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Linguistic Reclamation Of “Queer” Essay

1997 words - 8 pages

Linguistic reclamation is a cultural process of removing hatefulness from a term that is used negatively and oppressively by a dominant culture (out-group) against a specific, less powerful group (in-group). In the article “A Queer Revolution: Reconceptualizing the Debate Over Linguistic Reclamation,” the author, Robin Brontsema explores the reclamation of the word “queer” and other related “hateful speech intended to disable its target” from three different perspectives that are based on three identifiable goals: “neutralization” of the word, its “value reversal,” and “stigma exploitation” (46, 52). According to the first perspective, the “pejoration” or hate is “inseparable” from the detestable word, which implies that reclaiming the word would do no good; instead, omitting the word from language, if possible, will take care of the pain caused by the word (Brontsema 49). The supporters of the second perspective, on the other hand, believe that “pejoration” is separable from the spiteful word, and thus, reclamation of that word is supported (Brontsema 51). Finally, the third perspective believers, stressing that hate is inseparable from the word, support its reclamation because they believe that “a revolutionary call” that starkly obligates the out-group to accept the in-group for what it stands for can help in reversing the negativity of the word (Brontsema 52, 53). The topic of reclamation is more complex than one thinks because words that carry hate are dangerous to play with. As Jeane Kirkpatrick, the 16th US ambassador and an ardent anticommunist, once said, “Words can destroy. What we call each other ultimately becomes what we think of each other, and it matters” (ncvs.org). Words that are powerful and have the ability to batter one’s self-esteem, and bruise one’s confidence can make you hate yourself and convince you that everyone else hates you too. Coming out of the hate-filled mouths, words can do greater damage than bullets. One of such spiteful words is “queer,” whose reclamation, if carefully examined, is useless because the hate that it contains is inseparable; exclusion of “queer” from the language is the only way to eliminate the hate from “queer.”
“Queer” – a term of abuse that, nowadays, could be deployed at any instant to insult anyone, regardless of one’s sexual preference, leaving behind an odd form of sarcasm mixed with homophobia, and judgment pummeled into irrelevance – is one of those hateful words that have changed their meaning over time. Oxford English Dictionary defines “queer” as someone or something that is “strange, peculiar, or eccentric in appearance or character.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “queer” is of Scottish origin (etymonline.com). “Queer,” as a verb in 1812, meant, “to spoil, ruin” (etymonline.com). In early 1920s, “homosexual” became the synonym of “queer” after some homosexual men began to use the word “queer” to describe themselves; moreover, in 1940,...

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