Along with the very common one-letter words a and I, there is the less-common one-letter word O. It came up in conversation during a recent trip to Stratford, Ontario: We couldn’t help but sing in the car O Canada after crossing the Bluewater Bridge. My daughter was the only one among us who knew the rest of the Canadian national anthem (Canada not being our home and native land), and she grumbled that we really needed to watch more hockey.
Saying that Caitlyn Jenner is in the news is a bit like saying that there are words in the dictionary. Regardless of what you think of the media storm, her very public story has opened up conversations about sexuality and gender identity like never before.
Nearly three years ago, I wrote an article for this newsletter titled “The Case for Singular They.” [See our October–November 2012 issue. –Ed.] I took what I felt was a controversial stand, arguing that if a writer wants to use singular they, we should let them. Although it still may be a controversial stand, it seems that we may have reached a tipping point in the argument about gender-neutral pronouns.
Trained copyeditors know that when you repeatedly come across a phrase used to mean something different than you know it to mean, it’s time to do some research. Perhaps there’s a new meaning gaining ground or a meaning you were unaware of.
A student of mine recently asked me about doing that kind of research, and I decided to share my advice here.