What's Your Pronoun?
Like trigger warnings and gender-neutral bathrooms, pronouns are sparking a national debate, prompting new policies in schools, workplaces, even prisons, about what pronouns to use. Colleges ask students to declare their pronouns along with their majors; corporate conferences print name tags with space to add pronouns; email signatures sport pronouns along with names and titles. Far more than a by-product of the culture wars, gender-neutral pronouns are, however, nothing new. Pioneering linguist Dennis Baron puts them in historical context, noting that Shakespeare used singular-they; women invoked the generic use of he to assert the right to vote (while those opposed to women’s rights invoked the same word to assert that he did not include she); and people have been coining new gender pronouns, not just hir and zie, for centuries. Based on Baron’s own empirical research, What’s Your Pronoun? chronicles the story of the role pronouns have played—and continue to play—in establishing both our rights and our identities. It is an essential work in understanding how twenty-first-century culture has evolved.

What's Your Pronoun? Details

TitleWhat's Your Pronoun?
Author
ReleaseJan 21st, 2020
PublisherLiveright
ISBN-139781631496042
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Humanities, Language, LGBT, Linguistics, Gender

What's Your Pronoun? Review

  • Mara
    January 1, 1970
    This is exactly the kind of niche, nerdy history that I enjoy. It was fascinating to hear how English speakers and linguists have lamented the lack of a gender neutral personal singular pronoun for hundreds of years... "a missing word." It is equally interesting to see that speakers have consistently come back to "they" to serve this function since the 1300s. I appreciated Baron's breakdown of why, from a purely functional perspective, this gap has been one felt in day to day parlance, but also This is exactly the kind of niche, nerdy history that I enjoy. It was fascinating to hear how English speakers and linguists have lamented the lack of a gender neutral personal singular pronoun for hundreds of years... "a missing word." It is equally interesting to see that speakers have consistently come back to "they" to serve this function since the 1300s. I appreciated Baron's breakdown of why, from a purely functional perspective, this gap has been one felt in day to day parlance, but also his exploration of the implications of the use of pronouns from roughly the 1700s onwards in the law, in politics, & in society.
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  • Mattie Richards
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley for sending me an advanced copy! What's Your Pronoun? is an important look into the long and heavily debated history of third gendered/non gendered pronouns and why they've been important much longer than I expected. Giving a well researched account into both sides of the pronoun argument, Baron gives an excellent view of the importance of non gendered pronouns to readers and the fight they've gone through to be able to use them.
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  • Joe
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to the audiobook via Overdrive prior to a discussion with the author at the KC Library on 2/11/20. Dennis Baron proved himself an engaging speaker and his book presented some surprises which left me both enlightened and intrigued.
  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    What's Your Pronoun? by Dennis Baron is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late November.Personally, I think that pronouns are way interesting and just as useful as learning a name. The chapters looks into topics, such as the questionable concept of using ‘he’ to incorporate everyone in a population or within a constitution (i.e. ‘all men are created equal’), historic disputing court cases, to be referred to formally and informally in the way one prefers, writers generally directing the curve What's Your Pronoun? by Dennis Baron is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late November.Personally, I think that pronouns are way interesting and just as useful as learning a name. The chapters looks into topics, such as the questionable concept of using ‘he’ to incorporate everyone in a population or within a constitution (i.e. ‘all men are created equal’), historic disputing court cases, to be referred to formally and informally in the way one prefers, writers generally directing the curve and arc of linguistic expression, and the use of ‘they’ and various evolved offshoots of non-gender-specific pronouns (my favorites being heer, hen, hus, Mx, per, ze, and zir).
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    While this is chock full of fascinating history and fun facts, I wish it were better written--that is, even though it's aimed at the general reader, the repetitive style tended to drive me bonkers. But it's still an invaluable resource and a worthwhile read that even a linguist will enjoy.
