Hello all! I had hoped to get this out in pride month, but it’s falling in wrath month instead; it’s fine, we’re still all totally in our feels this hot nonbinary summer, so we’re good! This is a guest post from Vasundhara Gautam, a computational linguist at Dialpad (moving to Saarland University this fall!), who is my beautiful twitter pal. Xe makes wonderful tweets — you can follow xem here — about linguistics and gender and birds and memes. All the classics! Xyr website is here.

A simple computer drawing: Kirby (purple hair, yellow jacket, glasses) is gesturing at Vasundhara (dark hair, black lipstick) who is standing at a podium labeled “pronoun studies”
A simple computer drawing: Kirby (purple hair, yellow jacket, glasses) is gesturing at Vasundhara (dark hair, black lipstick) who is standing at a podium labeled “pronoun studies”
PLEASE WELCOME OUR GUEST BLOGGER!

A little bit of background from Kirby before we jump into the post. This…


For whatever reason, you may find yourself in a PhD program while somehow not actually knowing how to write a paper. It happens! You’re not a fraud (that I know of) and you’re not doomed to failure. Hopefully you’re reading this before you get to the big paper. If you’re reading this and trying to write the big paper, consider reading my other thing about the big one. You may also be a go-getter and reading this pre-grad school, in which case I congratulate you on being ahead of the pack here. …


a simple drawing of kirby in a yellow jacket with purple hair pointing at a chalkboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”
a simple drawing of kirby in a yellow jacket with purple hair pointing at a chalkboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”

After posting Pronouns 101 and Pronouns 102, I’ve been receiving more questions from readers! Thusfar, the questions I’ve had have been sort of aimed at how do I avoid misgendering people? Which is great, we love that! This is a question I get occasionally, though, and I’ve gotten it from a few different people both before and after I’ve been working on this series. I’ll paraphrase:

I’ve asked (my mom/my boss/my boyfriend/my friend) to use [pronouns] for me, but they just keep messing up. What can I do to make them get better at this?

Short answer: you can’t actually…


After posting Pronouns 101 and Pronouns 102, I’ve started receiving some questions from readers! I will happily answer these anonymously — you can send your own questions to me via my twitter. This is my second reader question; the first one I answered in a previous post.

figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”
figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”

From Gloria Mellesmoen on Twitter:

This is a question I’ve gotten from a few people over the years, basically summed up as: WHAT do I do when someone lists multiple sets of pronouns?

My very short answer: it depends on the person, and your relationship with them, and the context.


In my AMA on #InternationalPronounsDay 2020, one question I really appreciated was this:

Are there times when using they is just as wrong/harmful as using he or she incorrectly? Is there an asymmetry of how hurtful it is when I use the wrong pronoun?

Short answer: using they for someone who doesn’t use they/them as (one of their) pronouns can be implicit misgendering, which is the inappropriate use of non-gendered words when gendered words might be more appropriate. This can be a problem because trans and gender-nonconforming people are much more subject to implicit (and explicit!) misgendering than cis people…


For International Pronouns Day on October 21st, 2020, I joined with Nathan Dors from UW IT, who’s been working on incorporating pronouns in UW’s internal ID system, which is used by students, staff, and faculty in academic and professional settings. We held a joint “Ask Me Anything” session, which was attended by UW students, staff, faculty, and other guests.

This post is a summary of the questions we discussed, which I’m really belatedly writing up for two reasons: 1) I want to share the cute slides I made on twitter, but that means I also want the text to be…


or, How To Do Participation Grades Better In General, And It Transfers Pretty Good To Zoom Teaching, Too!

This is a write-up of a short, semi-formal presentation I gave for the Fall 2020 UW Linguistics Department Annual TA Workshop, which is the workshop that our department does in addition to the training linguistics TAs get through the UW Center for Teaching and Learning. The slides from that workshop will also be available on my website at some point.

scribbly illustration of a zoom-like user interface; cameras in tile mode include a purple-haired person and a cat
scribbly illustration of a zoom-like user interface; cameras in tile mode include a purple-haired person and a cat

What is “participation” exactly?

When we talk about assessing and encouraging “participation” in any college class, but especially in online classes during pandemic teaching, what are…


After posting Pronouns 101 and Pronouns 102, I’ve started receiving some questions from readers! I will happily answer these anonymously — you can send your own questions to me via my twitter.

a simple drawing of kirby in a yellow jacket with purple hair pointing at a chalkboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”
a simple drawing of kirby in a yellow jacket with purple hair pointing at a chalkboard that says “pronoun studies: question time!”

Dear Kirby,

The new Pronouns blog is terrific, and I’ve already sent it to several people.

One comment on Pronouns 102, since you specifically say “Let me know!” for “Why do you keep messing up?”: I think a real category is “the person’s name/physical presentation doesn’t match traditional interpretations of their new pronoun, and it’s confusing.”

I have a friend who has always presented as very masculine, and…


Pronouns are hard! There is a reason for that (the reason is… linguistics), but the fact of the matter is, many people find it very difficult to switch pronouns for a person, or to use certain pronouns at all. This post isn’t about getting into the why, but more going about the how to get better.

figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “welcome to pronouns 102”
figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “welcome to pronouns 102”

The target audience for this post is anyone who finds themselves messing up someone else’s pronouns, or misgendering people on accident, but you really want to get better. If you don’t want to get better, close out of your browser and turn off your…


Your loved one (friend? family member? coworker whose feelings you give a shit about?) has asked you to use different pronouns than the ones you’ve been previously using! This post is intended as a very introductory post on how to get started — if you need help beyond just getting started, check out pronouns 102, which is aimed at trouble-shooting if you’ve been trying for a while but are just struggling to get it right.

figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “welcome to pronouns 101”
figure with a yellow jacket, purple hair, and glasses pointing at a blackboard that says “welcome to pronouns 101”

Before we get started: what are pronouns?

Pronouns are words used to stand in for a whole noun phrase or proper name, because it gets really tiring to say someone’s name over…

Kirby Conrod

Dr. Conrod is a linguist and scholar sort of at large. They write about transgender stuff, the linguistics of pronouns, and ways to work with your brain.

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