Like trigger warnings and gender-neutral bathrooms, pronouns are sparking a national debate, prompting new policies—in schools, workplaces, and even prisons—about what pronouns to use. Far more than a by-product of the culture wars, gender-neutral pronouns are, however, nothing new. Taking a broad look at cultural and linguistic evolution, linguist Dennis Baron puts the issue in historical context, noting that Shakespeare used singular-they; women invoked the generic use of "he" to assert the right to vote; and people have been coining new gender pronouns, not just "hir" and "zie", for centuries.
"A scrupulous and absorbing survey…. [Baron is] the ideal pilot through these contentious political-linguistic waters."—NYTBR