Nefarious, Scurrilous and Louche

25 Jan

No, not actually a firm of solicitors, but three of my favourite words.

I think that words like nefarious and scurrilous have a certain dash to them. They’re  far more fun than their more modern equivalents and they have a sort of texture to them.

And be honest, wouldn’t you just love to be louche?

I know I would.

And then again there’s a certain lyrical quality to a word like melifluous. It’s kind of melodious, don’t you think?

There are other words I don’t like so much, juxtaposition being a case in point.

I suppose my innitial dislike of this words probably stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t too sure what it actually meant, I sort of knew in a general sort of way from the context I would find it in, but I was honestly just too lazy to go and look it up.

The problem with juxtaposition is that it’s just too lumpy. I don’t like the texture you get from having all those consonents jammed together like that.

Of course there are other words that I don’t much like, but at least they’re interesting or instructive on some level.

One case in point would be the word Homophobia.

Of course it’s a somewhat perjorative word that we use to refer to a prejudice or negative attitude towards gay men, lesbians. (I knew one guy who said that he would only believe in bisexuality when a man left his wife to stay in a relationship with him).

What’s interesting, and highly appropriate about the word is the inclusion of the suffix ‘phobia’.

Obviously a phobia is an irrational dislike or revulsion with the implication that it may not be fully under the control of the person who is subject to the emotion.

The reason that I think this is so apposite is obviously because I hold the view that a prejudice against anyone on the grounds of their sexual preference or orientation is irrational (Providing all parties concerned are consenting adults, of course). But I also think this connotation of being uncontrolled is also highly appropriate.

I remember a discussion I had with a former colleague who was expressing her pretty negative attitude to the proposal, then current, to make the age of consent for same sex couples the same as that for heterosexuals. (I should stress that she was, in general, a very decent, intelligent, hardworking person). What struck me in this conversation was that she didn’t simply disagree with the proposal, her response was much more visceral than that.She seemed to be acting on a combination of revulsion and even fear.

(The fact that she wore her hair short and often favoured jeans and checked shirts seemed to have led at least one lesbian to suggest that she could have had a really good time ‘if she was only out’. I suspect that there was a degree of optimism involved here, she was (probably still is) a very attractive woman and I can fully understand why anyone, male or female, whowas oriented towards women would want to chat her up. On the other hand I suppose she might well have found this experience offensive, or even threatening).

So homophobia seems like an appropriate term for what is an irrational and often emotionally charged form of prejudice.

I suspect that this is a generational issue to some extent. A few months ago I met a woman who would have been in her twenties. She was talking about the old Scots custom whereby a couple could get married if they exchanged rings and jumped over a broomstick while holding hands. I’m not sure what the corresponding custom fordivorce would be). She mentioned that she wasn’t sure that her partner had really understood the implications of what they were doing. I made some joking comment about her having conned her boyfriend, at which point she told me that her partner was another woman. The curious point as far as I’m concerned is that we barely knew each other. I’d have to admit that I was surprised that she was so open about her relationship. I was also rather pleased, in a way, because I took that to mean that she felt safe in discussing it. Maybe the kind of bigotry that was endemic when I was growing up is no longer a factor for younger people. (Anyone in their twenties is young to me. It’s my consolation for getting older).

Of course I’m no one to preach. I don’t agree with penalising anyone because of their sexuality, but I think I really would have a problem with two guys snogging in public. But then again, I would see that as being my problem, not theirs. (And in any case, beyond a certain point I would have a problem with any public display of physical intimacy same sex or otherwise. It’s just a hangover from my slightly puritanical upbringing).

In conclusion, I suspect that maybe we need a similar word to use for racism. After all, I have known people who were not just hostile towards ethnic minorities but also seemed to be frightened and repelled by them. (I really don’t get this, but as an empiricist I have to accept that it exists).

 

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2 Responses to “Nefarious, Scurrilous and Louche”

  1. Colin 26/01/2012 at 9:01 am #

    re The tradition of jumping the broomstick. Maybe the divorce equivalent should be to limbo under it, thus making divorce possible, but not overly easy. This would give both parties a chance to think “do I really want a divorce”, and if so they would ultimately get a bit of excercise as they trained for the “seperation limbo”.

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