There’s a major flaw in the English language – there’s no genderless pronoun. The only solution is a genderless pronoun, or rather a hermaphroditic pronoun (depending on how much fun you are at parties) that can finally replace the dreaded he/she.
As your 5th grade teacher no doubt taught you and you promptly forgot, it’s grammatically incorrect to say they when referring to a single person. For example, “someone should throw away their Crocs immediately,” is perhaps the best advice you’ll ever get, but it’s grammatically incorrect. Someone refers to a single person while their obviously refers to more than one person. You could fix this nugget of wisdom by replacing their with his/her, but then you just end up with tons of slashes. And who wants that? Slashes are the switch blades of grammar. Do you really want to go around pulling them on him, her and your reader? No.
It turns out that people have been writing about this for over 150 years. Dennis Barron pulled together an amazing post chronicling this effort. There are some truly amazing gems in the post including the following:
- In 1886 a writer in the New York Evening Post offers his-her as “an hermaphrodite pronoun,” adding, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, “When one has become accustomed to the use of him-her, his-her, etc., one can drop the hyphen at his-her pleasure.”
- “The need of a personal pronoun of the singular number and the common gender is so desperate, urgent, imperative, that according to the established theories it should have grown on our speech as the tails grew off of the monkeys.”
Eventually there were also calls for a “bi-personal pronoun” with several recommendations including hesher, hiser and himer as the compound forms of the nominative, possessive and objective forms of him/her.
Makes sense right? But we can do better. WAY better. I’m thinking a nice genderless pronoun could be something like, tuck. I mean, it works for drag queens right? What do you think? Let’s come up with some fantastic ideas. We can do this people. Fetch didn’t happen, but the “hermaphrodite pronoun” can with a little help from the Interwebs.