CNN publishes a ‘guide to neopronouns,’ embraces genderless pronouns like ‘leaf, leafself, sun, star’

CNN raised eyebrows on Saturday after publishing a detailed explainer on the use of “neopronouns,” a “new” kind of “gender-neutral or nonbinary pronoun” that allows subjects to characterize themselves using genderless descriptors like “leaf,” “sun,” and “star.”

In the story titled “A guide to neopronouns, from ae to ze,” CNN’s article outlined the use of alternative grammar that eliminates “gender markers,” quoting one of “the foremost experts on neopronouns” who encouraged readers to “use and respect” neopronouns like any other common pronoun.

“Some of the most common words in the English language have gender markers, including pronouns,” CNN reported. “But not all of them are binary. Consider the singular “they,” preferred by some nonbinary and trans people for whom gendered pronouns do not fit.”


“And then there are neopronouns (“new” pronouns), gender-neutral or nonbinary pronouns that are distinct from the common she, he and they. Neopronouns include terms like ‘xe’ and ‘em,’ and some of them even date back several centuries, when they were introduced by writers as a solution for referring to subjects without assuming gender. Now, they’re also commonly used by nonbinary and trans people,” the article continued. 

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Critics suggested CNN change the headline to a ‘guide to talking to someone with severe mental illness.’ (Reuters)

Neopronouns are most often employed by “nonbinary, transgender and gender nonconforming people because they offer more freedom of identity,” the story states. The piece goes on to list a number of “common neopronouns,” shared by the Human Rights Campaign with examples of how to properly use them in a sentence.

” xe/xyr (commonly pronounced zee/zeer) I asked xyr to come to the movies. Xe said yes!” the CNN story reads. “ze/zir or ze/hir (commonly pronounced zee/zeer or zee/heer.) The teacher graded zir paper today, and ze got an A! Ze said hirself that I’m hir favorite neighbor.”

Dennis Baron, a so-called neopronouns “expert” and an emeritus professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told CNN that many who employ neopronouns prefer to use nouns that are “completely original to their user.” Those are referred to as “nounself neopronouns,” he said, which includes nature and other inspirations as nonbinary or genderless descriptors.

“Some may choose to select a noun to describe themselves, like ‘star’ or ‘starself’ in place of binary pronouns like ‘she’ or ‘herself,’” CNN reports. “For someone who uses the nounself pronoun ‘leaf,’ that may look like: ‘I hope leaf knows how proud we are that leaf is getting to know leafself better!’ or ‘Leaf arrived at the coffee shop before me; I was mortified to have been late to meet leaf.’”

“Linguist Jason D’Angelo told The New York Times that nounself neopronouns were popularized on the social platform Tumblr around 2012 and 2013 and remain in use among members of fandoms who may take their nounself pronouns from the properties they enjoy,” the piece continues.

As for critics who feel that nounself and neopronouns are “silly” or “make it harder” for transgender and nonbinary people to be taken seriously, Baron said readers should remember that all words, in the English language and otherwise were “invented at one point.”


A person wears a gender neutral pronoun jacket at a ‘Rainbow Runway for Equality’ to kick off Pride Month at Central World Mall on June 01, 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand.  ((Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images))

“Like it or not, lots of new words pop up every day,” Baron said.

“It’s polite to honor a person’s identity when speaking to them or about them,” Baron told the outlet. “Using inclusive language, not just inclusive pronouns but other self-identifiers as well, can facilitate discourse by showing respect….refusing to let people self-identify is a way of excluding them.’”


The CNN story was widely ridiculed on social media, with some critics blasting the piece as “delusional” and others calling it reflective of “the mental crisis we have in America today.”

“Ted Turner initially created this network to report news,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“When the adults go on summer vacation at CNN, and toss the keys to the depressed intern from Oberlin,” Jonathan Kay, senior editor and podcaster at Quillette, replied.

“Why Chris Licht got fired, in one tweet,” Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium wrote. “Licht: “I’m going to make CNN pivot back to the center.” “CNN’s employees: “For someone who uses the nounself pronoun ‘leaf,’ that may look like: ‘I hope leaf knows how proud we are that leaf is getting to know leafself better!’”


“One of the most astonishing trends of our era really has been this kind of frank Tumblr nonsense becoming a kind of civic religion,” author and Kentucky State University professor Wilfred Reilly replied.

“@CNN goes to war against biology, children, and reality on behalf of transgender extremists,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton chimed in.

“This is where CNN is today…a reflection of the mental crisis we have in America today,” former U.S. Air Force Intelligence officer Dan Bowen wrote.

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