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Category Archives: Language

In Re: The Blogosphere Lately

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A Brief List of Shit You Should Not Do:

The Atheist Elevator Debacle

Dictate another person’s boundaries

Decide that you are entitled to their time and/or attention

Approach them in an enclosed space with no other people present, acknowledge that you’re being inappropriate, but boldly soldier on

Insist that women are responsible for magically intuiting the desires of sad, socially inept men

Suggest that men are literally incapable of following accepted social guidelines, then accuse feminists of being “misandrist”

Turn someone’s story of a creepy come-on into the most contrived controversy ever

The Hugo Schwyzer Paternity Kerfluffle

Compare “paternity fraud” (really, guys?) to rape

Decide that a brief run-down of what is no doubt a very complicated story gives you enough information to make sweeping judgments about everyone involved

Shriek about “poor Ted” and “horrible Jill,”apparently oblivious to the inconsistency in who you’re willing to give the benefit of the doubt/assume the absolute best intentions

Leave a wall of text, using information lifted from Wikipedia, that accuses the author of being a psychopath. That’s just stupid

Say that you would stop loving your kid if you found out he wasn’t biologically yours. Not only does that make you a terrible person, it’s a lie—because if that’s all it would take to make you stop loving your son, you never really loved him to begin with

Get so hung up on the details of the story that you completely miss the overarching point of the article. (For the record, I was pretty squicked out by the story, but in the end I agree with Schwyzer—DNA doesn’t make a parent)

Mac McLelland’s Horrible Article to Which I Will Not Link

Grossly mischaracterize PTSD (Protip: You don’t get a diagnosis so soon after the traumatic event—like all mental disorders, you have to demonstrate an established pattern of behavior. Also, if she really had PTSD, “rough sex” would not have been a cure.)

Falsely equivocate bystander trauma with first-hand trauma

Make someone else’s rape about you

Turn a horrible story of a Haitian woman’s rape into a tale of Privileged White Lady Pain

Be so lazy in your use of language that your writing blurs the very-super-obvious line between sex and rape

Criticize her article on the grounds that she’s OMG SO TOTALLY SLUTTY instead of “wow, what a terrible narcissistic asshole”

This and This

Freely admit to being a stat rapist (2:14 in the video), revealing how utterly unconcerned you are with the potential legal repercussions, then deny that we live in a rape culture. (Yes, that person probably wouldn’t give you his real name, but his IP could be traced)

Be one of those horrible people. I can’t even.


I Have Questions For the English-Only Movement

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Or more specifically, for the movement’s largest and most vocal organization, U.S. English.

Q: So uh, first off, why do you call yourself U.S. English? Why not The U.S. English Organization or something? As it stands, your name is a little unclear.

A: Because we control all the English! Or at least the U.S. English. IT IS OURS.

Q: Oh, alright then. Well, maybe you could explain your position to me a little more, as it sounds, to laypersons such as myself, like a huge pile of bullshit.

A: Well, duh, making English the official language of the U.S. will make life better for immigrants, because it forces them to learn things, which, as we all know, immigrants are generally averse to doing.

Q: Yeah. Lazy immigrants. That’s not racism, it’s just truth! Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the first person to observe that trying to make English the official language of a country that is still home to so many indigenous languages, or at least the ones that have thrived in spite of what amounts to mass genocide, is a little—

A: We don’t actually address that anywhere on our website, so I don’t know what to tell you there.

Q: So you don’t see the hypocrisy in telling immigrants to learn English without having learned the indigenous language most common to your particular region of the country yourself?

A: No.

Q: Not to press the issue, but do you genuinely not see how offensive this is? English isn’t in any danger of dying out, but many—most, even—indigenous languages are. English doesn’t need to be preserved; it’s doing just fine. I mean, I totally support attempts to preserve endangered languages, like the indigenous languages I just mentioned. Or if you want to go across the ocean, take a language like Welsh, which, unlike English, isn’t even an official language of Wales. See, that’s a language that needs preserving. Wintu needs preserving. But English? English is thriving like a goddamn mosquito by a river.

A: A mosquito by a river?

Q: Look, I have six bites on one hand. I’m pissy. But you see my point.

A: Not really. We’re a bunch of clueless assholes.

Q: Well that just gives me a sad. The US is basically one big colony, you know? And to actually try and pass legislation mandating that people learn the language of the colonizers while native languages continue to die out is just—

A: Can we change the subject? Examining my privilege feels weird.