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  • The Resistance Bookclub
    January 1, 1970
    *I received an ARC through Netgalley in return for an honest review *As a linguistics nerd and gender neutral pronoun fan this is a book that I hope will be included in language and gender syllabi in the future. Dennis Baron gives an exciting insight into the history of neutral pronouns and their significance from the suffrage movement, over general grammar concerns to the growing acceptance of non-binary identities.There are many historical examples and quotes, although sometimes they seem a *I received an ARC through Netgalley in return for an honest review *As a linguistics nerd and gender neutral pronoun fan this is a book that I hope will be included in language and gender syllabi in the future. Dennis Baron gives an exciting insight into the history of neutral pronouns and their significance from the suffrage movement, over general grammar concerns to the growing acceptance of non-binary identities.There are many historical examples and quotes, although sometimes they seem a bit too much and overwhelming (although that might be different in print).I cannot wait to see this being cited in essays or conversations about the "missing word".3.5/5 Stars (Rounded up to 4)
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  • KarnagesMistress
    January 1, 1970
    At a glance, you think the focus of this book is going to be about the coining of new words for use by the LGBTQ+ community, but that isn't really correct. Yes, one chapter does deal with new pronouns, and another about the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. However, this entertaining little book explains much more than that. The English language, you see, has a missing word: basically, the singular of the word they. Other languages both do and do not have this problem. First, in case you weren't At a glance, you think the focus of this book is going to be about the coining of new words for use by the LGBTQ+ community, but that isn't really correct. Yes, one chapter does deal with new pronouns, and another about the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. However, this entertaining little book explains much more than that. The English language, you see, has a missing word: basically, the singular of the word they. Other languages both do and do not have this problem. First, in case you weren't aware this is a problem, or why this is a problem, Baron explains. His history of failed words is illuminating-- I had no idea so many people cared that much! He ends the main text with a compelling argument for singular they. It turns out that we've been miseducated; singular they is historically grammatically correct. He's convinced me; I'm going to start using it with impunity! (Although, as a side note, I really, really like how playwright Taylor Mac's pronoun is judy.) This book is short, it's fun, and it's informative. I think all writers should read this book! This book will also satisfy the 2019 Watauga County Public Library Reading Challenge categories: A book that challenges the way you think; A book you would recommend to someone else; A nonfiction book published in the last five years. I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. It is an advance reading copy.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    What’s Your Pronoun is the story of the role of pronouns own grammar and society. Using the right pronoun can be challenging and is important. At the very least using the wrong pronoun can mislead or or offend. But simply if all you see to do is to apply rules to avoid offense, you’ll likely fail more often than you’d like. Baron’s book gives you the tools to go deeper and understand the evolution or pronoun usage in the English Language, so that you can better understand why pronouns are What’s Your Pronoun is the story of the role of pronouns own grammar and society. Using the right pronoun can be challenging and is important. At the very least using the wrong pronoun can mislead or or offend. But simply if all you see to do is to apply rules to avoid offense, you’ll likely fail more often than you’d like. Baron’s book gives you the tools to go deeper and understand the evolution or pronoun usage in the English Language, so that you can better understand why pronouns are important, and also that the debate has been long running,.As an occasional writer, who is also a bit of a grammar geek, I’ve often lamented that there is not good neutral third person singular pronoun; I’d like to have a third person form that is well understood, not awkward to read, which doesn’t imply the gender of a person. From Baron’s book I learned that this has been an issue since at least the 1780s (according to the written record he found -- perhaps longer). The grammar geek in me also appreciated Baron explaining concepts in the context of language ( “gender” means “kind,” having nothing direct to do with gender identification) and the differences in how grammarians and linguists view issues like these.The implications of pronouns extend beyond being imprecise or offensive to interpretation of laws. “He” was sometimes taken to be generic, but also used to say “just men” -- for example: “a law saying that he shall be punished who...”, the same logic, when applied to voting rights for women, didn’t stick. and other, larger, social issues, (for example, the difference between “gender neutral” and “non-binary” usage). Placing the discussion in the context of history and the present day, Baron explores the approaches people have tried in order to achieve some sort of “third person singular” without assuming a gender. In the end, it seems that “they” has a long track record of being the neutral pronoun of choice for English speakers, much as “you” migrated from being plural to plural and singular. I hope that my saying that doesn't lead you to believe that you don’t need to read the book. The journey the book takes you on is educational and also entertaining. I recommend it to anyone who is curious about how language evolves and relates to society, or just if you are curious about how pronouns are, and could be used.