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Peep Yo: Baltimore Students Invent Gender-Neutral Pronoun

by Staff

Tags: Yo, Linguistics, Pronoun, Gender, Gender-neutral, Baltimore,

The English language has at least one glaring deficiency: There is no gender-neutral pronoun to refer to other people. English speakers have always been forced to use either “he” or “she” when referring to others, until now. According to a recent study in the linguistics journal American Speech, Baltimore students have begun using the word “yo” as a gender-neutral pronoun, effectively replacing both “he” and “she.”

Examples of usage include “Peep yo,” meaning “Look at him or her,” or “Yo’s wearing a coat” meaning “(s)he is wearing a coat.” In an interview on Fair Game from Public Radio International, Margaret Troyer, a teacher who helped identify the pronoun and co-wrote the study, said that it’s considered extremely difficult to invent a new pronoun. When asked how these young students were able to inject more gender equity into the English language, Troyer said, “Maybe they just invented a new pronoun because they didn’t know that they couldn’t.”

Bennett Gordon