apstylebook-internet

A living language, unless we disagree with the AP Stylebook

We consider English to be a living language. It grows and adapts and changes as our needs change. That’s why “myriad” can be both a noun and an adjective in nearly the same context. That’s why “google” can enter the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb eight years after Google was founded.

Then something like this happens and the world goes crazy:

That yielded lots of responses in this vein. Some more vitriolic, some less so:

The reaction was even more outraged two years ago, when AP decided “over” was just as acceptable as “more than” when referring to numerical values:

I like to consider myself a fan of the language, someone who appreciates its ability to adapt and change. I was happy to see cellphone and smartphone declared single words by the Associated Press Stylebook overlords, for example. But I can’t abide the decisions on “internet” (there, I did it) and “over” vs.” more than”). So I guess that makes me less flexible than I thought I was.

I’m struggling in the same way with the change in the past year over use of the word “they” (and its related forms) as a singular pronoun, as in, “Everyone wants their soup served hot.” The Washington Post famously reported last December that it would embrace the use of they (and related forms) as a singular noun. The change came largely, as it said, with the “increasing visibility of gender-neutral people.” A few weeks later, 200 American Dialect Society linguists declared the singular “they” to be “word of the year.”

I completely get it. I understand the reasoning 100 percent. Yet, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the plural “they.” I’ll get there. Give me some time. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

What makes it easy for us to accept some adaptions in language, but not others?

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