'They' declared as 2019 word of the year
It's an extremely common word used in everyday language but has increasingly come to carry more significance as more and more people adopt the use of gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language.
The word "they" has been named the 2019 word of the year by Merriam-Webster, which said this year, the pronoun saw a 313% increase in look-ups on the company's search site, Merriam-Webster.com, compared to 2018.
Merriam-Webster's editor at large, Peter Sokolowski and his team monitor spikes in word searches. The lexicographer said he was surprised by this year's word pick.
"It's a word we all know and love. So many people were talking about this word," Sokolowski said, noting "they" landed on their radar early in the year, with the rise of fashion model and Northern California native Oslo Grace. Oslo walks in both men's and women's fashion shows around the world and identifies as transgender nonbinary.
Another spike in look-ups for "they" occurred in April, when U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, got emotional while talking of her gender-nonconforming child during a House committee hearing as she advocated for LGBTQ rights legislation.
And then about five months later, Merriam-Webster saw yet another increase in people looking up the word, when singer Sam Smith wrote on social media that their preferred pronouns were "they" and "them." The pop star said the decision came after a "lifetime of being at war with my gender."
Merriam-Webster recently added a new definition to its online dictionary to reflect the use of "they" as relating to a person whose gender identity is nonbinary.
Sokolowski told The Associated Press that "they," one of a handful of nonbinary pronouns to emerge in recent years, is "here to stay."
LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD said Merriam-Webster's word pick was a positive step forward. "There is a long road ahead before language, policy and culture are completely affirming and inclusive," said Nick Adams, director of transgender representation for GLAAD.
The other terms that were searched frequently this year included "impeach", "crawdad", "egregious", "quid pro quo", and "clemency."
Among other words in the top ten were "snitty", "camp", and "exculcate."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.