James Woods — Photo: RD/Kabik/Retna Digital/The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Dictionary.com has once again stepped in to correct transphobia, issuing a perfectly succinct response to actor James Woods on Twitter.
Woods, who has cultivated a following on the social network for his right-wing views, tweeted a rant about transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people using they/their pronouns.
“Please join me in using proper grammar, syntax, and spelling,” Woods tweeted. “The correct pronoun usage in the English language is ‘he’ for a singular male and ‘she’ for a singular female. ‘They’ is used for the plural of either males, females, or both. Don’t be bullied by hare-brained liberals.”
While Woods was both lauded by some and derided by others on Twitter, it was Dictionary.com who had perhaps the most succinct response to his (incorrect) declaration.
“They has been in use as a singular pronoun since the 1300s,” the dictionary website tweeted. “Among its best known users in history: Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen.”
It’s a fact corroborated by the Oxford English Dictionary, which has traced uses of singular they as far back as 1375, “where it appears in the medieval romance William and the Werewolf.”
“Since forms may exist in speech long before they’re written down, it’s likely that singular they was common even before the late fourteenth century,” OED adds. “That makes an old form even older.”
Dictionary.com’s tweet generated a lot of love (and a lot of GIFs) in response, with one person writing: “The impact this one tweet can have on literally tens of thousands of people is astounding. Yet you always hit the nail on the head, every time. You always stick up for the LGBTQ+ community and do your part even though no one even expects it of you. THANK YOU SO MUCH.”
But it’s not the first time Dictionary.com has offered its linguistic insight to correct a person’s transphobia.
Last year, after Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt called Democratic nominee for Vermont governor Christine Hallquist “that transgender,” Dictionary.com offered another succinct takedown, tweeting: “Transgender is an adjective, not a noun.”
And for anyone still confused, Dictionary.com has an entire article dedicated to separating the concepts of sex and gender, titled “What Is The Difference Between ‘Gender’ and ‘Sex’?“
Perhaps James Woods might consider scrolling down to the “Still confused?” section at the bottom, which reads: “[P]eople deserve to be identified and referred to correctly and based on their preferences. Mixing you’re and your isn’t quite the same as conflating someone’s birth sex with their gender identity or referring to he/him/his when they prefer they/them/theirs. That causes pain and shows disrespect.”