Entering the new year, something tragic happened in the world of grammar and language usage. Over 200 linguists of the American Dialect Society met in Washington, D.C. to choose their “Word of the Year.” They overwhelmingly chose the singular use of the pronoun “they.”
Singular they, as it is called, is not some common usage found in sectors of the American public that has gained a significant following and found its way into the English language. Such is the normal way new word usage gains acceptance. There is certainly nothing wrong with this natural and organic manner of growth.
What happened here, however, was something different. This new usage is politically-correct jargon that is being forced on the public. Singular they now refers to those sexually-confused individuals who do not wish to be called he or she. It has been determined that “they” can now refer to a “known person as a non-binary identifier.” Predictably newspapers like The Washington Post have already included this usage in their style books. In so doing, they (plural) have declared grammatical war upon the language.
It is war, but a dirty war. One cannot help but be struck by the utter mediocrity and cowardice of the august assembly of linguistic warriors. Had these linguists had a bit of courage they might have adopted any of the numerous “gender-neutral” ridiculous-sounding pronouns such as “jee,” “ney” and “thon” that have already been created by activists to promote their cause. They (plural) could even have gone farther by making up their own new pronouns and challenging the world to use a novel new creation to accommodate the sexually unsure.
Instead these jargonists prefer to take a perfectly good pronoun and strip it down to singularity. In so doing, they have mutilated, emasculated, and disfigured this faithful pronoun and emptied it of meaning. These pedantic paladins of political correctness hide behind the excuse that “they” already has some singular common usages as when used with words like “everyone.” This can be seen in a sentence: “Everyone likes their dogs.” However, this is purely a smokescreen in this dirty war to hide an agenda that uses languages as one of its most effective weapons.
This development is truly tragic because such artificial impositions go against the very purpose of language. Language should give clarity to thought. Its beauty consists in its ability to define concisely and clearly. The richness of vocabulary comes from how well words express nuance and subtlety.
But singular they? All is muddled and confused. If you have one they and add another they do they become two theys or are theys simply they? No one really knows, nor do the linguists really care. They (plural) want to make a political statement and force upon the users the task of determining the context of the usage. It assumes the public is savvy to the esoteric world of politically-correct jargon.
There is another reason why this usage of singular they is wrong. The principal purpose of language is to express the truth. Words are essential vehicles for uniting ideas to things — a simple definition of truth. A man, for example, has an idea of what a cat is. When he sees the cat, he exclaims: Cat! The word communicates a truth to all those around him. It instantly unites the idea and the thing.
In this case of singular they, however, the word refers to a non-existent reality. It involves denying the truth of the natural sex of a man or woman who is confused about his or her identity. The same man who saw the cat, could also see a sexually confused individual and exclaim: They! He proclaims no truth but merely participates in the person’s confusion and enters into complicity with it. He further assigns a plural label to a singular fantasy.
When language no longer expresses truth, it loses its beauty and poetry. Above all, imposed language destroys that organic connection with the people who by their contact with reality are the natural wordsmiths of any language. As Catholic thinker Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira once said, language is like the stained glass window of a people. It is that unique prism through which a people comes to know and express the truth. When modern ideologues destroy meaning and clarity in language, they (plural) obscure the light and a great darkness descends upon the land.
Someone might object that singular “they” is only a word and hardly a great tragedy. But every word that is destroyed in this manner impoverishes, not enriches, language. Something precious has been taken from the people. That is why it is important to fight back and refuse to use the singular they in this context. They (singular) is destroying the English language. The wrong usage of they should apply, as it always has, not to the sexually confused but to the grammatically challenged.