Q: Alright, fine. My next question is a more practical one, namely, should you succeed, what do you expect this movement to accomplish?

A: Force the dumb immigrants to speak good, of course.

Q: Right. But you know, on your website, you list all the states that have English-only laws, as well as the states that have the largest populations that speak English worse than “very well,” and there’s some overlap. Like California. California has English as its official state language, but also has the largest population of people who speak English “less than very well” of any other state in the nation. Doesn’t that kind of undercut your argument?

A: Hey now—

Q: I’m also wondering how, if English were to be declared the national language of the U.S., you would go about enforcing that. I mean, are you going to hand out citations every time you hear someone speaking a language other than English? Because you make this big point of being all, we totally support people learning other languages, but your position doesn’t really seem to support that.

A: Duh, Paprika, if English is declared the official language, it will be the only language used in government, and on driver’s license exams, and on signage—

Q: Wait. So if shit goes your way, people who don’t speak English fluently won’t be able to get driver’s licenses?

A: It’s already that way in Arkansas.

Q: Well fuck.

A:We win!

Q: Not yet. Look, I’ve yet to see any proof that your arguments stem from anything other than good old-fashioned racism. You cite national unity as an argument in favor of English-Only, implying that Amurrica is fractured and inharmonious—which, duh—but you fail to provide a causal link between linguistic diversity and general shittasticness. I mean, this isn’t an especially linguistically diverse country anyway, and what diversity we have is due in large part to languages that are becoming obsolete. We don’t generally encourage our native English speakers to learn other languages, but we insist on immigrants learning English. We ignore how difficult English is (and sorry, but some of the most ardent supports of the EOM can barely compose a coherent sentence), and don’t even consider how much more difficult it is for adults to acquire new languages. (You know that statistic you cite about the age disparity in immigrants who speak English “very well”? Yeah, well, I guarantee that’s related to how easily children pick up new languages compared to adults.) I also think it’s interesting that you act purely as a lobbying group, and don’t actually do anything to help immigrants learn English, short of linking to the US English Foundation. And although this foundation supposedly sponsors English classes for immigrants, they also make a point of saying, in their mission statement, that language learning assistance should be “short-term and transitional,” and that one of their goals is “to raise public awareness about the importance of our common language.” Specifying in the mission statement that the immigrants should only be granted “short-term and transitional” language assistance raises plenty of red flags, and suggests that they don’t really understand how the whole language acquisition thing works. And I have to wonder, too, if your goal is simply to lobby for legislation that supports your dream of a magical English-Only wonderland, why don’t you try to pass laws that, say, mandate the availability of free English classes to immigrants? That would be far more helpful than simply banning Spanish driver’s license exams.

A: So what’s your point?

Q: My point is that you don’t really care about national unity. You don’t care if everyone lives in perfect harmony, you just want brown people to act less brown. I mean, hell, if you were even advocating for an artificial language to bridge the gap between different nationalities, I’d think it was a needlessly complex approach, but I’d believe you when you said you were just trying to help. But what you’re doing with this movement is creating the illusion of a problem which you then try to correct with a plan fundamentally rooted in racism. Do you really believe people emigrate to the US expecting to never have to learn the language? Of course not. But there aren’t many resources available to immigrants—and I’m not just referring to illegal immigrants either, but to all of them—and at any rate, if you seriously have a problem with people holding on to their native languages and cultures, then you are terrible. Objectively terrible. And the legislation you’re trying to push through won’t do anything but make things more difficult.

A: Yeah, well, what’s your solution?

Q: I don’t think we should have a national language at all, personally, but if it went to a vote and my side lost, I’d say that at the very least we should declare more than one. That’s not actually very unusual, you know—ever heard of Switzerland? Declare English, Spanish, and maybe French. Keep signage in multiple languages; offer licensing exams in multiple languages. Encourage our children to learn languages besides English, because being multilingual is great. I don’t think we get to demand that immigrants be bilingual without making an effort ourselves. People will always figure out a way to communicate—you don’t need to pass legislation demanding that we communicate in one way. Basically, don’t opt to limit our knowledge; opt to expand it. Offer free classes in Spanish and English. Work to preserve indigenous languages. Don’t be an asshole. It’s really quite simple.

A: Do you ever shut up?

Q: No, actually.

A: I barely talked at all in this interview.

Q: Of course you didn’t. This was really just a platform for me to pontificate. Thanks for playing, though!

A: …

The End.