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It's definitely a nerdy little thing, going into some corners of linguistic/grammatical history (mostly in English) that I had no idea about. The big takeaway I got from this book is that people have been hung up on pronouns in the English language 5ever, and for many reasons. The absence of a gender neutral singular pronoun has irked people for ages, and been the focus of many a political debate. This book goes over the history of the use of the I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It's definitely a nerdy little thing, going into some corners of linguistic/grammatical history (mostly in English) that I had no idea about. The big takeaway I got from this book is that people have been hung up on pronouns in the English language 5ever, and for many reasons. The absence of a gender neutral singular pronoun has irked people for ages, and been the focus of many a political debate. This book goes over the history of the use of the universal masculine "he," "he or she," the universal feminine "she," and the many attempts of linguists, feminists, and gender-expanding beams of light to bring what the author refers to as "coined" or "invented" singular gender neutral pronouns into wider usage. Ultimately, Baron does a pretty good job staying out of the debate and concluding that people who want to die on the hill of a singular "they" being "wrong" are ridiculous. Language changes with usage, what a revelation! Overall, I'd recommend this book for a fun exploration of the history of pronouns in English, one that should be taken (and takes itself) with a grain of salt.
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  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***Today in the US, there has been a lot of conversation about the use of pronouns. Driving this conversation is the use of preferred pronouns by nonbinary and transgender people. However, the conversation and controversy over the use of pronouns is one that has a long history. This history is explored in What's Your Pronoun, Beyond He and She, by Dennis Baron. The linguist gives an easy to read analysis of the search for the ***I was granted an ARC of this via Netgalley from the publisher.***Today in the US, there has been a lot of conversation about the use of pronouns. Driving this conversation is the use of preferred pronouns by nonbinary and transgender people. However, the conversation and controversy over the use of pronouns is one that has a long history. This history is explored in What's Your Pronoun, Beyond He and She, by Dennis Baron. The linguist gives an easy to read analysis of the search for the "missing pronoun", a non-gendered pronoun in the Engish language. By revealing the long history of the search for the "missing pronoun", the proposed pronouns that have come and gone over the years, the political ramifications that have resulted from the use of pronouns, Baron opens the eyes of the reader to just how important pronouns have been in the past and just how important they are now and in the future. If you want to learn more about the history of trying to find an appropriate non-gendered pronoun or examine a list of nearly 250 recorded attempts to create one then this is the book for you.Rating: 4.5/5 stars. Would highly recommend to a friend.
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  • Weekend Reader_
    January 1, 1970
    I was very excited about this book when I saw the title on booktube. While it was very educational it focused on the grammatical argument and worthiness test TOO much. The opening chapter and chapter 5 really were the only focus on the impact to nonbinary and trans communities. I was a little disappointed in that but I think there's merit to dismantle the grammar argument or the use of the correct pronouns is not a new issue. Let's be honest as Baron writes maybe a little more elegantly that I was very excited about this book when I saw the title on booktube. While it was very educational it focused on the grammatical argument and worthiness test TOO much. The opening chapter and chapter 5 really were the only focus on the impact to nonbinary and trans communities. I was a little disappointed in that but I think there's merit to dismantle the grammar argument or the use of the correct pronouns is not a new issue. Let's be honest as Baron writes maybe a little more elegantly that people who don't use the correct pronouns are doing it out of comfort (i.e. laziness) or quite possibly socialized ignorance. Overall, all the historical references and grammatical counter arguments are super helpful. I think if you want to get a better grasp of debate this book could be a good resource. Spoiler use THEY if you are unsure because it's that simple. Here's the link to the document referenced in chapter 5 https://www.gsafewi.org/wp-content/up....
