or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Seeds of Doubt

The first copy of Spy Magazine I ever bought was the December 1987 issue: it had been in existence for about a year, but had never showed up on my city's newsstands before then. I proceeded to read it cover to cover, repeatedly over the years, and buy every issue that came out. I even knew what day it would hit the racks. It had a good six-year run, but it started to slowly go down the toilet in late 1992 (right around the time it began resorting to cheap Photoshops for its covers) and kept publishing, unfortunately, for another six years, irrevocably tarnishing its legacy. But those first six years were pretty good!

It hasn't aged as well as I would have hoped, mostly because every issue was so firmly anchored in its time and place: who even remembers "bosomy dirty-book writer Shirley Lord" except former Spy readers? still, there's lots of great writing, investigative journalism, and graphic design to enjoy, and although not every issue is currently available, you can read most of them on Google Books, with more issues being added all the time.

One of their signature gags was "Separated at Birth?", which juxtaposed pictures of (usually) two celebrities to (usually) comic effect--they got an entire book out of the premise--and in this spirit I offer you wedded-to-his-surfboard wuss-rock chanteur Jack Johnson

and wedded-to-Reese-Witherspoon talent wrangler Jim Toth

(he's the one on the left).


You're reading Regretsy, aren't you? It's a gloriously mean site devoted to finding the very worst of the online craft market Etsy and ripping it to shreds. This

is a gross little necklace you're supposed to give your daughter when she gets her first period, and the writeup is full of new-agey ickiness which the Regretsy writer meticulously deconstructs.

I share her revulsion with the spelling "womyn" (or "womon", or "wimmin", or what have you), and add to the pile by noting that you can't hear the difference in speech, so why even bother? It's like trying to reclaim "cunt" by spelling it "kunnt". If you cannot bring yourself to employ the word "man" or "men" in the service of a longer word, then use another word. Make one up, if you have to, or go back to the earlier days of English and use "quean" or "wif", or, better still, just deal with the fact that we have an ancient word which it does not belittle you to use.

However, the only reason this is even an issue is that one of the commenters noted that

the “Womyn” bullshit comes from the chicks that feel the need to erase all words with the term “Man” or “Men” in them. Also the same fucknuts that think we shouldn’t call it a semester, but rather an “ov-ester” while in college

and while I usually cut commenters all kinds of slack in spelling and usage and such, it bothered me that "ovester" was completely wrong, because "semester" has nothing to do with "semen", being instead essentially formed from the Latin for "six months", the "-mest-" being related to "menses", and therefore a word that feminists might embrace. The word the commenter was thinking of was "ovular", which was in fact repurposed by some feminists to replace "seminar", which is related to "semen", though probably not in the way that they think. "Ovular" is actually an adjective, not a noun, and is the adjectival form of "ovule", which is a small or immature ovum. I am very much in favour of working with the language to make it more equitable, and of filling gaps in the language through the creation of new words or the repurposing of old ones, but I like there to be some reason for doing this.

"Seminar" is a fairly new introduction into the language from German, only about 125 years old, and is related to the much older "seminary", which started life as Latin "seminarium", "botanical nursery", hence a place where young and green seedlings are brought to maturity: the leap to the idea of a school for training priests or other young students is a very small one, and from there it is an equally small leap to the idea of a seminar, at which students are taught by an older and more learned instructor. In its ancient roots it is descended from the same idea as its etymological brother "semen", but it has nothing to do with older men shooting their spunk all over impressionable young women, or whatever it is that leads some people to discard the word in favour of a rather silly replacement.


Blogger Frank said...

I looooooove Regretsy. I particularly like her outrage about resellers and people misrepresenting their "hand made" stuff, because, at heart, she loves quirky shit and genuinely unique and well-crafted items.

Sunday, March 27, 2011 9:13:00 PM  

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