Story Hour with Paprika

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[TW for virulent racism, workplace intimidation, racist and ablist slurs, general awfulness]

Once upon a time, there was an unhappy woman named Paprika. Her perpetual displeasure was directly related to the overall shittasticness of the world. She tried to be happy, to eat good candy and drink lots of soda, but nothing seemed to help. And then one day, Paprika logged on to Facebook, and shit went very much awry.

One of Paprika’s friends—let’s call him Matt—IMed her asking if she was ready to be infuriated. She said yes, and he sent her the link to a screen cap he had taken. It showed a Facebook status something along the lines of “those of you who don’t care that Bin Laden is dead are stupid and need to shut up,” which, you know, whatever. But then, there in the comments, was a really trashy woman named Jessica, who was all “Bin Laden didn’t kill the Americans! Some other sand n*ggers did!”—except without the asterisk. Matt had responded with “Wow. Racists shouldn’t have access to Facebook,” prompting Jessica to observe that Matt was just totally not patriotic, and, come on—“even our troops use that word!” (Side note: I’m pretty sure that quite a few of them don’t, and as for the ones who do, well, they should be kicked out of the military. Personally, I have a problem with armed racists traipsing into countries full of people they hate. Call me crazy, but there you are.)

So yes, Paprika was, indeed, infuriated. But as it happened, Paprika was Facebook friends with the guy who wrote the status—Jared—and she also happened to work with Jessica. Jessica, it must be said, defines trashy. Jessica is one of those people who buys herself breast implants, a Harley, and thousands of dollars worth of tattoos, then bitches about the cost of daycare. (Actually, I’ve never known anyone to do that, except Jessica. Thanks, Jessica, for being the beyond-rare exception that Rush Limbaugh contends is the norm.)

So Paprika was all “wow, I kinda feel like responding,” and Matt was all “yeah, I’d feel better if I had backup,” so Paprika swooped in and left a bitchy comment that ended with the line, “Congratulations, you’re a terrible person.”

Well, it could only get worse from there. Somehow, the status devolved into people arguing that it’s “okay to be racist, as long as you don’t act on it” (because apparently, writing racist Facebook comments doesn’t count as “acting on it”), and Jessica being all “yo, we’re gonna throw down at work and stuff.” It was a classy chain of comments.

And then, today, Paprika finally got to work with Jessica.

She walked in, dropped her purse in the office, and put on her apron. Jessica got in her face and explained that they were out of ice, so everything for the salad bar was still in the cooler, and all the ice they had was in the sink, so be careful with the ice, we’re out, no ice, no ice at all. “You think you can handle that? Hmm? Is that too difficult for you?”

“That’s fine.”

Jessica proceeded to follow Paprika into the kitchen and regale her with more questions: “So uh, is there a reason you like to call people racist on Facebook? Can’t you say it to my face? Yeah, you should be fucking scared of me.”

Paprika sighed. God damn it, she thought, Is this the dialogue I’ll have to recreate when I write this sordid tale? This just sounds stupid. This is freshman creative writing 101 dialogue. At least be inventive, you racist dumbass.

But Paprika didn’t want to get into an argument while on the job, because, professionalism. So she walked away, sat in an empty booth, and opened a book. Jessica, however, continued to pace back and forth, tossing out insults. It was a kind of stupid incantation, really:

“You think you’re so smart, but you’re just fucking retarded.”

“How long are you going to be working here, huh? You probably shouldn’t plan to stay.”

“Why can’t you say anything to my face? You’re so pathetic.”

“You do realize that you have fucked with the wrong person, right?”

“Did you just not realize I got married? Did you think you were insulting someone anonymous? Did you think it was okay to call me a racist piece of shit as long as you didn’t know me? Is that it?”

Paprika smiled and continued to read her book. Jessica proceeded to mimic, word-for-word, everything Paprika had written in her “stop being such a terrible racist” Facebook comments. It’s almost like those comments had hit a little too close to home. I mean, I’m just saying. Just asking questions.

But then Jessica won the argument. She did! She looked at Paprika, and she said, “”Do you really think it’s worse to say sand n*gger than to take the Lord’s name in vain? Or is that”—she pointed at Paprika’s book—“the only book you know how to read?”

And Paprika laughed. She couldn’t help it—that was funny. Horrifying, and utterly reprehensible, but funny.

That said, she should probably get a new job. Jessica is the boss’s daughter, after all.

The End.