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  • Sandy
    January 1, 1970
    Language is political and anyone who believes otherwise needs to read this book. The author traces the linguistic and sociopolitical history of pronouns in general and the search for a singular non-gendered word in specific. Though the examples become redundant at times, I was surprised to find that the current argument against a singular non-gendered (i.e., "they" or a host of other suggested words) pronoun goes back to at least the 1700s. Gender politics have always been played out through the Language is political and anyone who believes otherwise needs to read this book. The author traces the linguistic and sociopolitical history of pronouns in general and the search for a singular non-gendered word in specific. Though the examples become redundant at times, I was surprised to find that the current argument against a singular non-gendered (i.e., "they" or a host of other suggested words) pronoun goes back to at least the 1700s. Gender politics have always been played out through the use of language to keep people in their perceived places, and the modern-day argument over non-binary or non-exclusive language is just the latest battleground. This book is an interesting and thorough introduction for anyone who is curious about how language has evolved (or not evolved) to bring us to where we are today.
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    Until I read Dennis Baron's little book, I had no idea that the dispute about the proper pronoun to use to replace awkward phrases such as "he or she," had such a long history. Long before the women's suffrage movement objected to the use of "he" to refer to both men and women, pundits and grammar freaks were suggesting alternatives. This led to such oddities as this gem from the 1860's: "The teacher told John and Mary that he would punish himmer if heesh did not learn hizzer lessons." All in Until I read Dennis Baron's little book, I had no idea that the dispute about the proper pronoun to use to replace awkward phrases such as "he or she," had such a long history. Long before the women's suffrage movement objected to the use of "he" to refer to both men and women, pundits and grammar freaks were suggesting alternatives. This led to such oddities as this gem from the 1860's: "The teacher told John and Mary that he would punish himmer if heesh did not learn hizzer lessons." All in all, a fun read.
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  • Libby Waterford
    January 1, 1970
    Lots of examples and delving into history to basically make the argument that grammarians need to get over themselves and accept that singular they is okay.Very enjoyable for a book about a part of speech.
  • Sienna N
    January 1, 1970
    I just figured out that I won this book in a giveaway. I am really interested in what this will cover and all I can learn from it. I hope it is great and will update this post when I receive and read it.
  • Naomi Ruth
    January 1, 1970
    I found this history and politics of pronouns to be super fascinating. I didn't want to put it down. So happy to own it.
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    For all the queerphobic out there thinking the gender nonspecific singular pronoun question is a new problem, well it isn't. Here is proof.
  • Edirazz
    January 1, 1970
    Write a review (optional)its a little bit complicated, I want to read the secrets of the purple lake
  • Dustless Walnut
    January 1, 1970
    Super dorky and well-researched, fascinating to read that yet another seemingly "current" political issue goes back almost 200 years.
  • Fay
    January 1, 1970
    I would like to thank the publisher and Dennis Baron for providing me a copy of this historical account of the English language. I was originally a little skeptical of this book, half expecting a thinly veiled emotionally charged political statement. However, I found a fun (yes fun!) interesting account of the origins of English and its pronouns. I was under the impression the current discontent with English pronoun options was a new state of affairs. However, the lack of a gender neutral I would like to thank the publisher and Dennis Baron for providing me a copy of this historical account of the English language. I was originally a little skeptical of this book, half expecting a thinly veiled emotionally charged political statement. However, I found a fun (yes fun!) interesting account of the origins of English and its pronouns. I was under the impression the current discontent with English pronoun options was a new state of affairs. However, the lack of a gender neutral personal pronoun has plagued speakers and writers of this language for centuries. Yes, literally centuries. As early as the 1770's. Putting this in context of when the US became a nation and our historical writings, I found this a fascinating read.To quote page 4, " And here's the bonus: You will have read an entire book about a part of speech. And you might find it informative, useful - and even interesting." I believe that is all Baron is trying to do. This is an informative piece of work, providing context and history to what has become a charged topic in today's culture. Whatever your leanings this book is an informative read with a sense of humor. I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway in exchange of an honest review.
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