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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

 

dan_2
9/14/2008 9:59:29 PM

As noted by Portia St. Luke in yos comment, yo was developed by the founders of Yoism specifically to be a gender neutral pronoun. The derivation of yo (and some of its meanings in various languages) can be found here: http://www.yoism.org/?q=node/25 Usage notes for yo, yos, yo's, and yon can be found here: http://www.yoism.org/?q=node/23 Note that, more than seven years or so ago, one of the original founders of Yoism moved from Boston to Baltimore and organized a number of gatherings there in which The Way of Yo was spread. So this usage may, indeed, have originated with Yoism.


dan_2
9/14/2008 9:59:04 PM

As noted by Portia St. Luke in yos comment, yo was developed by the founders of Yoism specifically to be a gender neutral pronoun. The derivation of yo (and some of its meanings in various languages) can be found here: http://www.yoism.org/?q=node/25 Usage notes for yo, yos, yo's, and yon can be found here: http://www.yoism.org/?q=node/23 Note that, more than seven years or so ago, one of the original founders of Yoism moved from Boston to Baltimore and organized a number of gatherings there in which The Way of Yo was spread. So this usage may, indeed, have originated with Yoism.


portia st. luke
1/22/2008 6:49:22 PM

Nice to see this phenomenon is finally getting the attention it deserves, but I don't think that the Baltimore students are the ones to come up with it. "Yo" as both a gender neutral pronoun AND a name for the {One/ All/ Divine Force of Creation/ Hairy Thunderer/ Cosmic Mufin} has been in use for some time. For more, as well as the history of the word, the philosophy, and the movement behind it, please visit: http://www.yoism.org http://www.portiastluke.com


joshua_1
1/22/2008 6:04:46 AM

Around here, "dude" is the preferred pronoun of the kids. "Yo's wearing a coat" would be a gender-neutral "dude's wearing a coat." "Peep yo" would come out something like "check it out, dude." Of course, "dude" is also used as a noun, as in "she's a crazy dude," and an expletive, "Dude!!"


anonymous
1/21/2008 5:49:15 PM

One problem with the use of "yo" in this context is it's use in Spanish to refer to the self (ie, "I") and the spread of Spanish in some areas. The salutory impulse to solve the lack of gender nuetral pronouns in English must surely result in further solutions.


bennett
1/15/2008 12:03:49 PM

The difference is that "they" is plural and "yo" is singular. I should have made that more clear. In any case, it would be difficult for a group of people (they) to wear a coat (singular). http://utne.com/daily.aspx


funny
1/15/2008 10:56:17 AM

Funny. I thought "they" could already be used for this purpose. Yo is making a mistake, yo. E.g. They are wearing a coat. Them: OMG OMG I did it!!@! I'm brilliant!! Me: Hurray, you're a nuub.