My Cryptic Rant

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You know, I’m starting to think that the majority of people just don’t understand what free speech is. Tell someone to stop harassing you? You’re suppressing their speech. Deny someone the right to pontificate on one particular forum, after giving them numerous warnings about the kind of behavior you will and will not tolerate? You just kicked the first amendment right in the balls. Criticize someone for saying stupid shit with no supporting evidence? Oh, you clearly only support free speech if you agree with the arguments being presented.

Seriously now, freedom of speech does not equal freedom from criticism. You don’t get to make asinine, unsupported claims, and then bitch when someone points out that you’re being an idiot. Actually, by trying to shut those people down, you are attempting to suppress their free speech. All aboard the hypocrisy train!

And also, I mean, come on. So you’re not allowed to spew your bullshit on one forum. That doesn’t mean you can’t spew at all. The world is full of soap boxes; just find another, and make stupid comments from there. If you harass people on one forum, even going so far as to say that we should feel “threatened” by you and your big scary business major man brain, you have lost your right to speak on that forum. And if you are banned from a forum for being a harassing piece of shit, don’t up the ante by harassing the person who banned you through private messages.

Man, what an asshole.

The rest of you morons—stop making us repeat ourselves. We have stated the same facts over, and over, and over again, and still you’re bouncing up and down and yelling “I don’t understaaaaand.” Well then, you’re either an idiot, or you’re not listening, or both; either way, it is not our fucking problem. And don’t play devil’s advocate. It’s an insult to the people who actually give a shit about the proposal being disputed.

Stop being all, “the administration has an open door communication policy! Why didn’t you take advantage of it before?” We didn’t take advantage of it before because we didn’t know we needed to. These decisions were made behind closed doors; did you really expect us to magically intuit what was happening? We were quick to become involved once the information was made public. What more could you possibly expect?

If you don’t know what an ad hominem attack is, don’t accuse us of making them.

Don’t ask us to prove the value of the humanities to you. I, for one, refuse to do it—it should be a given, and if you honestly don’t believe they’re worth protecting, we’re never going to convince you to join our side anyway. I will say this, though: I’m seeing a troubling tendency to prioritize athletics over academics, and that’s a bunch of bullshit. I mean, personally, I think athletes are a drain on society—they contribute nothing to the world beyond entertainment, and they make an absurd amount of money to do so. Athletes are just entertainers with impressive bodies, and that’s fine—people like to be entertained, and performers naturally have the right to profit from that—but there is no way in hell they should make as much money as they do. Everyone has the right to live comfortably, including athletes and other performers, but they shouldn’t be making any more money than someone who works for, say, Greenpeace. So.

Colleges exist to educate people, and prioritizing athletics over academics is a disgusting maneuver (which shouldn’t need to be said, but there you are). And please, news reporters, represent our positions correctly. Please mention the exorbitant amount of money being funneled into the new NCAA program at the expense of the humanities. This isn’t a budget crisis—it’s completely manufactured, and is a clear attempt to crush the liberal arts further. Which violates our goddamn mission statement anyway.

Seriously you guys, this shit is fucking exhausting.

In Which Paprika Proposes Some Much-Needed Constitutional Ammendments

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Earlier today, I told one of my friends that, had I been born a rich white dude, I would probably be a complete ass. Add an unhealthy dose of privilege to my naturally uncompromising nature, and you have a born wannabe dictator. But I’m also OCD, so the type of regulations I would put in place would be…well. Basically, they would force the world to enable me in my dysfunction. And they would be largely language-based, because I have a love of words that borders on the fetishistic.

Take the word “subversive.” I propose that people who want to use this word be required to prove they can do so correctly, at which point they will receive a license allowing them to use it in every day speech. Misuse of the word will carry ramifications similar to those posed by a DUI conviction: offenders will be required to undergo corrective counseling and will have their licenses temporarily suspended, and repeated offenses will ultimately result in the permanent loss of the offender’s license. If, for example, a licensed citizen were to say “man, Howard Stern is totally subversive and stuff,” that person would have to take a class on the subject of Oh for the Fuck of Shit, Reinforcing Tired Stereotypes About Marginalized Groups is Not Fucking Subversive, So Shut the Hell Up Already.  Failure to complete this class successfully would end in the offender’s public castigation, and he would be immortalized for all eternity on the Wall of Non-Subversive Shame.

