Thursday, April 30, 2015

Q Toon: I Now Pronouns You

I'm probably offending some readers who think I'm being transphobic, and disappointing others who expect me to rip into Bruce Jenner for being a Republican, but here -- with full recognition that there are more important things going on in the news -- is this week's cartoon.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate 
 Apr 30, 2015

The point of this week's cartoon is to note what it takes for language to adapt to changing societal needs.

Language changes all the time, and never so rapidly as now. Cyberspace netizens friend bloggers in real time. Nobody would have understood a word of that sentence when today's college freshmen were in diapers. "Text" as a verb. "Occupy" as a noun. Language is changing so fast, Words to Retire is outpacing  New Words in the OED.

And, of course, Facebook has 54 terms (and counting) to pigeon-hole your sexual persuasion and gender identity for the company's algorithm section. That's a boon, no doubt, to the creators of crossword puzzles and word finds, but it does remind me of the 1960's and '70s when there was a constant shift in what the acceptable terminology was to refer to western hemisphere residents of anthropologically recent African heritage.

I had an experience with the practical application of language just yesterday. When Chris and I got married last year, my parents welcomed him into the family with open arms. Wine-making is a generations-long family tradition for Chris, which my Dad has also enjoyed as a hobby for many years; Dad was telling me yesterday that he had mentioned my "partner" in a discussion at his wine-making club.

"I suppose I should have said 'spouse,'" Dad interjected.

"I call him my husband," I offered.

Dad seemed taken aback by that, as if he hadn't considered that word as a possibility before.

"Spouse" is indeed making a comeback as a gender-neutral word for same-sex married couples -- even Cam and Mitchell were declared "spouses for life" -- and it would have been nice if our marriage license identified us as "Spouse 1" and "Spouse 2." But my husband is not gender-neutral, and I'm quite happy about that.

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