An American Nowhere

Five raspberries—four red, one black.My mother and I had never gone on a trip by ourselves, so when she asked me to be her travel companion, I said yes. It didn’t matter where. The point was to enjoy quantity time together, the kind of just-having-you-there comfort that quality time cannot approach. That’s what led to my wistful week in New England.

My mom registered us with a Mandarin-speaking tour group, which meant that I would be nodding a lot while plumbing my memory for approximate words. Depending on who you ask, my Mandarin is somewhere between Really Good and Let’s Use English Instead, but I have zero insecurities about it. I had visited China for the first time over a decade ago, and the tour guide (my mom loves tours) promised me that nobody in this part of China would notice my unfortunate Mandarin skills, because everybody is from somewhere else. So, as expected, on this New England tour, Mandarin was just one of the Chinese dialects flying about, and Chinese was one of several languages. It was code-switching heaven. Read more

In other news:

With determination,

Karen Yin

Why We Need to Reclaim the Word “Female” | Time

“Some feminists take exception to my usage of the word ‘female.’ Turns out, particularly in African-American circles, the word ‘female’ has become a pejorative: links to a female dog, and thus shorthand for ‘bitch.’”

When Medicine Doesn’t Speak the Right Language for My Body | Autostraddle

“Saying that my muscles are ‘weaker than we’d expected’ or telling your students ‘I don’t think she’ll be able to do this’ when I am right in front of you isn’t being scientific or objective—it’s assigning value to the way I exist. It’s measuring me against standards I will never understand, a body I will never have, and a person I will never be.”

TV’s Problem With the B Word: Anti-Label Rhetoric on Television | Odyssey

“Even as many shows get more progressive and include bisexual characters, they often refuse to say the word itself. The refusal to include the word ‘bisexual’ in scripts sends a negative message about bisexuality, and makes the identity label inaccessible to those who need it.”

There Is No Secret to Writing About People Who Do Not Look Like You | Literary Hub

“When a story does harm by presenting a limited view of a group of people, then the author’s craft has failed them in some crucial way.”

American Indians Respond to Washington Post R-word Poll | The Circle

“The Washington Post asserted that the survey was conducted in order to gather the opinions of ‘actual stakeholders.’ From coast to coast, however, Native people and the organizations that represent them expressed their displeasure over the poll, the methods used to conduct it, and its results.”

A Camp Tries to Reinvent the Hebrew Language, So Transgender Kids Can Fit In | The Washington Post

“Plural masculine nouns in Hebrew—including any group of people that includes at least one man—typically end in ‘im,’ while feminine nouns end in ‘ot.’ At Camp Moshava, all groups of both boys and girls now end in a blend: ‘imot.’”

On Reclaiming “Boy” and Giving Young Black Men Something to Celebrate | The Root

“I realize the negative connotation around the word ‘boy’ and recognize the racist history of its use by white supremacists throughout our dismal history.… I wanted to remind all of us that there’s a beauty in black boyhood that’s often ignored and that our boys are forced to be men much too soon.”

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing About the Disabled | Literary Hub

“Do not assume that empathy equals experience” and more advice—both proscriptive and prescriptive—for non-disabled writers writing about people with disabilities.

Words Matter: The Language of Addiction and Life-Saving Treatments | Harvard Health Publications

“Words matter and continued use of stigmatizing language perpetuates false stereotypes, spreads misinformation, and keeps people out of care.” Updates Entry on “Bisexual” | Biscuit

“The word ‘bisexual’ has been defined by leading bi organisation as attraction to more than one gender since the early days of the movement, and a recent social media campaign calling for Merriam-Webster to update its own definition gained over 1000 digital signatures.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson Launches #MakeItAwkward Campaign to Challenge Racism | The Huffington Post

The #MakeItAwkward campaign “is meant to encourage bystanders to do something, rather than stay silent when they witness racism, sexism, homophobia or any kind of bigotry.”

All Mixed Up: What Do We Call People of Multiple Backgrounds? | NPR

“In the United States, when it comes to describing—or even acknowledging—people who identify with more than one race or ethnicity, the official track record is spotty.”

Stop Using the Word “Crazy” in Arguments | Time

“The moment when we’re most ready to throw our hands up and declare, ‘They’re crazy!’ is often the best moment for discovering surprising truths that transform a negotiation.”

I Tripped Up While Reporting on Gender and Sexuality. Here’s What I Learned. | Columbia Journalism Review

“At the LGBTQ publication The Advocate, journalists ask all sources for their sexual orientation and gender identity at the outset of an interview. The mainstream media could consider doing the same for gender, which impacts pronoun usage in all stories.”

Nextdoor Wants You to Be Less Racist | LAist

“If a user wants to include someone’s race in a post about suspicious activity, they must also include at least two other descriptors, ‘e.g. Nike sneakers, blue jeans, crew cut, brunette.’”

The Oxford English Dictionary Will Add “Gender-Fluid” | Teen Vogue

“Last year, the Oxford English Dictionary added ‘cisgender’ and considered the gender-neutral title ‘Mx.’ Then, earlier this year, Merriam-Webster announced the inclusion of ‘cisgender’ and ‘genderqueer,’ and the OED’s addition of ‘gender-fluid’ is further proof that the evolving language surrounding sexuality and gender is important for everyone.”

“Dying With Dignity” Versus “Doctor-Assisted Suicide”: Ballot Initiative Sets Off Language Battle | The Denver Post

“People in favor of the initiative use the terms ‘dying with dignity’ and ‘right to die’ but named their Colorado ballot measure the more neutral ‘end-of-life options, although the secretary of state’s office calls it the Medical Aid in Dying initiative… Opponents of the proposed law—including many for religious reasons and others who fear it would target people with disabilities—call it ‘physician-assisted suicide.’”

Sarah Grey Talks About Inclusive Language | CMOS Shop Talk

“In general, this kind of awareness doesn’t always mean trying to be as neutral as possible—you might be working with text that takes a very strong position on something. That’s fine! But you still need to be conscious of all of the connotations of the terms you use.”

Did You Know Word Can Check for Gender-Specific Language? | LibroEditing

A very useful step-by-step guide for setting up Word (2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016) to highlight gender-specific terms in your documents.

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