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In mid-December, author and English professor Eileen Rendahl attended a political gathering where someone was venting about how her son’s friend, a non-binary person, wanted to be referred to as “they.”

“She was saying, ‘Well, I don’t see how I should be expected to say that. It feels funny coming out of my mouth. And what are they going to expect next?’ ” Rendahl, 57, recalled in a phone interview. At the time, she turned and asked author and linguistics scholar Catriona McPherson what she thought.

“Language changes,” McPherson replied. “We’ll survive.”

Not that long ago, many forget, we did.

While it’s so ubiquitous today that it appears in every online pull-down menu, the title of “Ms.” only was born at the turn of the 20th century, devised to avoid revealing a woman’s marital status, as “Mrs.” and “Miss” did and “Mr.” did not. The term only joined the broader lexicon, however, after 1971, when prominent feminists, including Gloria Steinem, launched a magazine of the same name.

In changing that social norm, campuses were at the forefront. “I arrived at college in 1976 and people were using ‘Ms.’ freely then,” said Jennifer Finney Boylan, an author and transgender activist who has consulted for the television show “Transparent” and appeared on “I Am Cait.” “And by the time I was in graduate school, people were using it everywhere.”

Yet the New York Times famously refused to employ the honorific for years, leading to a 1974 protest by feminist groups that was ultimately broken up by police.

Betsy Wade, the first female copy editor at the Times, recounted how reporters would wait until the end of interviews to ask a woman for her marital status, fearing blowback. Nonetheless, editors “did not consider ‘Ms.’ to be widely enough accepted yet by the public,” the newspaper wrote in an article on the 1974 demonstration.

It took until 1986 for the Times to relent.

“I always think about what a big deal people made about Ms. back in the ’70s,” Rendahl wrote in a Facebook comment about her “they” story. “Now we don't think twice about it.”

“They,” Rendahl and Boylan believe, could now follow a similar trajectory.

Although the usage of “they” as a singular pronoun dates to 1375, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and although it features in work by such English-language luminaries as Shakespeare and Chaucer, its usage as a non-binary singular pronoun has been more recent. Merriam-Webster added the word’s non-binary meaning to its online dictionary in September — and three months later announced it had selected “they” as the word of the year.

Indeed, language can change quickly. Wade, the trailblazing Times editor who successfully sued the paper for gender discrimination in a landmark case, mused in our interview about other verbiage changes over the years. For one thing, she noted, “Texting was never a word. You were typing or punching.” As far as English terminology goes, “Some people are ahead of the times, and some people drag along behind.”

And in the case of “they,” unlike with texting, there’s a very human element: “ ‘They’ helps people get through the world with joy — and who can object to that?” Boylan argued.

Examples of that joy are manifest. College student Luna Lund, 22, was raised Mormon and said they “never felt like I fit in with other women or girls in my church,” partly because of the culture’s “strict” gender roles.

“I didn’t understand why I had such different expectations from my brothers,” Lund said. “Even things like shaving my legs. ‘Why do I have to do it?’ ”

About four years ago, after meeting another non-binary friend, Lund started experimenting with gender identity. Empowered by a reevaluation of their religion and the prospect of a fresh start upon entering college, Lund began using they/them pronouns.

“It feels super empowering when people get it right,” they said. “It’s awkward to ask people to use they/them pronouns because it’s weird for a lot of people, so when people get it, it’s really affirming.”

Still, there have been obstacles. At a recent retail job, Lund recounted, people were constantly assuming they identified as a woman. “I had to deal with it,” they said, “but as people become more aware of gender as a spectrum, my hope is that they will be less quick to assume people’s gender and pronouns.”

Author Anna-Marie McLemore announced their own non-binary status in a Twitter thread in early December. “If you ever think you’re taking too long to figure out your own identity, you’re not,” they wrote in one post. “So many of us are on these journeys. Coming out to our communities is a process. So is coming out to yourself.”

In an interview with The Lily, McLemore called the decision to change to they/them pronouns “life-changing.”

“It feels like a part of me that’s had to hide gets to be seen,” they said.

McLemore has explored gender identity through their novels as well. Their latest, “Dark and Deepest Red,” due out Jan. 14, features a main character who is a transgender boy in 1518 Strasbourg, an inkmaking apprentice caught up in the city’s true-life dancing plague. A previous novel, “Blanca & Roja,” contains a non-binary main character who uses he/she pronouns.

McLemore, who has adopted the non-binary prefix Mx., said, “Whether you’re talking about pronouns like they/them or prefixes like Mx. or Ms., someone is asking you to honor something about their identity and their gender, which is so fundamental to who we are.”

Indeed, language’s basis is connection between humans — and referring to someone with the name or word they request is a basic human courtesy.

It’s also more common than you may recognize.

“Even if you don’t have any understanding of what non-binary means, we all agree to call people what they like to be called. I agree to call the bass player in U2 ‘The Edge,’ ” Boylan, the activist and “Transparent” consultant, said. “If I met the Queen of England, I would call her Your Majesty. I wouldn’t call her Betty Windsor. I mean, she’s not my queen, but out of respect for her, I call her what she wants.”

She added: “By fits and starts, we become wiser with time.”

“Ms.” is proof.

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