @chellaman @jvn @lavernecox @stonewalluk @glaad @humanrightscampaign @mermaidsgender Love you all. I’m scared shitless, but feeling super free right now. Be kind x
Earlier this year, non-binary model Ayesha Tan-Jones made news for silently protesting Gucci’s use of straitjackets during the Milan Fashion Week. They had shared a video from the show on Instagram and written, “As an artist and a model who has experienced my own struggles with mental health, as well as family members and loved ones who have been affected by depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia, it is hurtful and insensitive for a major fashion house such as Gucci to use this imagery as a concept for a fleeting fashion moment.”
A slew of other prominent non-binary celebrities also made headlines. For instance, in January, model Oslo Grace spoke about their gender identity in the fashion world.
Citing reasons behind its decision, Merriam-Webster stated that searches for the term ‘they’ had significantly risen by 313 per cent in 2019. Senior editor Emily Brewster said in a statement that pronouns are among the language’s most commonly used words, and like other common words (go, do, and have) they tend to be mostly ignored by dictionary users. “But over the past year or so, as people have increasingly encountered the nonbinary use, we’ve seen searches for ‘they’ grow dramatically,” she said.
Besides ‘they’, other words that were widely searched in 2019 were: ‘quid pro quo’, ‘impeach’, ‘crawdad’ and ‘egregious’. In 2018, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year was ‘justice’.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines