Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shoe fits

Many homophobes object to being called homophobes! We'll see whether Antonin Scalia objects publicly or only privately. Racists didn't like being called bigots either. Still don't.

Lots of wingnuts dust off their Greek (oh, my, maybe not!), their English suffixes to say that they are too not afraid. They're big boys. They wear big boy underwear. But they don't want anyone gay thinking about their underwear. As if.

The fear that '-phobe' refers to here is the fear of how society might change with full acceptance of homosexuality. It doesn't mean Barney Frank is saying homophobes live in fear of the neighborhood gay activist kicking their butt.

Of course, based on their stereotypes of swishiness, they probably do fear that a gay man might know enough tae kwon do to make them his beeyotch. That would be sooo humiliating for a mighty 101st Fighting Keyboarder.


Mikhail Silverwood said...

True, the term homophobic have strayed away from the correct use of -phobic.
However, remember that humans control words, not the other way around.
Scholars watch human behaviour and human language, and then adjust the dictionaries accordingly.
Humans don't pick up a dictionary as a rule book. 'Oh no, I'm not allowed to do that. It says so right here, page 234.'
So if humanity decides: homophobia means prejudice towards homosexuals, then the word will have that definition.
Problem solved.

lovable liberal said...

It's great when someone finds an old post and comments. Thanks.

I'm mostly a descriptive lexicographer, though I have some sympathy for those prescriptivists who go beyond being simple scolds of tradition. If you're trying to keep the language from being debased, say by loss of meaning ("my head literally exploded"), I'm with you, even if that's usually a vain effort (and we'll just have to come up with another word to literally mean literally, which in its turn will likely be debased).

I did write this small blog item to try to have it both ways. I do still think that homophobia doesn't require any recasting of morphemes beyond their past senses.

There's certainly a political motivation to pushing -phobia onto anti-gay bigotry. It's a framing device. I'm in favor of it on those grounds too.

Anyhow, fun dialog. Hope you clicked the checkbox for follow-ups...

Mikhail Silverwood said...

I'm interested in issues concerning gay rights, so I naturally clicked onto the label 'gay' and found this post.

Yes, the word 'literal' is now becoming an oxymoron.

There are other words that have lost all relevant meaning to their original definition, such as 'set'. The tabloids will often misuse this word: 'Paris Hilton is set to leave New York'.

There's also 'up'.

In fact, I read a book on political science, I don't remeber it's name, where an entire chapter was on imperialism.
It attacked all schools of knowledge (liberals, Marxists, anarchists, conservatives) for misusing the word imperialism. Apparently empire is refer to expansion, and federalism/nationalism as the status quo. So if Britain invades South Africa and conquers it as a colony, that is imperialism; but as soon as Britain has obtained it as a colony, and is now defending it and making sure it keeps it, it's not imperialism but federalism/nationalism.
I found it utterly useless: if political scientists have the tendency to use imperialism to refer to any beyond-nation adventures, then that's the new definition of the word.

I'll bet that if there was a fluent anti-gay noun, such as sexism and racism are, the homophobia issue would never have been used.