Online dictionary Merriam-Webster.com has announced its word of the year for 2019 - "they".
Emily Brewster, a senior editor at Merriam-Webster, said in a statement: "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". In October, the American Psychological Association endorsed "they" as a singular third-person pronoun in its latest style guide for scholarly writing.
Merriam-Webster said that lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year.
"Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years, and especially in the past year". Around the same time, Merriam-Webster added gender-neutral pronouns "they" and "themself" to the dictionary.
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"People were clearly encountering this new use and turning to the dictionary for clarity and for usage guidance", Brewster said.
"There is a long road ahead before language, policy and culture are completely affirming and inclusive", Adams said.
Meanwhile, the other words and phrases that rounded out this year's top 10 include quid pro quo, impeach, crawdad, egregious, clemency, the (after The Ohio State University filed a trademark application for the word with the US patent office), snitty, tergiversation, camp and exculpate. The Top 10 also included "egregious", "clemency" and "the", a shocker of a look-up spike when Ohio State University attempted to patent the word to protect its turf. The word, meaning an evasion or a desertion, was Merriam-Webster's top look-up on January 24 after Will used it in a column in reference to Lindsey Graham. "This curiosity is remarkable for a venerable old pronoun, and it's a effect in of shifts in the way the word "they" is used". "Through the dictionary, we see proof that words matter, whether we are discussing national politics or personal identity".
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