On a more serious note, I also propose a rule about What You Can Say to People In Re: Their Bodies, the answer to which is Basically Nothing. If someone asks you something body-related, fine (although you should be careful about what you say); if you have an understanding with someone about what you can and cannot say, that’s cool too. But otherwise, you need to shut the hell up. Because it doesn’t matter whether you’re complimenting or criticizing—either way, it is none of your damn business, and you have no idea how the person you’re bothering with your unsolicited opinion will react. As someone who has never dealt with full-on ED, but who does have basically constant food-related anxiety, I do not want to hear what you think about my body. I don’t want to hear that it’s heavier than yours (seriously gramma, stop with the bi-yearly weigh-ins); I don’t want to hear that it’s thin; I don’t want to hear that it’s totally great and healthy. It’s not that I don’t care (trust me, I do), it’s just that I don’t want to think about it. This should be common fucking courtesy, but it’s not, so here we all are.

Furthermore, I propose that Christopher Hitchens be silenced forever, on account of the fact that he is a flaming bag of flaccid cocks. What few interesting things he has to say can be—and have been—said by other, less assholey people. Allowing Christopher Hitchens to continue pontificating from his lectern of douche does the world no favors, and in my personal kingdom, he would be barred from doing so. Hitchens would be banned from all forms of communication, including interpretive dance, and anyone found parroting his relentlessly misogynistic views would have their freedom of speech suspended, and possibly permanently revoked. Hitchens’ charming cottage in Intellectualville would be passed on to Chris Hedges, who is very smart and actually deserves it.

Per Pepper’s suggestion, my dictator-self would also institute a licensing program for the word “female,” mandating that the word be used solely as a modifier unless the speaker is explicitly referring to any and all beings considered female. Unlike the regulations regarding the use of “subversive,” however, the repercussions would entail brief imprisonment (up to six months) for the first offense, with subsequent offenses resulting in increasingly longer imprisonments. This seemingly unfair punishment carries the benefit of silencing the majority of MRAs, who love to refer to “men” and “females,” suggesting that female humans are not noticeably different from, say, a female muskrat.

In my fantastical dictatorship, bombings against abortion clinics, and all similar offenses, would be prosecuted as domestic terrorism. Protesters would lose their right to agitate outside abortion clinics, because when they shout after women entering those clinics they are not protesting the government, they’re harassing women for obtaining a legal medical procedure. Anti-choice protesters would thus be relegated to screaming themselves hoarse outside actual government offices, and women could go on exercising their freedom to rid their bodies of what amounts to non-viable parasites.

Finally, all users who get to our blog with search terms like “horse fucking lady” and “facebook sluts” would be banned from reading our blog. The person who arrived here by way of the search term “y’all let them steal your tea,” however, would be given a nice hot cup of lavender earl grey.

Twitter and Texting Are Not Destroying the English Language, Srsly Get Over It

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Man, I am really sick of hearing about how social media and texting are destroying the language and stuff. It raises so many questions for me. Questions like, have abbreviations ever caused the disintegration of a language? Did acronyms put Latin in a coma? And how exactly does a language fall apart, anyway? I mean, sure, they sometimes die out, but that’s not “destruction,” that’s a slow slipping into obsolescence. The idea that the English language is being ZOMG destroyed! gives me some fun imagery (sword-wielding verbs, crushed by the numbers-turned-letters 2 and 4), but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Disclaimer: I don’t mean to erase those languages that have been systematically destroyed by genocide, like many Native American languages; however, that’s markedly different from the ridiculous notion that languages can be destroyed simply through change.)

I also take issue with the idea that confining one’s ideas to less than 200 characters is easy, because, no—it’s fucking hard to be concise. I would actually argue that effective tweeting and texting require a higher level of literacy, because you need to have a solid understanding of the language before you can abridge it. For example: I work once with a week with a delightful student who has several LDs. He’s very smart, but struggles with reading and writing, so we spend most of our sessions working on just getting his ideas down. He says he doesn’t use Facebook regularly because he has difficulty composing status updates that are clear and concise, and that he often finds Facebook and other social media sites intimidating for that reason. Which makes sense, because having to confine your thoughts to such a small space requires a pretty in-depth understanding of the language. Pithy witticisms are not easily composed, after all.

And, since you usually aren’t able to use italics or bold on Twitter or in texting, the format forces you to convey tone through the words themselves. Social media and texting steal some of the most common linguistic crutches and force you to pay more attention to what you’re writing. Which is actually kind of awesome.

And yes, sometimes people allow textspeak to spill over into other forms of communication, but that doesn’t signal The End of the English Language. Languages have different registers for a reason, and the people who write 4ever in e-mails to their bosses aren’t necessarily Language Ignorant, they just don’t understand how registers work, which is a social problem, not a language problem.

