Word of the year

In December 2019, Merriam-Webster announced a surprising “word of the year”: they.

The dictionary publisher cited a growing curiosity and discourse around nonbinary individuals, marked by an uptick in internet searches for the seemingly innocuous word.

However, there is another nontraditional use of “they” we at first tuesday have long advocated for: as a singular pronoun.

At least in recent memory, the English language hasn’t operated with a satisfying version of the singular, gender-neutral pronoun plenty of other languages have. Often, in speech, we resort to the word “they” when referring to people whose gender is unknown to us, or when a person’s gender is irrelevant.

This usage has grown more prevalent with time, and why not? It isn’t simply left-wing linguistic posturing — “they” as a singular pronoun has a practical application for linguists and real estate licensees alike.

At first tuesday, we use “they” to refer to nongendered individuals because our articles and courses discuss the ideas and concepts at work in the world of real estate. In a recent case decision, for example, the gender of the participants typically has no bearing on the outcome, and thus is not relevant enough to include.

The bottom line is this: we’re in favor of any word or phrase that makes concepts easier to convey to readers.

Rolling with the times

Further, it behooves licensees to be conscious of the prevailing public lexicon.

This doesn’t mean real estate professionals — or people of any kind — all need to use the same words, or incorporate terms like “Latinx” into their daily vocabulary. Just because we’ve adopted a particular terminology doesn’t mean we intend to dictate how our readers speak or write — or even that we expect anyone to adopt the terms we’ve chosen to adopt.

However, real estate is a public-facing industry. In a profession so dependent on interpersonal interaction, it pays to know how people think and speak.

Whether or not licensees choose to adopt such linguistic changes, to remain unaware of what they are and how potential clients use them is a detriment to the licensee’s professional responsibility.

Remember: part of a real estate agent’s job is building trust between the agent and the client. Trust requires communication, and communication requires knowledge of how others communicate. It’s likely a licensee, during the course of their regular business, will come across terms like “Latinx,” and will need to know how to respond to potentially unfamiliar language.

Whether or not the licensee chooses to use them, it’s extraordinarily helpful to have a basic understanding of concepts like this that are now comfortably part of the California vernacular, in terms of being able to engage with new ideas — as well as potential clients.