Homophobes, engineers, and other alien life forms

Subject: Homophobes, engineers, and other alien life forms
From: Martha Cosgriff <mcosgriff -at- TELE-TV -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 07:46:48 -0500

Here I sit gently rapping, tap-tap-tapping, on my computer keys,
wondering whether quietly and sensitively to remove a
chronologically-challenged file from my molecularly tightly-packed
circular storage medium.

I believe that the expression "pantywaist" is NOT homophobia, but
derives from children's clothing where the trousers were buttoned to
the shirt. I am (alas) old enough to remember having pajamas of just
that style when I was about three years old. A man who is a
"pantywaist" is not necessarily "effeminate" but rather, "childish;"
although certainly the shift in meaning of "pantywaist" to indicate
being effeminate rather than being childish could certainly be
construed as a type of misogyny. A "pantywaist" is a man or older boy
who would cry and run away from a fight, as a little child would.

While no one is denying the existence of homophobia, let's not assign
it to place where it (etymologically speaking) really doesn't exist.
The term term "pantywaist" coming to mean "effeminate" is really a
very crude slap at womankind, which is called upon daily to be
courageous and resourceful in the face of prejudice and abuse around
the world (in some countries of course far, far more so than others).

While we're on the subject of "kinder and gentler" speech (as our
Canadian friend put it in a recent submission to this forum), I have
always found the expressions "abort" and "miscarry" to be particularly
loathesome, since they deal with physiological tragedies applicable
only to women, and should be used, like invective, in written or
spoken language only where a significant effect is possible by their
use; which is to say, hardly ever.

Yet, these "female-based" words are even more prevalent since the
advent of computers (as in the DOS prompt: "Abort? Retry? Cancel?").

"Yep, it's F-----D." (from a group of engineers standing around a
crashed computer.)

"I nuked that file." (same source)

I mean, are we all, linguistically speaking, turning into frat rats?

While it has a certain pungent humor, this type of speech is hardly
sober, temperate, or scientifically precise.

Yours Faithfully,

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