Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stop saying "transgendered"

The mysterious blogger who now refers to himself in the third person as "Raider Fan" has the reputation for being a bit of a ham. He can be most amusing. But those of you who know his posts and comments are also aware that he's also always very serious.

In one of his most recent posts, "Do you say 'Transgender?' You do? STOP IT!" (The Nesciencent Nepenthene, May 27, 2015), he addresses a serious issue once addressed by George Orwell in an essay entitled "Politics and the English Language." Orwell writes (emphasis from R.F.):
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.
Beneath this quote he posts a clip from a Bob Newhart sketch, which explains the "Stop It!!" in his title; and, beneath that, he posts a graph (see his post) showing the rise in the use of the word "transgender" in the general population, beginning with zero in 1980 and rising to 90% of the population by 2008.

The point may seem trivial, but it's not. It's not that the words we use change reality itself. That's impossible. No matter how many people call Bruce Jenner a "woman," they don't thereby turn a man into a woman, any more than the Flat Earth Society, by calling the earth "flat" can succeed in flattening it. The problem is, rather, that the words we use change our understanding of reality, so that just as members of the Flat Earth Society begin to actually believe the earth is flat, so the general population may begin to actually believe, with Bruce Jenner, that he is a "woman."

I've addressed this issue before by quoting Abraham Lincoln's question: "If we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" The answer, of course, is: no more than it had to begin with, because a tail is not a leg. Some of my readers will also remember my gripe with the allergy we've all developed, due to the pervasive influence of the feminist movement and such, which has us avoiding the use masculine third-person singular pronouns ("he," "his," "him," "himself"), so that we get philistine barbarisms that induce a gag reflex, such as: "A human being is not an end in themselves." What we have to consider here is not only the butchery this makes of language, but the reason why we're contorting ourselves into pretzels in order to avoid the general population's allergies against the traditional inclusive use of male nouns (like "man" and "mankind") and pronouns. If there was a sign on a cage that said "Danger! Man Eating Tiger!" do you think any woman would be foolish enough to think it didn't apply to her because she isn't a "man"? Of course not! So here we play this little game and we're all part of this little collective ruse even though none of us really believes it.

Here's Peter Kreeft's thought:
"Man means "manking," not "males." It is traditional inclusive language. "Humanity" does not go with "God" ("God and humanity") because "God" and "man" are concrete nouns, like "dog" and "cat," while "divinity" and "humanity" are abstract nouns, like "canininity" and "felinity" or "dogginess" and "cattiness." Whatever the political or psychological uses or misuses of these words, that is what they mean. We do not undo old injustices against women by doing new injustices against language." (Philosophy 101 by Socrates [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002], p. 9, n. 1)
Let the revisionist idiots take over the language, and you'll start talking and thinking like them.


Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Doc. Thanks for the link and the kind words. Of course, you always explain what Raider Fan writes far mo'better that what he writes but that is not the only one reason he has you as one of his heroes.

Anonymous said...

An argument for the Latin Mass if there ever was one!

I get such a kick out of the phrase "L'il Licit Liturgy" :)

P.S. Did you mean to type "manking" or "mankind"? Thinking of the Jungle Book...



Pertinacious Papist said...

Thanks Mary!