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Words are like water in the old verse from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner": "Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

So maybe, there are "words, words everywhere, nor any dot to make you think."

It's a thought this morning, not because words are how I make a living. Rather, it's in response to the 2019 Merriam-Webster Dictionary Word of the Year.

Ladies and gentlemen, your word of the year winner ... "they." It edged "impeach" and "crawdad" and runner-up "quid pro quo."

One of the reasons offered by the Webster folks is that "they" had a 313% increase in online searches.

Uh, OK.

But if we're going to give bonus points for online search frequency, well, it feels like "directions to" or "porn" or "why is Nick Saban the devil" may have had a case at some point, as well.

What about "weather" or "news" or "calculator," come to think of it? (Admit it, you've searched for "calculator" more than a few hundred times.)

In truth, according to several sites, among the most searched words on the interwebs this year were "exonerate" (which makes a lot of sense), "self-made" (thanks to Kylie Jenner getting to billionaire status because of her last name, which is contradictory of actually being self-made) and "naked," which is rather self-explanatory.

"They" also got a slew of bonus points for versatility because the dictionary folks expanded the meaning to include single persons such as Sam Smith, the recording artist who asked to be referred to as "they" or "them" because it's a nonbinary pronoun.

As for the choice, here's more from a statement from Emily Brewster, senior editor at Merriam-Webster: "Pronouns are among the language's most commonly used words, and like other common words (think go, do and have) they tend to be mostly ignored by dictionary users.

"But over the past year or so, as people have increasingly encountered the nonbinary use, we've seen searches for 'they' grow dramatically."

Simply put, this seems to match an awful lot of other awards or "best of" selections in that it's the most "socially conscious" choice available.

Speaking on the selection of the word of the year, Nick Adams, director of transgender representation for advocacy group GLAAD, told media publications that the selection of "they" was a step in the right direction for the greater LGBTQ movement, but that there is still a lot to be done.

"There is a long road ahead before language, policy and culture are completely affirming and inclusive," Adams said.

It's apparent almost everything is viewed through the prism of gender these days. Amazingly, folks are questioning Santa's gender. Heck, some are questioning Barbie's gender, which is a whole different conversation considering the target audiences.

But if we were truly looking for more inclusiveness — as Adams suggested — rather than kowtowing, shouldn't "we" be the word of the year?

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Jay Greeson

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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