THE ASH HEAP OF LINGUISTICS

by E.C. Fish on March 12, 2010

“LADY PARTS”: What’s with the cutesy shit? This silly and infantilising euphamism for female genitalia has lately been taken up by people in the media who seem otherwise neither silly nor infantile, including, oddly enough, Rachel Maddow.  Back in the Golden Age of PC, referring to women as ladies could get you a good public scolding– even the spell checker on this laptop advises me against it–so it’s a little weird to hear the term used however ironically by otherwise stalwart feminists. While it’s an improvement on the Oprah Winfrey coined “vajayjay,” it seems to be some weird linguistic headblend of baby talk and Victorian English, somewhere on the spectrum between “tinky” and “waterworks” with a strong undertone of “ooh, ick.” The Curmudgeon suggests that it represents a kind of social breakthrough that we’re acknowledging the existence of vaginae in the first place,l and I have to agree–let a thousand vaginae bloom–but its difficult to handle such topics in an adult manner using a term that connotes such embarrassment and concealment.

Americans, of course, have an almost unique inability to deal with the realities of sex and sexuality in an adult manner in the first place– embarrassment and concealment are what we do well instead–and this inability shows in our public health statistics, our crime rates, our social interactions, and our politics, as well as our garden variety sexism and homophobia. There are dozens of terms, both Latinate and Anglo-Saxon, to choose from. Could we please pick a different one?

 

“THE INVISIBLE HAND OF THE MARKETPLACE”: Would that be the invisible hand that kept the banks from failing? No? How about the one that keeps insurance rates low? No, wait–they’re sky high and climbing, that can’t be it. The invisible hand that’s bringing unemployment down to acceptable levels? Help me, here…

Listen–please don’t ask me to trust in a supernatural anything, or in the honesty of its practitioners, in situations involving humanitarian crises. Ever.

 

“BIPARTISANSHIP”:  see also Centrist and Moderate. From the obscure Beltway dialect of American English, see also Russertese. The bane of the American politics and political commentary, meaning, for the last year at least, pretending that elections mean nothing.

Listen–it is not important that our elected officials reach across the aisle. It is important that they govern, honestly, fairly, decently, and in good faith. The less time they spend thinking about the former, the more they can spend on the latter.

This piece originally appeared on the web site The Pubhouse Dialogues

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: