Letter to the Editor: An ‘elegant’ suggestion for gender-neutral pronouns

A response to the February 2019 cover story
Letter to the Editor: An ‘elegant’ suggestion for gender-neutral pronouns

Thank you for the informative and sympathetic article titled “The Person They Were Meant to Be” in your February issue. I understand the use of the originally plural pronoun “they” to designate a person who doesn’t want to use “he/she,” but since this was the first time I noticed that it leads to plural forms of verbs (“were”), I would like to suggest an alternative, which I know is one of many these days.

High school students who participated in the Wisconsin Mock Trial program 1986-1996 became familiar with a set of gender-neutral pronouns and used them easily. Six witnesses had to be portrayed in court by either boys or girls on each team, so gender-ambiguous names like Bobby were used along with pronouns based on “e,” such as “e said …”. (There is a complete logical declension derived from “they, their, theirs, them” by removing “i” or “y” and “the”: e, er, ers, em.)

Since the English-speaking world does not enjoy an equivalent to the French Academie Francaise, the solution will be through spreading usage. I won’t seriously suggest that Madison Magazine startusing “e,” but I do promote it as the most elegant solution, and it could happen.

– Nick Schweitzer, Madison