Posts Tagged ‘language’

on language…

March 19, 2011

A friend’s status on facebook today asked: “When a woman calls you ‘Hoss’…is that a good or bad thing?” Out of five responses thus far, the first one said: “it means she is a lesbian.” See how language can be gender coded? And how the stringently policed lines of gender, performance, and sexuality and where these intersect with what folks say, can get fraught with people’s myopia? Because “hoss” is a thing men say—allegedly; a woman employing a “masculine” slang must get carded as masculine-like, therefore must = lesbian. Linear enough for you? O, those things we say. Le sigh.

Things We Say

January 22, 2011

“I bongo with my lingo / Beat it like a wing yo!”– M.I.A.

Being in the company of West Indian guys liming is always interesting for a variety of reasons: the picong and ole talk being just two, and because language, local language and its usage is fascinating to me: listening to how they talk, especially listening for those specific gendered codes of expression that are distinct from how “all ah we” talk, is always intruiging. Plus, I can go for spells without hearing it sometimes, so their talk is kinda like an oasis in the desert sometimes. How we all talk encompasses those more generalised terms and expressions that are cross generational and cross-gender. The ubiquitous “partner” would be one of those terms, in a kind of way—as in “he/she is meh real good partner,” which you can hear from out of the mouth of someone in my parents’ generation down to mine and youth of the generation after me.

(Incidentally, someone told me an anecdote, I don’t remember who exactly, about how their work collegues in America thought that he was gay for the longest while because he frequently referred to a range of men as his various “partners”—the listeners, meanwhile, not understanding that in Trinbagonian parlance and other parts of the region: ‘partner’ in effect means very good friend, yuh bosom body, yuh macomère.) Women can and do use partner too (kinda like how macomère can function though many people outside certain generations rarely use this term anymore) but partner is overwhelmingly a more common male expression of friendship, in my observation.