People are it

I’ve spent a lot of time studying foreign languages. One thing I’ve learned is that language isn’t about logic and persuasive arguments—language is what it is no matter how illogical or offensive.

If you need to write a blog post to argue why a certain usage of language should be right, you’re wrong.

Katrina Casio of Brooklyn College’s The Kingsman argues that the pronoun “they” should be acceptable as a singular pronoun. In other words, “they is a student,” is just as acceptable as “he is a student.”

Wait you say, she doesn’t propose “they is a student,” but “they are a student.” So not only does she propose using a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent but also using the plural forms of verbs to describe the actions of the singular antecedents…singular antecedents that are being represented by plural pronouns. Say what? Wait a minute, I’ve just gone cross-eyed.

But seriously, let’s just use the singular, third-person personal pronoun we already have in English, the word “it.” Other languages, such as Chinese, use the same third person pronoun without regard to the gender or lack of gender, for people and objects alike. It works fine for them.

Using “it” instead of a singular they would also save us from a host of other issues such as the verb plurality mentioned early.

Before someone accuses me of being insensitive to gender confused people, I must point out that we already use “it” to refer to those most loved in our lives, our children: “Is it a boy or a girl?”

Sure, some people may still be offended, but “it” uses 50% less paper than they. They’ll feel better when they realize they’re saving trees!

I vote for the environment, I vote it!

But let’s be realistic, “it” for gender neutral people isn’t going to “happen” anymore than a singular they.

Language is a democratic institution in the most basic sense of the word. Its rules aren’t decided by linguists, teachers or language geeks. They’re decided organically in pop culture and daily conversation.

Better to figure out how to use the singular they in a catchy video good enough to get several hundred million hits on YouTube. Why not ask PSY for help? Perhaps they [sic] will help.

Larry Salibra


I'm the Founder & CEO of Pay4Bugs, the crowdsourced testing service that finds product bugs before they cost you sales. More about me.