Tag Archive | words

The singular ‘they’

I love singular ‘they’. Back in 2016, the American Dialect Society named it word of the year. And we all use it all the time. But that’s not why I’m so excited about it right now. I’m excited because it can help researchers, particularly if they’re working with qualitative data and thus with very small […]

via The bonuses of singular ‘they’: anonymity and bias avoidance — Everyday linguistic anthropology

I’ve used the singular they in speech for as long as I can remember. Every once in a rare while, I feel as if I’m being a bit ambiguous or that I might sound professorial/literary – but saying “one might often think one’s mind is set on a topic” sounds much sillier. And Using ‘you’ has occasional unintended consequences: a reader might feel attacked, or if they aren’t actually someone who can empathize with the generic you, they might feel even more distanced from the topic. I have been having a very hard time with why some people have such a hard time with other people wanting to take the singular they and use it as a personal pronoun. It’s already used!

Anyway, neat blog for other good reasons for the use of the singular ‘they’ to keep propagating and become even more common.


Say what you mean…

There’s a certain school of thought when teaching writing that says to write exactly what you mean. They often want you to write as simply as possible. You’ll see a lot of “Sally said,” and “He is tall, with long, black hair and bright, green eyes.”

There’s another school of thought when teaching writing that says to write what you mean, but in minute detail. This often results in students keeping thesaurus handy, because they learn that the instructors want you to avoid writing as simply as possible. Now, you will see “Sally expound broadly,” and “He stands higher than all others, his extensive, ebony locks offset by brilliant, peridot eyes.”

The problem with the latter is sometimes the synonyms don’t have the same meaning, exactly, as the word the student started with. Extensive can mean more than long. It often means “large” or “thorough”. And brilliant can mean “bright,” but it can also mean “very smart.” It depends on context. And sometimes, if the context isn’t there, the results are very silly.

Now, there are people who disagree on both sides. Some vehemently.

I happen to think that a nice blend is more natural, but I was raised by a librarian and a speech/theater professor. My natural speaking pattern is extremely odd, in comparison to some people. For others, it’s not so much.

I personally prefer reading things that are a blend of simple (especially if that simplicity underscores a mood or moment that needs basic truths to be told) and somewhat flowery language with less-used words (because I love words, and if later I want to go to a dictionary and look up something that made sense in context, but that I want to learn the finer nuances of after the story has been read through, I call that a win). I don’t particularly enjoy overly frilly books with a lot of gingerbread trim words, nor do I love overly basic books. Both are hard for me to sink my teeth into, for completely different reasons. If I’m constantly wondering about authorial intent, then I’m not really enjoying the story.

I hope, as I try writing fiction and other pieces more, that I succeed in a balance. I think my blogs do already, but it’s always hard to be sure from the inside.


I agree with him about the elitism, by the way. I can be elitist about some things with language, but this isn’t one of them. The only reason I can see for writing exclusively simply or exclusively using “expressive” words is to achieve a particular tone. (And frankly, as a tongue-in-cheek joke – a parody for instance, would be perfect.)

Grab Bag of Week in Review

It has been a particularly long, odd week.

I have not been productive creatively. In some ways, I expected lack of creativity last week (which was over-booked, and so I knew that even though I’d signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time – the first week of numbers/words would probably suck – they did at 0), but not this week which I hoped would be better. On the other hand, I helped brainstorm with a role-playing group of friends over Skype last week, and we contributed to a lot of creativity there, so I’m refusing to beat myself up too horribly. This week though, I have not drawn, I have barely baked/cooked anything that interesting (although I collected ingredients for apple-roses), and I have certainly not written anything (other than a lot of tweets and chats, and a lot of work related emails).

