“Words words words.” Hamlet
Time magazine is causing quite a twitter on, well, Twitter today with their 4th annual poll as to which words should get “banned” from the English language.
Now here at Mountains Beyond Mountains we believe in the power of words. We believe in the idea that words have weight and certain words carry a power unto themselves. The fact that we hardly ever really think about what we are writing until after the fact is besides the point. We can’t afford an editor here at the ol’ secret lighthouse (where we are hiding out until the metaphorical coast clears). All our money is going into light bulbs for the light house. Them bulbs is costly.
So back to this list: most of the criticism I’ve read on the twits is that many of the words they want to ban are words used by either young women, or African-Americans, or I guess by transitive property, young African-American women. And, of course, there’s one word on that list of “worst words” that is getting the most attention of all. We’ll get to that one in a little bit. (in about 600 words actually, but who’s counting?)
Let’s just have a look-see at this poll and see what’s up.
Personally, I’d like to see us not using the following two baseball terms. Or at least let’s have a ban on broadcasters using them. “Dish” when we really mean “plate”. It’s “home plate” people! “Crossing the dish” just sounds stupid. Also, where the hell did the term “going yard” ever come from to describe a home run? There are so many beautiful ways to announce a home run, but “going yard” isn’t one of them. All I’m saying is that I don’t think Vin Scully would ever say “yard” or “dish”, and like in all things in life, we must ask ourselves, WWVSD? But I digress. Back to the list.
First of all, 4th annual? I may not be in the “loop”, word wise, but I’ve never heard of this thing before. I have heard of the quarterly additions to the Oxford English Dictionary, however. You know, those times of the year when we can welcome words/phrases like “First World Problem”, “workaround” and “High Dutchman”, three new ones in the September 2014 update. That last one, “High Dutchman”, is a term I’ve never heard before. It sounds like something you might encounter in the Urban Dictionary before you’d encounter it in the Oxford English Dictionary, but I’m no linguist, especially not a cunning one. And right before the “High Dutchman” in the list of new additions is “High Churchwoman”. An actual dictionary term, people! I’m not sure I fully understand it. All I know is that if you attempt a “reverse high churchwoman” immediately after you eat something, you’ll probably get indigestion (and maybe throw out your back).
Unlike the Oxford English Dictionary, that veritable custodian and curator of the English language, this Time magazine poll takes a snarky, petulant tone from the get go. It lists a number of words that the author believes are overused or misused. It’s reminiscent of that old SNL blogger played by Michaela Watkins. Remember her? Her character ran that snarky celebrity blog called “Bitch Pleeze”. I don’t think it (or she) lasted for more than a season. This Time poll seems to be trying to be just “a bit of fun” and of course none of the “words” it suggests will ever actually stop being used because of it. Some will fall away on their own, and some will endure, organically, due to natural language forces beyond our control. Incidentally, the words that got “voted off the island” (do people still watch Survivor other than my Mom?) in previous years were OMG, YOLO and twerk. Yeah, you don’t hear THOSE terms any more. (And I hate to be a pest, but two of those aren’t even words.)
So why even bother with it, right? It’s just another blogger with an axe to grind (Katy Steinmetz @katysteinmetz, actually) adding their noise to the noise. I guess the reason people are caring even a bit is because it falls under the “Time” banner, and that somehow still carries some weight with some people.
Look, I’m really burying the lede here. The main thing that people are upset with is that this poll is including the word “feminist”.
That’s right. In a cutesy nothing poll that wants to see terms like “I can’t even…”, “said no one ever” and “sorry not sorry” banned, alongside with what I guess are words people are using, “bae” “obvi” and “turnt”, is including that offensive, overused term, “FEMINIST”. (I want to be clear that my use of “offensive” and “overused” just now was sarcasm, if it wasn’t clear). While “bae” ‘obvi” and “turnt” are words I’ve never heard of, let alone used, (although I DO like it when you can replace “ed” at the end of a word with a “t”, but in this case I don’t know who dreamt these ones up. See what I did there?) including feminist is just plain dumb. This is what @katysteinmetz writes about the word feminist, writing in the second person as if she were someone who wants this word banned:
“You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.”
Oh man, I don’t know Katy Steinmetz from anyone, but hey: you’ve just chosen the worst time to talk about not talking about feminism and being a feminist, okay? From our view in the lighthouse, we’ve seen and heard some incredible things over the last few weeks. The courage and strength of women coming forward to talk about rape and sexual assault in the wake of revelations and allegations over a former Canadian radio host, violence threatened against video game bloggers who happen to be women in America, continuing violence against indigenous women and girls in my own city, coupled with celebrities coming forward in support of a new United Nations solidarity campaign for gender equality led by Emma Watson, hashtagged #heforshe all lead me to believe that now is the time to talk about feminism and feminists MORE THAN EVER. There feels like a groundswell of support from many camps in support of women’s rights at a time when we can’t bury our heads any more on this topic. Maybe we do need to “declare” our intentions, like announcing our political affiliations, because isn’t politics just another way of saying “power”? If you don’t believe me, the big news story today before the Time Poll hit was Kim Kardashian’s rump on the cover of Paper magazine, and before that? Renée Zellweger’s plastic surgery.
And words have meaning. Words have weight, even “labels”. Maybe even especially “labels”. We become what we say we are. So what if people are coming forward identifying themselves as “feminists”? Why is that a problem? If anything, we haven’t been saying it enough, declaring it enough, and more importantly acting it out enough. But what do I know? I’m just a dumb blogger sitting in an ivory lighthouse.
So sorry for getting all serious on you today. Actually I’m sorry not sorry.
Well, at least we can all agree on one word on that list that’s gotta go.