Basically, I am just sick of this freak-out over how the media ruinz the language and Twitter makes us stupid and what about the children?! Conflating illiteracy with textspeak is problematic for, um, a lot of reasons, not least because it suggests a pretty offensive misunderstanding of what illiteracy actually is. And if you’re really that concerned about the children not being able to write good, pin the blame where it really belongs—on the tragically low standards set for undergraduate education majors, on the terrible teaching salaries that drive competent people into other disciplines, on the lack of adequate funding for public education, etc.

‘Cause like, language changes and stuff. It grows  like creeping fucking jenny.

Also, here is a recipe for awesome frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 13 oz. jar Nutella

½ cup Marshmallow Fluff

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Vanilla if you want it

Heavy cream to consistency

Mix like normal.

Words Mean Things. Different Things, Depending On Context.

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So this comment thread over at Feministe was a bit of clusterfuck.

I read it while sitting at Pepper’s kitchen table, drinking tea and eating crackers. And I was very vocal about it. I was waving my hands around, getting all irate and shit. Because it didn’t just make me annoyed, it also made me feel like I was being an asshole for feeling annoyed in the first place. I don’t want to be That Jerk Too Mired in Her Own Ablist Privilege to Get It, but I basically think that comment thread was crap.

Because there is a huge difference between, say, the n-word, which has never been anything other than a racial slur, and a word like “idiot,” which has evolved into its current, common usage. I can never use the n-word, unless I’m, say, sitting in American Lit and directly quoting Huck Finn—but “idiot”? That’s a word I’m free to say. Words mean things, yes, but sometimes, those meanings change. That’s how language works. And most words have numerous meanings; the word “set,” for example, has four hundred and sixty-four. You don’t get to hand-select one definition and then yell that nobody else should get to use that word ever, simply because one of its meanings has a negative connotation that (allegedly) renders the entire word unusable.

I mean, by that logic, I could request an outright ban on the word “hysteria” due to its troubling sexist history, its past use as the term for a psychological disorder almost exclusively attributed to women, and the fact that it is still commonly used to dismiss women for being too “emotional.” But I don’t do that, because I recognize that it is not an exclusively sexist term, that it is a useful word in the right context.

So while it would be wrong for me to call a person with cognitive disabilities an idiot, calling Scott Adams an idiot is just plain accurate.

There were several people on that thread who argued that it would be “easy” to stop using the word “idiot,” so that’s what we should do. But, first, we shouldn’t have to, because “idiot” has multiple meanings, only one of which is ablist—and second, no. No, it wouldn’t be easy, because there are no true synonyms in English. Every word in every language means something different. It has to, because if two words with identical meanings were to come into being, one of them would die out. Faced with such a scenario, words will fight each other to the fucking death.

So I won’t stop using the word “idiot,” because sometimes, “idiot” is the word I need. I will refrain from using it in reference to the disabled, because I’m shockingly not an asshole. I won’t use words like “crazy” or “insane” to refer to individual people, because of the universally negative connotations associated with those words, the embedded implication that mentally ill people (myself included, I suppose) should be silenced and institutionalized. However, I have no issue referring to certain mindsets or situations as crazy, because then I’m not attacking individuals.

The point is that English is far too context-based to undergo so many restrictions, and that no one gets to attempt to unilaterally ban a word simply because it has one negative definition. But that same person can request that people stop using the word in its pejorative sense and expect to have their request respected. For example: if there is a chink in one’s armor, I am free to observe this fact. At the same time, I would never use that particular noun as an ethnic slur. This distinction really shouldn’t need to be made, but apparently the commenters on Feministe disagree.

I really, genuinely do not want to be the oblivious asshole who thinks y’all are being too oversensitive, you know? But calling a disabled person an idiot simply is not the same as calling Scott Adams an idiot, and an attempt to strip the language of such a common word simply because one of its definitions is pejorative is an attempt to strip the language of its richness.

It’s also pointless. Pointless because it’s impossible (words either evolve or die out, generally speaking), and pointless because removing the word “idiot” will not remove any negative sentiments regarding the cognitively impaired. The word itself, even its most pejorative sense, is not the problem; the problem is a culture that sanctions the use of that word against a marginalized group, and the way we think about the cognitively impaired overall. Were our perceptions to become less ablist, the word “idiot” would lose its pejorative meaning, and this wouldn’t even be an issue. We could keep using the word “idiot” to mean “that misogynist asshat who writes the Dilbert comics,” and Feministe could stop annoying me.

Well, maybe.