Cassandra (sesquipedality) wrote,
Cassandra
sesquipedality

Words I wish would go away

A rare post from me, because I wanted to get this out of my system somewhere where it would stay around. There are some words (apparently largely neologisms) that are so colossally unhelpful that I feel the world would be a better place if people just stopped using them. Why? Because they seem tailor made to polarise, insult, and genuinely prevent constructive dialogue. Here are the three I can think of. Please suggest more in the comments.

Chav

Seriously, there are many good reasons to hate people in this world. The fact that they dress and talk in the same way that all their friends do isn't one of them. I remember being at an LRP event once where a bunch of people in orc masks were discussing the working class' terrible taste in clothes. It's not that any of the people who were doing it were bad people. It's more that the word chav had just labelled people as other. It encourages people to judge others on what they wear how how they speak rather than what they do or what they say. And it carries a strong implication that working class people are scum. It's stereotyping pure and simple, and I'd like it to stop.

Cager

Descriptive noun sometimes used by cyclists and bikers to describe car drivers. Again, this word smacks of superiority. It's sometimes quite difficult to get car drivers to engage with the idea that cyclists are road users too, but this word does nothing except polarise and anger the very people cyclists are trying to reach. There are a lot of entitled car drivers out there, but being derogatory to them only lowers the debate to their level. Cyclists are a minority, and if we are to effect change, it won't be by promoting an "us and them" mentality which is ridiculous, since many (most?) cyclists drive as well.

Mansplaining

Yes, it is very annoying when one expresses one's frustrations on the Intarwebs, only to elicit a bunch of 'helpful' responses when all you really wanted was sympathy. It can be patronising, and being patronised is generally annoying. However, there are a couple of problems I have with this term. Firstly, the people doing the patronising are doing so because they've misunderstood the nature of your communication, and in their own way are expressing sympathy by trying to help with the problem. Geeks tend to be solution rather than emotion focused, and emotional content of written messages is enormously difficult even if you're very good at understanding emotional content face to face. So when someone is accused of "mansplaining", they are essentially being slapped in the face for offering the wrong kind of sympathy. This same message can be expressed succinctly and less judgementally by the phrase, "thanks, but I was actually just venting".

But "mansplaining"? Isn't that right on a par with "hysterical" for gender biased assumptions? I concede it's likely that on average women focus more on the emotional content of a message and men focus more on practical solutions, but like all such generalisations, this one is essentially meaningless. I've spent years working at a job where my main role is to help people come up with practical solutions to problems. Without wanting to make this about me, I'll admit that I have, from time to time, "mansplained" or "misread a request for sympathy as a request for help" as I like to call it. And frankly I'm sure there are many men who are excellent at telling the difference between the two and never "mansplain". So why make it about gender? It's the behaviour that's problematic, not the gender of the people doing it. Isn't doing that just implicitly asserting that men are emotional cripples? Which to me seems about on a par with suggesting my genitalia oblige me to like shoe shopping.

Labelling the activity in this way might be cathartic, but does it accomplish anything else other than to piss those misguidedly trying to help off? Again, it just doesn't seem constructive.
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