The grey-beast, Phoenix, has had some health things over the last few weeks. Some of it is being dealt with concisely. We know what the problem was, we got the appropriate medication, and he’s healing up. (We’re not sure how he got the bacteria that caused the problem… but having a depressed immune system makes the hows sometimes wibbley-wobbley.) Another health issue is just plain… odd. So we’re trying a topical treatment in an attempt to not have to increase his daily steroid dose, which is what is depressing his immune system, but also keeping the disease/probable cancer at bay. He is eating, having good bathroom habits, and playing. He is also being cuddly when appropriate and good natured. As the vet and vet techs constantly say, he has the best temperament and diseases are unfair and suck. In a not pleasant situation, he really makes the best of it. We confirmed that Shadow does indeed weigh more than Phoenix. Our little black cat on the dainty frame with the teeny tiny paws weighs, in fact, a full pound more than our long lean boy, coming in at just about 12 pounds. Hm. More playing is in store for her. Luckily, she likes chase (feathers, the red dot, string, her brother). I’m trying cutting back on dry food as well, as the vet worries it is hard for both of them to digest. Luckily they like their wet food quite a bit.

My hubby’s job situation has been a yo-yo this week. He hasn’t been very happy for the last few weeks (he says, I say months) at work. He felt as though they were more worried about pushing services and items than actually caring for clients’ needs. And he was very much chaffing at still having had no actual formal training at his new position in the company, lo these many, many months later. Well, Monday they admitted they were going in a different direction, and as his sales figures were down they were letting him go. It’s hard to get mad and fight for your job when you haven’t had a lot of support and are feeling ignored and that your concerns are minimized. So, he swung by another old job location near by (one that had reached out to him this past year to see if he was available) and let them know that he was now available. As of yesterday, he has a new job, starting next Monday. It’s a position he hasn’t held in an extremely long time (and I’m not sure he ever held at that particular employer) but he’s excited about it, tentatively. And happy to not have to job hunt or deal with unemployment.

My own work situations are about as normal. As another friend says, lots of juggling of chainsaws, whips and exploding objects. In my case, at job 1, it mostly involves holding my tongue and not saying when I think someone is not being professional (because then I would be being unprofessional) and trying to juggle paperwork that is redundant. Oh, and a lot of email regarding web issues, contracts (and supporting arcane government documents), and advertising this week. At job 2, it is mostly comparing data, digging out discrepancies, resolving them, and moving on to various scenarios – but with numbers in an accounting sort of situation. I like both, but both tire out my brain in different ways, and sometimes all I want to do is come home and poke at puzzles until I get brain dead enough to sleep. Or soak in a hot bath. Or actually just go to sleep.

And finally this morning, I woke up to twitter having a rage-meltdown over an actress become magazine editor who took and tweeted a photograph that exposed her (many tiered levels of) privilege. I think I mentally wrote 3 separate blogs while showering and preparing for work in my head about why yes, she was privileged and yes, frustration was justified but the rage and trolling were not terribly productive. Mostly it boiled down to: don’t compare this woman to that woman, this is not helpful feminism*; don’t presume she’s got no idea what she did or was doing, she’s took that photograph from a privileged position of X as well as Y W and Z; and finally, BE PRODUCTIVE IN YOUR RAGE, show why it’s messed up, don’t just bitch. The final one shows my privilege, because I have a background and education level that desperately wants more than a 140 character click-bait statement of anger. I want a thesis statement, a breakdown and a proposed alternate solution. That in itself is problematic for many people. In the end, I’ve chosen to only contribute this paragraph (and a back-and-forth chat with a good friend) to get the topic out of my system, instead of contributing to the internet rage machine.

And now, I’ve written something. It’s just a menu of my week (sans tomorrow, which will be focused on job 2, and hopefully end in home-grilled tri-tip steaks, salad and mashed potatoes), but it’s words. Hopefully that will trigger a bit of fiction writing. And I do have some Skype gaming to look forward to on Saturday.

How was your week?

