lately labels have been a source of musing for me…
especially ones that tend to bring up certain pre-conceived images or notions about the ‘group’ labeled.
a recent blog request for submissions about ‘butch’ caused the re-emergence of this trend of thought for me.
my favorite word to describe myself is ‘queer’.
that seems to take it all into account.
not just my sexual tendencies which being bi might nicely fit into an “all of the above” category…but with regard to almost every aspect of my being. from choice of dress, to mannerisms (or lack of manners) to lifestyle and philosophy of life.
the word ‘queer’ has come to mean something different through the years to various folk.
the american heritage dictionary definition goes along the usual lines
…odd, unconventional, deviating from the expected or norm…
.(i also like to proclaim myself a deviant)
reclaiming words can be very powerful. the word dyke which is often intended as a slight is a source of great pride to many women. i only aspire to being as lofty as a true dyke!
the word queer, times past meant only strange, or eccentric then came to be used to put down homosexuals…but now we chant “we’re here!~we’re queer!~get used to it!”
it’s powerful to own the sticks and stones once lobbed at us to our injury, and use them instead to define ourselves on our terms.
the word ‘queer’, like so many words in the english language, can be traced to indo-european, through the germanic languages from there.
having majored in linquistics once upon a time and still maintaining a healthy interest in etymological roots of words (entymologists are the buggy ones) a favorite hobby of mine is to read the dictionary…to discover the furthest known root of a word
and what it meant at the time.
for queer it is traced to a root that meant to turn, or turn away, or around. that seems apropos… the same root gave rise to torque, torticullis, torch…and other twisted things.
other interesting word roots to check out to their furthest known use are the ones that over time morphed into the words love and friend…
i’ll give you a hint,
love = freedom
friend = loved one.
reading antique dictionaries, from over a hundred years ago is also illuminating.
for example, the word ‘slut’ used to describe a man with no visible means of support, – a bum…it is short for slatternly…or slattern. it was never thrown out to disparage a woman.
much of the zeitgeist of an era, or the culture of a people can be gleened simply by becoming familiar with the true meanings of words used…
wonder what generations to come will make of us from our language