Nomination: gender-neutral singular pronoun

Subject: Nomination: gender-neutral singular pronoun
From: Marta Cepek <marta -at- M3ISYSTEMS -dot- QC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 1995 19:12:57 -0400

Dear fellow techwr-lers,

Please forgive me for bringing this subject up again, since it's probably
out of the annals of remembered history. I've been out of town since the
end of July, and am only just now catching up on the 4.5MB of accumulated
techwr-l digests. I'm on the Aug. 7th digest, and just couldn't resist
throwing in my 2 cents, even though I don't know how this thread has evolved
since then... Nonetheless, here goes:

On Aug. 7th, Jenna C. Thomas-McKie <jthomas -at- ADMIN -dot- AC -dot- EDU> wrote:

>Women and individuals with two X chromosomes, men are individuals with an X
>and a Y. Or so said every Biology textbook I've ever read. The only
>exceptions I've ever heard of were a few XY individuals who were androgen
>insensitive, and therefore physically female.

Which made me think, well, why not use "X" as a gender-neutral pronoun???
Its etymology is pedigreed! "X" is nicely non-descript, wonderfully
non-specific. After all, we already commonly call a generic item/product
"Brand X". Gene-wise, both men and women have an "X" chromosome, and when
it boils down to it, aren't we trying to find the common denominator rather
than the differentiating factor ("Y")? I think that "X" is wonderfully
compact, and has the same no-nonsense, dynamic impact as "I".

No, really! I'm serious! I silently followed this thread, shaking my head
in cynicism with each new post, and thinking that this is the sort of thing
people could never resolve, that is, unless a virulent disease reduced the
world's population to only one gender (in which case the argument would be

But what do you think, folks? Does "X" have merit? Would you use it? I
would, if it caught on, but then again, I might be a little biased. There
is one small drawback that occurred to me, and that's its possessive. I
don't like the thought of "X's", which implies proper-noun-ness rather than
pronoun-ness. In addition, it would be an unsightly irregular formation in
the "my / your / X's / his / her / their" series of constructions. Hmmm...
I wonder how they got "my" from "I"... or "her" from "she", for that
matter.... Maybe someone on the list could nominate a suitable
gender-neutral possessive for X, and then I vote we submit it to the

Humbly submitted for your consideration:


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