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Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary

Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary

The gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ will be included in the official Swedish dictionary, the language’s regulator said on Tuesday (24 March).

‘Hen’ will be added to ‘han’ (he) and ‘hon’ (she) in the new edition of the Svenska Akademiens ordlista, or SAOL, which goes on sale on 15 April.

The pronoun can be used to refer to a transgender person or someone whose gender is unknown or irrelevant.

‘For those who use the pronoun, it’s obviously a strength that it is now in the dictionary,’ an editor at the Swedish Academy, Sture Berg, told AFP.

The word ‘hen’ was coined in the 1960s in protest of the ubiquitous use of ‘han’ to refer to any group of people that was not exclusively female  – but never really caught on.

The transgender community adopted the word around 2000 and its use has taken off in the past few years.

‘Hen’ can now be found in official texts, court rulings, media texts and books.

In English, the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’ can be used to refer to either gender, though there have been calls for alternatives such as ‘zhe.’