This is also an example of the feminism problem that makes women say they are not feminists. They know that feminism is supposed to be about equality for all women/people/etc, but they also know that in real life, it quite often is only the “right” feminism in the “right” ways (white, middle-upper class, middle-age, cis-women) and that no one else is welcome. It’s hard to take ownership of a movement you disagree with large chunks of and that doesn’t support you personally.

Fingers drift lightly over keys –
individual letters, black and white, or metal attached to levers to release air –
never pressing too hard, or too lightly, just enough.
Generous with time, speed, caresses, and
eager to find the exact combination that will
release the words, notes, music to
sooth and bring solace.

When you come up with an idea, but then forget what it was…

The other day, when driving, I thought “self, this train of thought where you are comparing X with Y would be perfect for a blog” and self agreed, and promptly shelved the remaining thoughts that were becoming an essay (mostly because driving).

So, the problem now is that I have no idea what essay I was thinking.

I’m pretty sure it was social justice-y. And saying that, I wonder if it was the comparison/contrast of my experience with Facebook vs Twitter vs Tumblr.

I think about various things, often driving or in the shower, and when I start thinking in paragraphs and how to revise sentences so that they are more concise and still expressive, that’s often how I come up with draft idea for essays (or sometimes stories/etc). The problem is, if I’m not near a computer or able to get near a computer before my brain is off on a different topic (say grocery shopping and making sure I didn’t forget anything on the list on my phone because what are we having for dinner this week again?) I often forget what I was going to write about.

How about you? How do you decide what to write about?

Poem: November 19, 2014

Moon beams glitter
over crescent shaped dreams
of a muse left bemused
by a world deaf
to her sweet murmurings.

Hero shaped stars
flicker in deep dark skies
silently awaiting
curious eyes
hoping for tales anew.

While down below
so many weary souls
merely survive their days
too numb to see
ev’ry day miracles.

And so she sleeps
restless in her dreaming
lost to those souls searching
until they too
find rest and renewal.

(reblogging here so I have it collected here as well – originally published on Tumblr 11/19/14)


Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.06.42 PMhttps://twitter.com/whitneyarner/status/499576980367736832

While I agree with the poster that it is good to call a spade a spade, I also think that using the word “troll” as both a noun and a verb, from a linguistic point of view, packs a whole lot of nuance into what is happening that calling someone a mere “harasser” (or most of those other specific terms) does not.

A troll is indeed, as stated by the OP, a monster that menaces whereas these are humans committing monstrous acts. But I think the thing being tossed aside in favor of clarifying speech is that many of these acts, especially when on the internet, are committed in a troll-like manner. They happen from below (where the comment section resides), they happen unseen to many (either because the perpetrator is choosing an anonymous feature or using a handle and userpic/icon that does not reflect their physical name/appearance in the real world) and they are very hard to avoid (sometimes even with help from those who should and could help).

In fantasy (which, quite a few of the old fairy tales were once intended as exercises in what my mom used to like to call the Consequences Game), a troll is what happens to young naive characters who are doing something they ought not be doing. They are not following the path. They are not going to school. They maybe are trying to do something good, but are overtaken by someone who is presenting themselves as in power and therefore entitled to a toll or fee to permit the hero to continue on their way.

This is exactly what many commenters who heap abuse (rape threats, death threats, generalized abuse) are doing. They believe they are entitled to their view and that their view is correct, so they are going to exact a toll of some kind from the person they are attacking. In many cases, they seem to feed off of the mental anguish, rather than wanting tasty goat flesh or coin.

Yes. We should call a racist a racist and a homophobe a homophobe. Should we excise the term “troll” from these self-same people (because yes, they are people) just because their skin isn’t green and warted and they don’t have exaggerated tusks as some trolls are shown? No. I think it adds a level of understanding to how horrible they are.

(As an aside, some of the early drawings of trolls in fairy-tale collections I remember the clearest are the ones that looked the most like angry white men wearing a loin cloth. They were black and white sketches; until the text told me they were green, I didn’t know they weren’t men.)