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They/Them and the evolution of English

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode The History Behind Three Words

Linguist Anne Curzan delights in the nuances and evolution of language. She says we should embrace they/them as singular pronouns---which have actually been used for hundreds of years.

About Anne Curzan

Anne Curzan is a professor of English at the University of Michigan who studies how the English language works and how it has changed over time.

Her books include Says Who? A Funner Kinder Usage Guide for Anyone who Cares about Words and Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History. She also co-hosts the show That’s What They Say on Michigan Radio. She was a member of the Usage Panel for the American Heritage Dictionary from 2005-2018.

This segment of the TED Radio Hour was produced by Rachel Faulkner White and edited by Sanaz Meshkinpour. You can follow us on Facebook @TEDRadioHourand email us at TEDRadioHour@npr.org.

Web Resources

Related TED Bio: Anne Curzan

Related TED Talk: Why is there a "b" in doubt?

A brief history of plural word...s

NPR Related Links

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Two books examine the evolution of the English language

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Copyright 2024 NPR

Manoush Zomorodi is the host of TED Radio Hour. She is a journalist, podcaster and media entrepreneur, and her work reflects her passion for investigating how technology and business are transforming humanity.
Rachel Faulkner is a producer and editor for TED Radio Hour.