(Words) We’re Watching
“Mx.” (pronounced “mix” or “mux”) is a gender-neutral honorific. It’s used by people who don’t want to be identified by gender, whether their gender identity isn’t well-represented by the older forms, or they just don’t want to offer that information or assume it when addressing someone else.
This is happening. It’s happening in progressive, diverse, digital communities first. And for all their fractiousness, and the inherent difficulty in dealing with areas as complex and personal as identity, gender, and sexuality, it does feel like some standards are emerging. These are words worth watching. If you work with digital technology and people (and yeah, that’s almost everyone), I hope you’re paying attention.
It’s not clear whether or when Mx. will catch on in the US. The timeline for such developments can be long, as the title Ms. taught us not all that long ago. Coined in 1901, the now-commonplace Ms. wasn’t fully adopted by The New York Times until 1986. Mx. seems to be moving more rapidly—it was added to Merriam-Webster Unabridged in April 2016.
Me, Myself and Mx
Sometimes cultural shifts rumble at a glacial pace. Sometimes they gather momentum so quickly that our language can only surge ahead in an effort to catch up.