Sunday, March 20, 2016
For me, the word “orgasm” has always felt best as a noun. As potentially earth-shaking a noun as it is though, there are challenges in expressing it with appropriate connotation. “Having” an orgasm is a little grabby, “experiencing” an orgasm too distant, and “achieving” an orgasm seems well, self-congratulatory. Other usages can invoke anything from the pornographic through the cloying to the gynecological. As plentiful as these ejaculations are, none of them seem to be wholly satisfying.
In my opinion, we must nonetheless continue to strive, always in search of the right tone, the right bed of verbs and adjectives upon which to present our orgasms so they are received with the romance, lust, piety or combination of the three we intend. And we must do this is as a means of fighting the recent rise of the word “orgasm” as a verb: I orgasmed here, I orgasmed there ... it’s just terrible. It is present in all dictionaries as a verb, and I don’t like it. Never have. There are a few bright spots in the use of “orgasm” as a verb, notably the future perfect, which states that one will have orgasmed. And who could think of a more perfect future than that? Moreover though, there is a great inelegance to my ear in the verb usage of “orgasm.”
It takes a word that describes the quintessential expression of humanity, and that even in its comparatively benign noun form does so already hobbled by a certain clinical sheen that at the outset handicaps its possibilities for romantic expression. The last thing it needs is to be set into motion, indiscriminate seeds cast helter-skelter with no vision of a higher mind, a view only to procreation rather than civilization; indeed, in verb form, "orgasming" seems naked of any beauty its noun usage might have had.
If we could drive orgasm’s verb form out of common usage if not out of our dictionaries, that would give me indescribable pleasure.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
I have recently been hearing professional broadcasters on radio and television using phrases like, “woman lawyer” and “woman athlete.” It must stop. The word “woman” is a noun and it may not be used to modify another noun. The common adjective you would use here is of course “female,” though a writer can use any number of substitutions in order to provide the intended connotation. See #chicksinger #ladycop #shedevil for details.
De-emphasizing gender in society is a coming and welcome trend, and referencing gender in any kind of qualifying context is very last year. You see it in retail, you see it in product design and in a lot of marketing, and I enthusiastically recommend adapting to rather than fighting this trend. For instance, stop saying "female attorney." She's your attorney.
These interdictions against the creep of poor usage are a fool's errand, but I believe them to be worth a try. Moderate preservationists like me get twenty fingers or toes in the dike at a time, and still plenty slips through, much of which I consider fine. But some of these leaks I don’t much care for at all. And this is one. Woman lawyer. It can't happen. It's not okay.
So really, we’ve covered two items here, and in the interest of full disclosure, its source was first the grammar part, and then my fiancé clued me in on the sexist component of the usage in general. Slicing through flesh and bone and directly into my nervous system, the adjectival use of “woman” ran me up a wall with a teeth-chattering, mind-numbing electric shock. And later on, the sexist nature of gratuitously applying an irrelevant qualifier was impressed upon me by my fiancé.
I do not claim to be the sole arbiter of quality for non-words that become words, or poor usage that becomes accepted usage, but I am entitled to an opinion, and some of the recent trends, like this one, do not merit inclusion in our great English language, and we should stop it now, that is if it’s not already too late.
Friday, March 11, 2016
The Grammar Dance could make a daily go of diagramming Donald Trump’s fractured syntax, but it would make me literally ill to spend that much time with the Tyrannosaurus Rump. This past week he aimed his bile again at Islam, but in such a way that compels me to straighten out a rudimentary usage gaffe that he has since repeated numerous times.
“Islam hates the West,” he says. That’s like saying Christianity loves Lima beans or Judaism is curious about the company you keep. Islam is a religion, not an individual or group of individuals. It is a set of beliefs rather than a description of the individuals who subscribe to those beliefs.
He might permissibly have said, “Muslims hate the West” or “Islam preaches hatred toward the West,” but he may not say, “Islam hates the West.” This usage is an anthropomorphization of a religion, an ascription of human attributes to a non-human entity. He sounds stupid when he says it. He is stupid when he says it.