You know I’m a grammar nut, right? Grammatical errors are like fingernails on a blackboard to my delicate ears. Therefore, I was surprised to hear a story on today’s edition of “All Things Considered” dealing with gender-neutral pronouns and how some kids in Baltimore may ( repeat, may) have solved the problem.
Here’s the problem: The masculine pronoun used to be acceptable in all cases until some uppity women (I was one of them) objected to sentences such as, “Everyone brought his outline to the meeting,” when some of the people at the meeting were female.
In the late 19th century, a concocted word, “thon,” was floated to solve the problem; supposedly it stood for “that one.” Since “thon” didn’t fly, sentences like, “Everyone brought his or her outline to the meeting” started being substituted. However, although grammatically correct, it’s very awkward,
Back to the kids in Baltimore: Teachers noticed them using the word “yo” to take the place of pronouns, both masculine and feminine. “Yo moved my backpack!” “Don’t go near yo backpack!” “Yo lives in the building next to me.”
This word certainly eliminates having to using gender-specific pronouns. To my ear, it sounds awful, but some linguists think it may spread from Baltimore, particularly if celebrities start using it.
Here’s my prediction: Although “everyone/their” is still technically ungrammatical by 2013 standards, it is such a commonplace construction that it very well may become standard before too long. It eliminates gender and avoids having to invent some new pronoun to take the place of “he/she” and “his/her.”
What’s your take on “yo”? Do you think it is the gender-neutral pronoun of the future?