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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 27, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 13
Sweden introduces official gender-neutral pronoun
Section One
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Sweden introduces official gender-neutral pronoun

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Beginning in April, a new gender-neutral pronoun will debut in the official dictionary of the Swedish language.

The pronoun 'hen' will be added to 'han' (he) and 'hon' (she), as one of 13,000 new words in the dictionary's latest edition according to editors at the Swedish Academy.

The Swedish Academy's dictionary is updated every 10 years. New entries are determined by their frequency and relevance. The new edition went on sale April 15.

'For those who use the pronoun, it's obviously a strength that it is now in the dictionary,' editor Sture Berg told AFP on March 24.

'Hen' can be used to refer to an individual without implying any gender - either because their gender is unknown, because the person is Transgender, or because the writer believes that specifying the person's gender is unnecessary information.

According to AFP, the word dates back to the 1960s. At that time the pronoun 'han' was used for anyone whose gender was not specified, just as the equivalent pronoun 'he' was used in English. As the feminist movement gained strength and language was adapted to indicate equality of men and women, 'hen' was created to avoid the clumsy 'han/hon' ('he/she') construction.

The word never really caught on until the turn of the 21st Century, when Sweden's Trans community revived it. 'Hen' is now fairly widely used in official texts, court rulings, media texts, and books.

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