Saturday, 20 June 2009

Just wanted to share.

While looking at the poetry of Shel Silverstein in search of inspiration for a bit of nonsense verse I'm working on, I came across this. It actually made me cry. Given the aptness of the title, I thought I'd share it here.

Forgotten Language

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers. . . .
How did it go?
How did it go?

Shel Silverstein


Friday, 12 June 2009

Word Geek's guide to homosexual gay vocabulary and usage.

In my new job, we have to talk about sex and sexuality, and we have to be politically correct. It's a real balancing act at the best of times, but when it comes to talking about .... well ... what I want to talk about, it's a minefield.

This was brought to my attention when a colleague was trying to write a report on homophobia in schools. He wanted to say 'homosexuality' but had been told that 'homosexual' and therefore 'homosexuality' is considered offensive because it is the medical term for the 'condition' of being gay and our employers wanted it removed, newspeak style, from all documents. "What am I going to put then?" ranted my colleague (who is himself gay) "'gayness'? That's less offensive, is it?"

Now, as with most political correctness, the intention here is honourable. Someone somewhere has caught on to the fact that it's generally homophobic groups who use words like homosexual, and wanted to distance themselves from that. But they haven't thought about the practical implications. It's difficult though, for people who are not part of a persecuted minority, to navigate how to best indicate that they are not prejudiced against this group. So, as a public service, I'd like to provide a guide.

Homosexual (noun): Try to avoid calling gay people 'homosexuals'. It's not a BAD word as such, but when it's used as a label it just feels a bit... off.

Homosexual (adjective): This is slightly better, but where possible, use gay as the preferred adjective. If you must use it, use it to refer to the physical, not cultural, aspects of homosexuality. So 'homosexual feelings' is ok. 'homosexual poetry' is not.

Homosexuality: As seen above, homosexuality is causing problems. (The word, not the phenomenon!)Yes, it's a medical word. Yes, it's obviously link to homosexual, which can be offensive, but there is no other word in the language doing the same job and, as such, it . cannot be removed. Which in turn makes removing 'homosexual' problematic.

Heterosexual/ity: This is fine, apparently. This is the same double standard which has led to students in UK schools referring to 'chalkboards' instead of blackboards, but not calling whiteboards 'penboards'. The implication ends up being that 'black' and 'homosexual' have shame attached to them but 'heterosexual' and 'white' do not.

Queer (noun): No.

Queer (adjective): This is a fantastic, all inclusive word, reclaimed from being a horribly offensive homophobic slur, and widely used in America to describe all things unstraight. In the UK, however, it has more of a history of just meaning peculiar/eccentric, and has not been embraced in the same way. Americans in the UK should use it with caution as they may be misinterpreted. I think it's fab, though.

Gay (noun): This, like homosexual, is frowned upon. 'Gays' has homophobic connotations.

Gay (adjective): This is fine (as long, obviously, as you're not using it to mean crap) but can be misleading, as some people use it to refer to men, and some use it to refer to men and women.

Lesbian (noun): Unlike 'gay', this is fine. Who the hell knows why. Maybe because 'Lesbian Woman' sounds redundant. Some people prefer to say 'gay woman', which suits me too.

Lesbian (adjective): Also fine.

Bisexual/ity (adjective and noun): Again, fine, making a bit of a mockery of the fact that homosexual isn't. The abbreviation 'Bi' is often preferred.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans): It's clunky, it's irritating, and it keeps picking up a random Q (for 'questioning'). But it's inclusive and a safe bet for official documents. Roughly equivalent to the American 'queer'.

I'll probably think of some more later, but that's all for now.

x WG

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

nonce up at liberty.

what the hell? Apparently, a french language website called vipublog has nicked my blog post about sexuality. Fair enough. It would have been NICE if you had asked. I would probably have given permission, and been quite flattered. But no. It's been half-inched, and, bafflingly, been put through some sort of babelfish device, from English to....english. I don't know whether this was to make it harder to search (in which case CALLING it 'The Cunning Linguaphile' was a bit of an own goal), or a side effect of having at some point translated it into french. Have a read. It's really quite odd. My favourite part is that 'come out' translates as 'nonce up at liberty'.
So, thanks for the compliment, you thieving scoundrels. Or should that read 'entering beget of the remove scurrilously'?

once again, a assignment in go uphill to the esteemed Dr S.(’the Sloz’ doesn’t pr?cis it, apparently) over and above at Excretera who, predictably, has called me on a high handed throwaway note I made in my at assignment, stating that the coming at liberty activity was ‘far more complex’ than most people contrive. It would beget been so temperately to equitable agreement sagely when you be familiar with that, Michael, but Ohhhh no.”What did you beget in attention?” he says. Damn’ university professors making me THINK hither a hog of oneself clog. Jeez. Here goes then.

In the LGBT community, the received erudition is that scoop is encouraged/indoctrinated into a heterosexual/heterosexist lifestyle and that it takes a fixed amount of willpower to deficiency of confidence this assumptions and the nonce up at liberty. Don’t the nonce up crying to me someone is concerned footnotes or a bibliography, all the same. The channel uncontrollable with this representation someone is concerned me is that it tends to negate/belittle the bi community, as in this paradigm, bisexuals are viewed as people who beget unsuccessfully shaken away the “shackles” of heterosexuality, in the future the pre-eminence be known of those people someone is concerned being ‘confused’ or ‘undecided’ which, in my impression is a anxiety of shit.

