Y’all know I’m picky about words. Dismissing a verbal or textual argument with that piffly lip-noise and a snide “Oh, but that’s just semantics” doesn’t do it for me. Semantics is meaning, and when you’re using words as persuasion, meaning isn’t a side issue or an irrelevant digression: meaning is central.
And when people use words that bite and pierce and undermine and denigrate, they need to understand that words mean stuff. And that stuff all adds up. It is all part of the monumental forest of culture, of power relations, the conglomeration of isms.
One single thorn might seem like no big deal; we all get a little prick now and then, it’s part of life. But yours isn’t the only thorn the victim got that day, that week, that year. All those thorns can add up to an unnavigable bramble, an edifice of pain for those who are persistently on the pointy end.
But I carry the linguistic baggage of my upbringing, we all do. So I try. Word by word, phrase by phrase, day by day, I’m trying to excise the thorns from my speech, whether they’re pointing to other people on the wrong end of society’s power relations, or at me.
This week? In the firing line is “I’m a size x”, or “I’m an x” for short. I’m replacing it with “I wear a size x”, or “Size x usually fits me.” Because clothes fit, or they don’t. People wear clothes; the clothes don’t define them. The number isn’t who you are. Did you ever wonder why men “have a 38 inch waist“, but women “are an 18“?
Anyone with me?