The Singular They

As I walked to work today after voting, I ended up thinking about the singular they, since I was thinking about how the outcome of this US election will impact me as a non-binary person.

This is how my brain works sometimes. Tangents. I use they/them pronouns most of the time. The thing with the singular they is that there are folks who say its incorrect. That it’s two hard. That they don’t know whether to use themself or themselves or whatnot.

Here’s the thing: we already know how to conjugate a singular pronoun that uses “are”.

It’s you. No, no, not you as a person, you as a pronoun.

Look, this ability to handle a singular/plural pronoun is built into our language.

Once upon a time, like German has today, English used to have two forms of you, a singular/familiar version and a plural/formal version. In the 17th century, the familiar/singular version dropped out of use in English, and now we have only one you: the plural/formal one. We use it for everything. Plural. Singular. Everything.

Said to a group of people: You take care of yourselves!

Said to a single person: You take care of yourself!

See that? That right there? Do the same thing for they. Themselves for a group of people. Themself for a single person. It’s just like you.

Said to a group of people: You are going upstairs, right?

Said to a single person: You are going upstairs, right?

Same thing for they.

Oh, you want to know what the singular/familiar you in English was? It was thou.

Art thou surprised? We do tend to think of it more as a formal version since we often only see it in relation to god in religious texts now.

Anyway. Singular they: if it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for thou.

Oh, and go vote. Vote as if your sibling, child, spouse, friend is trans. or a PoC. As if you need to fight for their civil rights. BECAUSE YOU DO.

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