Here is the uncontrollable. When Stonewall happened, ‘Gay’ referred to what is age referred to as the LGBT or Queer community. anyone not ’straight’. i.e. Over the years, all the same the core of gay changed to refer merely to gay men or to gay men ad lesbians depending on partiality. The Bi and Trans communities were shouldered at liberty.

I reckon it’s easier to gain loam acceptance if you repute an ‘other’ to odium. Now the LGB community is good-looking transphobic, and those fully on transsexuals who beget been accepted ‘into the fold’ can be good-looking non-objective hither genderqueer people. I beget witnessed the gay (male) community be lesbophobic, and the lesbian community fence in it and drub it (to some extent), then the lesbian and gay community was biphobic and the androgynous community challenged and partly overcame THAT.

So the verified writings hither being gay and coming at liberty were in actuality more incorporating than common writings using the at any rate phraseology are. Also, coming at liberty as ‘not straight’ note leaving the in assemble, the class, the mainstream. Doing so to self-identify as having a pallid sexuality (that sounds ignoble.) is dire because there is no cohesive assemble to peter out d scratch ‘to’. Because that’s what they are. Therefore, if you are questioning your sexualtiy it is much easier to classify as gay/lesbian and hinder your opposite-sex launch and beget the inclusivity of the gay community, less than be hand to flail on all sides being hated aside both extremes. They are not the two choices you beget, they are the safety-in-numbers ends of the continuum. in persnickety Personally speaking, I self classify as lesbian, not androgynous.

But I like the iDEA of heterosexuality. This leads me to another complicating agent, which is that, in our brotherhood, a a stash of our feel of value is based on the approbation of the vis-?-vis shagging. It’s equitable that the technic doesn’t do much someone is concerned me. As a lesbian I don’t requisite men to frame an scratch on on me but as a ball in this brotherhood, there’s a generally of me that’s offended when they don’t. Many, MANY gay men I beget known derive payment ‘joke’ flirting with lesbians and ‘fag hags’. They like the female on because they beget been socialised to sine qua non that on to acquaint someone with something them that they are successful/’real men’.

“I’m mask-like! No, I’m gay! No, bi! cool one’s heels. Those people I identify who beget the nonce up at liberty into nontraditional sexuality/gender roles beget above all done so something like this. am I at one pro tempore masculine? Please refer to me as she.some of the pro tempore.

(headfuck commences).you identify what? I odium labels.” It takes guts to the nonce up at liberty as gay. It takes awesome self assuredness and assertiveness which I can merely equitable round-the-clock DREAM of to the nonce up at liberty as something that doesn’t beget a dependable clarification in our brotherhood.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Adult Devices?

Riot Kitty sent me this story and it got me thinking.

The northbound Toutle Rest Stop on Interstate 5 was evacuated Wednesday
afternoon while the Washington State Patrol Bomb Squad came to disable a
suspicious noise-making device.

“A passer-by saw somebody throw something in the garbage and take off in
a hurry,” said Sgt. Glenn Hobbs. The witness, thinking the quick exit
seemed odd, looked in the can to see what had been thrown away — then
called 911.

“It was a black plastic shopping bag, and they could hear a vibration or
ticking sound,” Hobbs said. Troopers closed the rest area, which is near
milepost 54, for about 1 1/2 hours during the incident.

The noise didn’t come from a ticking time bomb.

“It was an adult device,” Hobbs said.

He said this is the first time he’s been involved in the investigation
of a vibrator.

“It’s a once in a career thing, I hope.”

- Leslie Slape

Ah, the wonderful world of the euphemism! When you want to talk about it, but don't want to name it, our friend the English language is there with as many pussyfooting evasions as your memory and imagination can muster. I'm all for euphemisms: anything that makes the brain work harder and the language more complex is fine by me.

Look at the Vikings: They knew how to euphemise. If they could get a complicated, riddling substitution for a real word into their sagas, they would, so you get 'Raven feeder' meaning a warrior and 'Whale road' meaning the sea. OK technically, these are what are known as kennings, and they are more of a Norse literary conceit than a way of avoiding semantic embarrassment, but I'm all about them. I think we should have them instead of euphemisms. None of this 'adult device' meaning vibrator. If you're squeamish about saying vibrator then what about 'come buzzer' or 'hoe for the ladygarden'? Let's face it, "adult device" is a rubbish euphemism. the Vikings wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.
Why is sex the only 'adult' activity anyway? A film about getting a job has 'adult content'. A TV programme about the stock exchange is for 'adult audiences'. An 'adult device' could be a car, or a Blackberry, (the kids don't have those yet, right?) or a, well, a bomb. We don't, (or shouldn't) see many kids with bombs and guns. If I saw a kid waving a vibrator I'd be amused, maybe a little shocked, and interested to know the story behind what I was seeing. If I saw a kid with a bomb, I'd be completely horrified.
So why, in this story, kindly sent to me by Riot Kitty, is the gentleman being interviewed a) squeamish about saying it's a vibrator, when he was fine about it being a bomb, b) anything other than relieved that a vibrator is all it was, (surely, finding out that terrorists aren't blowing you up trumps havig to cope with the fact that technology is helping women get sexual pleasure without men?) c)characterising the non-bomb as 'adult' - like the potential bomb was a friggin' Tonka toy?
If we had euphemisms, no. If we had KENNINGS for bombs; like city-destroyer, limb-ripper or death-dropper, we might remember that they are in fact worse than 'adult devices'.