Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Time to Desexualize Our English

Category: Issue 21

Recently, I had more than one experience of being called to revise my wordings in some of my writing and editing work for the reason that some of the words I used had a sexual sense to them. I could only laugh out loud when one of my friends reminded me that when I use the term “Artist-Cum-Writer”, readers may be embarrassed by the three-lettered preposition. In fact, she asked whether I knew what it popularly referred to. Sadly, I did. Then came another one. One of the authors whose book I was sent to proofread complained that my suggestion “rooted in” for conveying the meaning of “based in” needs to be removed because in the Australian sex slang, “root” was a common term for some nasty kind of sex. That was when I felt the urge to defend English, whatever part of it I could, against the aggression of sex slang through a note of concern.

I know, with serious regrets, that sex slangs, led by the porn industry, have enjoyed continued success with hijacking terms from our usual language, causing us to abandon using the same in their former non-sexual sense. We have long lost gay to the porn mafia (does anybody today really know it once meant lively?); giving a hand is not helping anymore; and even mom/mommy is being slaughtered to separate it from the sacred mother we owe our lives to. Not only words and phrases but even names/nicknames are being recruited into sex slangs as unprotected citizens from English. I find it hard to call a friend Jock or Johnny, let alone Dick without faltering. How hard will it be for native speakers who know a lot more about English to use (or lose) their language? 

That we have allowed sex slangs to make inroads in our daily-life conversations and writings is regrettable. Who else but we, the inheritors of this beauty of language, could prevent the “sexualization” of our tongue (no pun intended). And more deplorable is the fact that we continue to let “Porngilsh” steal from English while we watch passively, if not actively enjoying how our once-healthy words are pierced for adding a tag of sexual meaning. A while ago, when I googled “Invasion of English by Sex Slang”, I was almost shocked not to see a single result for any article in the first three pages of search results (I didn’t bother to browse more pages). Looks like the pen holders do not care whether and how many English terms are “sexualized”. Maybe it’s because the rich troves of English vocabulary always have more to offer – lively if not gay; assist if not give a hand; and mother of course when mom has become something that we can’t stand anymore. But for how long? Sex slangs won’t stop as the porn industry has gone online now and kids are smart enough to hack passwords. Oh sorry! I forgot that kid should actually be a child, for obvious reasons!         

I am not a purist as such. But if the abduction of terms from our non-sexual language by porn developers, followed by the sexualized robes inseparably wrapped around them, continues at the rate we are seeing now in the cyber-dominated world, we would have none but two options: one, finding new terms, which again would be prone to hijacking by the ever-expanding sex slangs; and second, standing our grounds and forcing the porn industry back behind the line of linguistic decency. And what better way to do the latter than boycotting porn. Sounds like call for activism?  Well, it’s high time! 

But “desexualizing” language can work too. It works for me, and I believe it should work for all of us who have not yet given in to the invasion of porn over our linguistic territory. For my part, I left the word “cum” and “rooted” in the text I was dealing with to make sure I keep using my language, not letting some sex slang steal from it anymore. It’s the porn dictionary’s turn now to move the sexual meanings of these terms beneath the ones that we can use with family and friends without feeling embarrassed.   


Posted by Prometheus on 01/18 at 08:13 AM | Permalink
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