Why gender neutral 'they' is Merriam Webster's word of the year

A number of celebrities came out as non-binary this year


US dictionary Merriam Webster has picked the word of 2019; one that paved way for many discussions this year. Giving away the title to gender neutral pronoun 'they', Merriam-Webster said searches for the use of the word, which was added to its dictionary in September, had increased by more than 300 per cent this year as more and more people identify as non-binary—neither a man nor a woman.

A number of celebrities came out as non-binary this year. In September, British singer Sam Smith identified himself as non-binary, and urged on the use of pronouns 'they' and 'them'. He wrote on Instagram: “Today is a good day so here goes. I’ve decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM. after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out. (sic)”

The word 'they' was widely searched in January this year after model Oslo Grace rose to fame. The 21-year-old Californian model identifies herself as 'non-binary transgender' and walks the ramp wearing both men's and women's clothes. In April, the word came back on the search list when US congresswoman Pramila Jayapal spoke about her gender-nonconforming child while arguing for LGBTQ rights legislation.

Other words that competed with ''they' for the title include ‘quid pro quo’, ‘impeach’, ‘crawdad’.