Yo … Mama

Eats, Shoots and LeavesI can’t help but follow ‘yo’ with ‘mama’, but I’m happy to try to rectify my ways. Especially when it involves a kid-led solution to a long-running English Language awkwardness.

It appears that Baltimore’s best young-uns have devised a gender-neutral solution to the age-old issue of the English language requiring gender-specific pronouns. That is, how to get around using those pesky ‘hims’ and ‘hers’ when you’re not entirely sure if the subject in question is a him or a her (or would rather not box them in that way).

Grammar Girl (AKA the bastion of practical and jargon-free, fun-filled grammar tips and much more comprehensive and credible than Eats, Shoots and Leaves) blogged about it more extensively here. Frankly, I can’t top her explanation so will instead encourage you to click on the afore-typed link (if you haven’t already) and enter the interwebby rabbit hole of information goodness that is her website.

If you’re still reading here, I’ll explain the phenomenon a little, by quoting Grammar Girl herself (or is that ‘yoself’?):

In the past I’ve advocated strongly for using they as a gender-neutral singular pronoun when you can’t rewrite the sentence to make the whole thing plural, and I still believe that’s the best solution, but I also think the emergence of yo to fill this role in slang is fascinating.

In essence, kids are getting around the fraught issue of having to assign gender all the time. They’re also bypassing that whole debate around how if we use the hegemonic ‘he’, it’s sexist. And they’re doing it better than the academics who’ve devoted who knows how many hours and PhDs to angsting over the issue.

I can’t see ‘yo’ the pronoun (not to be confused with ‘yo’, the replacement for ‘your’) entering common usage, but I can see me and other writers and editors bandying it around as a colloquial, in-conversation preference.

Props to friend and fellow writer Keph Senett, who brought the link and, therefore, the phenomenon my way.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

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