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My thoughts on imaginary lesbianism - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
void where prohibited, except by law
sesquipedality
sesquipedality
My thoughts on imaginary lesbianism
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From: vyvyan Date: November 8th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Predictable linguistic comment :-)

I don't see the big problem in this case (or the vegetarianism one, for that matter; and as you know, I am vegetarian). This woman's orientation seems not to fit easily into one of the boxes English currently provides; the boxes ('lesbian', 'bisexual' etc.) also are not clearly-defined things with sharp edges, because they're like any other words in English or any other language! Unlike the ballerina example, I can't really know who a person is attracted to in general simply by observing their behaviour, so it makes sense to me to let them self-label in such an area. (Another similar area might be religious belief, or the lack of it: if a friend who observes Jewish rituals carefully at all times tells me that he is actually an atheist, I will believe him - though I might avoid mentioning it to his parents :-)

However, you and others seem troubled by the possibility of people generally using words to mean whatever they like, with an apparent result of mass miscommunication. I wouldn't worry. It doesn't happen. Historically, words tend to drift, get fuzzier round the edges, split into more than one word, merge with other words etc. in a fairly slow and gradual way, with understandable semantic steps between the stages, allowing communication to continue. If (and when) individuals use words in such dramatically differing ways that no one could discern the meaning, they will simply not be understood, and will probably revert to consensus usage or something near it. If (and when) people push the boundaries of word-meaning in a small way, there is a chance that others will adopt the usage, and eventually the meaning will change for the language as a whole, or some variety of it. Complaining about other people's perceived misuse of words (or grammar, or pronunciation, or whatever) seems to have virtually no effect on large-scale language change. So although you are of course entitled to do it, it seems entirely pointless to me.
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: November 8th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Predictable linguistic comment :-)

Ah, but I'm not complaining. I'm disagreeing.

If "lesbian" acquires the meaning discussed above via linguistic drift there's very little I can do about it (cf. "organic"). But it hasn't yet. And I don't think it should. Or will.
From: vyvyan Date: November 8th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Predictable linguistic comment :-)

If "lesbian" acquires the meaning discussed above via linguistic drift there's very little I can do about it (cf. "organic"). But it hasn't yet.

OK. But for me, and apparently a few others, it can encompass that sort of meaning now, otherwise there wouldn't be anything to discuss!
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