Ep 259: What’s Your Pronoun?

Dennis Baron, author of What’s Your Pronoun?, takes us on a journey through the evolution of pronouns. Younger generations are boldly claiming their linguistic identities—how do we better understand them?

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Full Show Notes

In recent years, the discussion around pronouns has expanded well beyond the binary he and she, with young people leading the charge in educating themselves and others about the variety of pronouns people use to express their identities. This movement towards a more inclusive language might seem novel, but Dennis Baron, author of "What's Your Pronoun?" reveals that the conversation around pronoun usage has deep historical roots.

This episode explores the fascinating history of alternative pronoun usage, unearthing attempts to reform the English language and fill what have been perceived as gaps in our pronoun set with gender-neutral or common gender pronouns. Through his research, Baron discovered over 200 proposals for alternative pronouns in just three months, many dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as thon, ze, and even the singular they.

The Quest for a Gender-Neutral Pronoun

Baron's journey into the world of pronouns began over 40 years ago when he researched attempts to reform the English language. He found that alongside spelling and grammar reforms, there was a significant push for a gender-neutral or common gender pronoun. Interestingly, this quest for an inclusive pronoun is not new, with proposals dating back to the 19th century.

The Singular They and Controversies

One significant aspect of the conversation around pronouns is the use of singular they. Baron points out that despite criticism, singular they has been part of the English language since the 14th century. The resistance to singular they highlights broader debates about language, inclusivity, and identity, which are explored in depth in this episode.

The Political and Social Implications of Pronoun Usage

The episode also delves into the political and social implications of pronoun usage, examining how language can both include and exclude individuals. Baron discusses recent legislative attempts to restrict pronoun usage, highlighting the ongoing battle for recognition and respect within the linguistic domain.

In the Episode…

This conversation with Dennis Baron is not just about pronouns; it's a deep dive into the evolving nature of language, identity, and social acceptance. In addition to the topics discussed above, we also cover:

   - The impact of social movements on language reform
   - The challenges of introducing new pronouns into everyday language
   - How language reforms reflect broader societal changes
   - The role of language in shaping our understanding of gender and identity

Through Dennis Baron's insightful exploration of the history and present of pronouns, listeners will gain a greater appreciation for the complexity and beauty of language evolution. Don't miss this fascinating episode that bridges past and present to illuminate the path towards a more inclusive future. Listen now, and subscribe to Talking to Teens for more enlightening discussions.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Dennis Roy Baron
Dennis Roy Baron
Dr. Grammar is Dennis Baron, a real grammar doctor. Read my latest: "You Can't Always Say What You Want: The Paradox of Free Speech": https://t.co/K8uE9pGHqE
Ep 259: What’s Your Pronoun?
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