I attended a meeting of a local writers group. An august and much accomplished bunch they are too. In the course of conversation I joked that much of our English language had been hijacked by special interest groups and spin doctors.
A book author in attendance reminded me of the perennial truth that language is a living thing and that changes in meaning are to be expected over time. I acknowledge this truth. I would like to add though that the way this living language evolves is quite a good indication of how those who use the language are also changing. Change there must and will be, but we would hope and strive that this change is for the better not for the worse. How have we faired? I will observe a few changes and let you, the reader, decide.
There once existed the Gaytime ice cream company. This was back in the days when ‘gay’ meant merry, light-hearted and fun. However due to the hijacking of the language and a subsequent change in meaning it may be that many felt less than comfortable taking a big lick of a Gaytime ice cream. The company is still trading but I believe Tip Top now enjoys dominance in the bulk ice cream market. They don’t seem to have suffered any negative market backlash in associating the Tip Top Topsy with a young girl of colour.
This however has not stopped some lobbying for changes to Mark Twain’s seminal work Huckleberry Finn, which refers to a character called Nigger Jim. Many who find this characterisation offensive want Mr Twain’s work re-edited to reflect the views of these precious politically correct souls. I am unaware if any of those protesting have ever managed to write anything of worth themselves. Mr Twain has been deceased for a considerable period of time and as such cannot be prevailed upon to effect such changes as are desired. Would the altering of his work be a copyright infringement?
Not satisfied with altering the common use of common words, certain minority groups seeking social legitimacy have now started on the alphabet. In what appears to be an effort to include as many minority groups as possible, the alphabet club that started as LGB seems to periodically add another letter. In some quarters it has grown to absurd dimensions and I have heard of the LGBTQIAP community. These stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans-sexual, Queer, Intersexual, Asexual and Pansexual. Certainly the young of today are spoiled for choice.
I am trying to mind my P’s and Q’s here, and I don’t know who in the LGBTQIAP community is in charge of acronym compilation, but I would like to recommend that W be the next letter added. This would stand, of course, for Walrus. They are definitely a minority group and there is not yet any existing organisation lobbying for Walrus rights. This may be because of the global decline in Walrus numbers or simply because ‘more rights for Walrus’ is very difficult to say out loud (try it).
One way or another the Walrus has lacked any real political clout since those heady days of John Lennon’s ‘I am the Walrus’. This rather large and unattractive marine mammal has fallen from the forefront of public consciousness. And if gay or transsexual walrus are unlikely to boost their flagging numbers I for one support a higher profile for this little understood mammal. Also if you’re confused as to what you want to ‘identify as’, or are simply just spoilt for choice, why not consider becoming a Walrus. It is always pleasant hanging out at the beach and you could do a lot worse than a fish diet.
Moving from the acronym to the phrase, being ‘one of the gang’ was once an innocent statement that has morphed into another with somewhat more sinister connotations. When Bing Crosby sang ‘That Old Gang of Mine’ he was not wearing a patch, and as far as I am aware did not own a motorbike or deal hard drugs. However it is impossible to be certain of such things any more and dreaming of a white Christmas may mean more than meets the eye or the ear or the nose or whatever the actual case may be. It is difficult to tell with these Hollywood types. So ‘living’ the language may be, but it is evident that we have flogged it to within an inch of its life.
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I am trying to mind my P’s and Q’s here, and I don’t know who in the LGBTQIAP community is in charge of acronym compilation, but I would like to recommend that W be the next letter added.