The Point

The Point: He, She, It, and They

09/26/19

John Stonestreet

G.K. Chesterton said, “If words aren’t worth fighting for, what on earth would be?” How we use words shapes our understanding of reality and can even reveal the health of an entire culture.

That’s why abortion supporters refuse to use the word “baby” to describe human life in the womb. It’s a word that conveys personhood and intrinsic value.

How we use words can strip reality of its meaning. Even simple words like “they,” which is a plural pronoun. Instead of saying “Harry and Sally went to the store,” we’ll say, “They went to the store.” If just Sally went shopping, we’d use “she.”

Last week, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary added a definition for the word “they.” It is now offered as a singular pronoun that refers to “a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.”

Merriam-Webster claims to add new words and new definitions not to create norms, but to reflect the new ways language is being used in contemporary society.

Maybe. But misused words won’t remake reality. They’ll only distort our ability to understand it.

 

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