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Merriam-Webster Reveals Word of 2019

'They:' As one M-W editor puts it, 'So many people were talking about this word'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 10, 2019 2:27 AM CST
The word "they" is displayed on a computer screen on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in New York.   (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
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(Newser) – A common but increasingly mighty and very busy little word, "they," has an accolade all its own. The language mavens at Merriam-Webster have declared the personal pronoun their word of the year based on a 313% increase in look-ups on the company's search site, Merriam-Webster.com, this year when compared with 2018, the AP reports. "I have to say it's surprising to me," said Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and Merriam-Webster's editor at large, ahead of Tuesday's announcement. "It's a word we all know and love. So many people were talking about this word." Sokolowski and his team monitor spikes in searches and "they" got an early start last January with the rise of model Oslo Grace, who identifies as transgender nonbinary, walking in both men's and women's shows around the world.

Merriam-Webster recently added a new definition to its online dictionary to reflect use of "they" as relating to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary. Sokolowski says “they,” one of a handful of nonbinary pronouns to emerge in recent years, is "here to stay." The Merriam-Webster runners-up include include "quid pro quo," "impeach," and "crawdad," the latter a word in the title of Delia Evans best-selling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing. The top 10 also included "egregious," "clemency," and "the," which had a look-up spike when The Ohio State University attempted to patent the word to protect its turf. It failed.

(Read more Merriam-Webster stories.)

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