Over the past few days I've been doing a lot of thinking and talking about they/them pronouns, singular they vs. plural they, and how best to present the they/them checkbox option on the annual survey.
(Following this blog post, mainly: https://gendercensus.tumblr.com/post/651198185451175937/on-plural-they-and-plural-inclusivity)
It's a useful name, to refer to a pronoun set with a slightly different use case and, usually, spelling to match. And for some reason I thought that my experience from a decade ago, where understanding of this name was universal, would obviously still be relevant. (It is not.)
@gendercensus Even in this thread I'm unsure whether plural they means "they referring to multiple people" or "they/.../themselves referring to any number of people"
@madewokherd There are three theys:
Singular they - referring to one person, any reflexive but usually "themself", e.g. "they are a writer"
Plural they - referring to two or more people, reflexive "themselves", e.g. "they are writers"
Indefinite they - referring to an indistinct other of unknown number, any reflexive probably, e.g. "they say it's good to write what you know..."
@gendercensus I would argue that the forms including reflexive determines the pronoun set, not the number of people referenced.
@gendercensus Which would mean that of those, only "plural they" specifies a pronoun set because it has a specific reflexive. The others are just ways of using they.
@madewokherd The ways of using "they" basically boil down to the intent/meaning of the word, and words are created to convey meaning, so I would probably argue that they are the *point* of the words and the most important part! Like, in French the word for avocado and the word for lawyer are the same spelling, but they are definitely different words. :D
@gendercensus You could presumably distinguish those by context and/or pronunciation. If you used "indefinite they" as a specific person's pronouns (if that's not a contradiction to begin with), the context and pronunciation would be identical, so the pronoun set would be equivalent in usage and indistinguishable.
@madewokherd You're right, and also because it means something different to the participant I want to record it the way they would want it to be recorded, especially if they felt strongly enough about it that they typed it in even though an identical set was already available as a checkbox.
@madewokherd @gendercensus the problem is that people who study languages are very sure that indefinite they (‘could you tell whoever left their phone’ etc) is a distinct pronoun set, even though it has historically used the same reflexive as the other theys
And once you let one ‘words are identical, context is different’ in...
@madewokherd @Satsuma That makes sense, but the purpose of the word being included doesn't prevent you from being able to check the box, and it also future-proofs a little bit for in case people start wanting to specify that their pronouns are some other type of "they". Considering people enter identity words and pronouns with asterisks and numbers in, I would be 0% surprised if people started specifying indefinite they as their pronouns in the textboxes... :D
@gendercensus Is the "name" of the pronoun set even necessary? In this case it's redundant with the forms, and it doesn't disambiguate the sets.
@madewokherd The first one is the 2021 survey version and the second one is what I'm proposing to replace it with. I guess I was unclear again, the arrow emoji was my attempt to show "replace this with that" but it doesn't seem to have worked! :D
@madewokherd All the other sets have something in the "name" position, even if it's just "he" or whatever, and some sets do have names that aren't the pronouns, like Spivak and Elverson, so I'd like to keep it there! It's not like it adds confusion. :D
We are a Mastodon instance for LGBT+ and allies! ☺