University Directs Students to 'Practice With Pronouns,' and It Highlights Our Stunning Sophistication

(AP Photo/U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Have you practiced lately? Not restraint, and not your oboe. I’m talking about pronouns.

College has changed quite a bit. Some might say it’s the new Pre-K: University attendees are getting schooled in ways that would’ve once been viewed as insufficiently advanced (see here).


But perhaps there’s something to be said for getting back to the basics.

Hence, the University of North Carolina has reportedly directed its students to “practice with pronouns.”

The school is on the cutting edge — its Office of the Provost’s Diversity and Inclusion page announces the following:

UNC-Chapel Hill strives to ensure gender equity across all platforms, including hiring practices, lactation/family support, and gender-inclusive language.

Resources are offered, including a list of “lactation locations” and a lesson on pronouns. “You can’t always know what someone’s pronouns are by looking,” it says.

Unsure about which pronouns to use? Asking and correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show respect for their individuality and gender identity.

It’s an interesting idea: Given that pronouns aren’t generally used in someone’s presence, UNC believes you must call everyone what they insist when they aren’t around.

The webpage provides a chart of “Gender Non-Specific Pronouns”:

Subject Pronouns:

  • She
  • He
  • They
  • Ze
  • Xe
  • Ze

Object Pronouns:

  • Her
  • Him
  • Them
  • Hir
  • Xem
  • Zir

Possessive Pronouns:

  • Hers
  • His
  • Theirs
  • Hirs
  • Xyrs
  • Zirs

A Google search reveals a dedicated UNC “Gender Non-Specific Pronouns” page, but the link laments, “Sorry, but the page you were trying to view does not exist.”


However, Campus Reform reports that the page previously directed students to

That site — which is also credited on the Diversity and Inclusion page — lets users choose from a set of “neo pronouns,” including “ve/ver/vis/vis/verself,” “ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself,” and “ey/em/eir/eirs/emself.” Practice With Pronouns calls those “commonly used.”

Once you’ve selected a default set of pronouns or typed in something ultra-custom, the site will create a sample sentence.

“Fill in the blanks with your guesses, then click ‘Check Answers,'” it instructs.

A 100% correct effort:

After eir period of ominous silence, all ey did was attack savagely, dragging many citizens with em into the tent over the vacant lot.

If I properly understand, here’s the modern way of relating to your college peers:

You meet and briefly converse with cool-shoes Horacio, who informs you vis pronouns are of the “ve” variety — except ve substitutes “nem” for “ver,” “eir” for “vis,” “nirs” for the other “vis,” and “bunself” for “verself.”

You take note of the above, then you set aside time in your dorm to practice online. After 45 minutes, you’ve sorted out a rough sketch of how you’re supposed to talk — if and when you ever refer to nem.


You and Horacio never speak again.

While home on Christmas break, you visit your cousin. You want to indicate you’d like to get some shoes like the ones worn by some guy you once met.

In order to plan this information’s delivery, on the previous night, you told your family to go to the movies without you — you and Practice With Pronouns had work to do.

You now ask your cousin to sit in silence as you review your notes from the night before.

After only ten minutes, you’re ready to show respect to someone who’ll never have any idea you did so:

“There was some human at school who had shoes like the ones I want. Ve told me ve got them at a mall near eir internship. I was going to ask nem which store, but I got distracted because I had to log nirs particulars into my 500-page journal I carry to record all humans I might ever reference’s pronouns. Ve would’ve probably taken me to the store bunself, but I’ll never know.”

Seventy years later, you’re recalling how you ended up obtaining those very shoes. You want to share this story with your nursing home attendant, and fortunately, you have a laptop with all your pronoun notes from seven decades past. Ze’ll be changing your bedpan next Thursday, and by then, you and your ninety-year-old mind will have figured out how to tell zir.


So goes American life from here on out.

We may not be a society in pursuit of unity, but — at least for the college-educated — we’re certainly becoming unprecedentedly sophisticated.



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