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Idiolect

May 8, 2012

A person’s idiolect is the words and phrases that person uses. It’s not the same as a vocabulary – people know and understand more words than they use. The classic example of this is Shakespeare, who never uses the word “Bible” in his works, but would encounter the word in his life quite regularly. Thus Bible is not in Shakespeare’s idiolect, but is in his vocabulary.

Why am I writing a post on idiolect? I’m not a linguist. But, I, like you, do use language. The language we use is important as it reflects our views of a subject, and is a hint to other people as to how they should think, in order for them to be like us. As Romanovsky and Phillips said in “Be Political, Not Polite”, “If our words create the climate, then the blood is on our hands.” You should look up all the lyrics to that, it’s awesome and very much still relevant today.

I’m trans. I don’t say I’m transgendered or transsexual, because I’m unsure of the definitions, whereas I’m pretty sure I’m trans. If I’m writing about someone who identifies specifically as transsexual, I use the spelling with two s, as there seems to be a correlation between spelling it “transexual” and people who are being gits. If you’re looking for genderqueers, I’ll respond, but I wouldn’t describe myself as genderqueer – I’d say I’m agendered, and that’s a non-binary gender. I don’t use the word queer about myself because it’s a word being reclaimed – and I’ve only been called a queer in insult once. (In fact, a whole group of us were – we looked round and saw none of us were both cis and straight.) It’s not my place to say it’s a word that’s ok, when I’ve never had it screamed at me. A word I picked up in York to describe LGBT people is LoGBoaTers, though I generally only use that about the York group.

I don’t use the oppression-related words ending in -phobia, such as transphobia or homophobia. This is because words such as these rely on the idea that mental illness is a scary, evil thing. I feel it’s quite ablist (and do note I’ve never seen an equivalent to that in -phobic language) to conflate mental distress and bigotry. While mental health activists try to make phobias and other mental problems more understandable and accepted, other activists, by using -phobic language, need to keep such terms loaded with as many nasty implicit meanings as possible. Activism must be intersectional, and I will not accept such people keeping their heads above water by pushing disabled people below it. Thus, I use -ist language (sexist, hetrosexist, cissexist, racist, ablist).

I wear a binder. It wasn’t marketed as such, but that’s what I call it. What it squashes down I refer to as boobs, because the other definition of boob is “mistake” – I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t really be there. Elsewhere on my body I have a cunt, and the fleshy flaps of skin covering it are my balls (and I know some people have surgery to make them more rounded). I have a cock, too – but given as I have no-one to hold the microscope for me, it’s pretty hard to see, and as I’m not wired up down there normatively, trying to feel it doesn’t help either.
The amount of insults I use is very narrow. I’m avoiding words that refer to genitalia – there is, after all, nothing intrinsicly wrong with having any genitalia – or comparing people to marginalised groups. This means I’m pretty much left with using “git” all the time, but at least it’s short enough to fit in tweets.
I probably use a lot of words that are familiar to me, but not to people from other localities. If you ever have problems understanding me, do say, and I’ll try to make things clearer. So far this week I’ve told a German what aniseed balls are…

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