Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary
Pronoun ‘hen’ can be used without revealing gender – either because it is unknown, because the person is transgender, or the information is superfluous. The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced.
“Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL.
Is it time we agreed on a gender-neutral singular pronoun?
The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because it is unknown, because the person is transgender, or the speaker or writer deems the gender to be superfluous information.
“For those who use the pronoun, it’s obviously a strength that it is now in the dictionary,” one of the editors, Sture Berg, told AFP on Tuesday.
The word “hen” was coined in the 1960s when the ubiquitous use of “han” (he) became politically incorrect, and was aimed at simplifying the language and avoiding the clumsy “han/hon” (s/he) construction.
But the word never really took hold.
It resurfaced around 2000, when the country’s small transgender community latched on to it, and its use has taken off in the past few years.
It can now be found in official texts, court rulings, media texts and books, and has begun to lose some of its feminist-activist connotation.
The Swedish Academy’s dictionary is updated every 10 years. New entries are determined by their frequency and relevance.
The new edition goes on sale on 15 April.