What’s in a name? That’s a question William Shakespeare asked and answered by saying, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The Bard of Avon was telling us that nomenclature is unimportant and that whatever name we give to a thing does not change its essence.
As society changes and gender standards become less rigid, though, questions of nomenclature have assumed an outsized importance. There are heated and highly emotional battles being waged worldwide.
When the American Dialect Society declared “they”—used as a third-person, gender-neutral, singular pronoun—to be the word of the year, as part of the self-proclaimed “grammar police” I found that tough to swallow. It wasn’t that I don’t agree we need gender-neutral language, but rather that “they” obviously refers to more than one thing.
‘He’ versus ‘they’