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History Of pronouns

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Written by Anonymous

The etymology of gender-neutral pronouns has been long and arduous, ranging from the pages of local newspapers to second-wave feminist ideas about the inherent relation of “generic” pronouns only conjuring images of men.

At times, the use of the “he” pronoun has even caused women to be barred from congressional jobs and practicing law. Though some oppose it, the English singular pronoun “they” is very common in everyday speech and was the standard of acclaimed writers like Austen and Shakespeare and only fell out of favor as a neutral pronoun in the Victorian era. An example in Shakespeare’s, The Comedy of Errors, Act IV ,Scene 3, it reads, “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me, As if I were their well-acquainted friend.”

Gender-neutral pronouns are also established in other languages, such as the Swedish “hen” in addition to the male “han” and female “hon.” Some inherently gendered languages like German are changing as well after the German city of Hanover decided in 2019 that all official communications such as emails and forms be written in gender-neutral language.


When it comes to pronouns and the different ones that people use, the most common of them are “she,” “he,” and “them.” In fact, about one in five Americans personally know someone who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they/them,” according to a 2019 Pew Research study.

When it comes to people our age experiencing high school and finding themselves through the process, the numbers say a lot about Generation Z. In a survey that was conducted on SOAR students this year, 50 people out of 50 knew what personal pronouns are in a general sense but out of those 50 only five people didn’t know about “they/them” gender-neutral pronouns. It was no surprise that people this year are so educated and are aware of them, especially looking at the 20% of participants that said they do use “they/them” pronouns.

But do people also know about neopronouns? This question seemed to divide the participants in half between those who know and those who don’t know.

Neopronouns are used as personal pronouns that don’t express gender. There are a plethora of neopronouns that are used. Sometimes people use words that already exist and modify them however they want. Here are a few examples of what neopronouns look like and how they are used:

  • ne/nem/nir/nemself (That is nirs)

  • ve /ver/vis/verself (That is vis)ey/em/eir/emself (That is eirs)

  • ze/zir/zirs/zirself (That is hirs)

  • ze/hir/hirs/hirself (That is zirs)

  • xe/xem/xyrs/xemself (That is xyrs)

Do people actually use these neopronouns? In a recent survey of pronoun use among 40,000 LGBTQ+ young people from the Trevor Project, about a quarter of them used gender-neutral pronouns. But about 4% of them used neopronouns.

Some people choose to continue to be ignorant towards these ideas, but it is essential to remember that it is none of our business what people do to feel more comfortable and like themselves. We should always respect each other and never invalidate others.

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