"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 8, 2010


This one took a while to put into words.

I don't kid myself that I've stumbled upon a unique insight and I have little doubt that someone has already written or said this better than I. Five minutes after I hit the "publish" button, I'll probably regret the choice of words more than I already do now - because it's difficult to get my head outside of English language usage, to comment on a problem with that usage, whilst using the English language to do so.

In the interest of not making more of an ass of myself than necessary, I've pared a very long thesis down to a paragraph:

I find it troubling that, using English, I have very limited choice in expressing how I relate to people with whom I have ongoing interaction. If I want to reference the nature of my relations with the woman who has challenged me to grow in ways I never imagined possible, the woman who howled with a primal, gorgeous, earth shattering, mother bear of a refrain, transcending pain and pleasure in act of creation to which I will never be immediate party, who has with her defiant and proud womanhood still intact forged a family out of disparate parts - I have to write "my wife." I have to reduce her to property. That really pisses me off. I don't own her. I don't fucking want the title or the claim. I don't want to express possession, simply to refer to her (without writing a discursive dissertation). I don't like one bit that the short hand for "association" in English is expressed in the possessive. I don't own my wife or my children. They're not mine.

So, fuck you Latin and Germanic branches of the Indo-European language group.

That is all.


Ethan said...

This type of thing has always similarly bugged me. I think with "wife" in specific it has a particularly nasty cultural overtone, but even with "friend," say, it's still distasteful. No idea of a solution.

Jack Crow said...

Not sure it is solvable, short of inventing a language no one will bother to speak.

And you're on the money, again. When it comes to gender, the possessive overtone gets a cultural enhancement exceeding the already troublesome norm.

JRB said...

Man, that's good.

Jack Crow said...


Anonymous said...

Perhaps "companion" would work.

Jack Crow said...


I would still have to write "my" companion.

It's the "my" that I loathe. It's the "my" which reduces relation to possession.

Thank you,


Bore said...

"The wife" is popular slang here in England.

Devin Lenda said...

Agree on all the essentials, in spirit, if you will.

The grammatical term "possessive" can be misleading.

We can distinguish a part-of-the-whole possessive, as in "my arm," from ownership/property, which is essentially a not-so-obvious extension of the whole. My car is only a part of the whole (my self) by non-obvious extension. You can credibly ask "is that your car?" but not "is that your arm?"

In Japanese, there's a possessive article, の, that has a broader scope than English possessives. の is often used to show little more than relation or affiliation (a third category alongside part-of-the-whole and ownership). This happens in English as well. Las Vegas('s) strippers (arguably part-of-the-whole as well), the Duke of Orange (Orange's Duke), my friend. No one thinks I own my friend. Usage dictates that, as opposed to the grammatical term "possessive."

The problem is that, historically, wives have actually been property, pointing easily to the second category of grammatical possessive in our minds. And while it would be nice to separate those three, or probably more forms (I assume my analysis is far from thorough) and give each its rightful signifier, I wonder what kind of impact it would have. I'm thinking "colored" versus "African-American." Language cooperated in that case. Maybe it had an effect, I don't know, but it surely seems mainly to have been an effect of something else.

Devin Lenda said...

Agree on the main point but...while "possessive" is the relevant grammatical term, it's a bit misleading.

3 ways the possessive is used (via brief, unthorough analysis):
part-of-the-whole = my arm
ownership, extension of the whole = my car
affiliation, relation = my friend, my co-worker, the Duke of Earl (Earl's Duke), Los Angeles('s) sex workers (also part-of-the-whole, FWIW)

It's only the second sense, ownership, that you reject, as the wife goes, but it's not necessarily a problem with the language.

Wives have a history of being owned and so the second use of the possessive (i.e., ownership) may prevail in the mind, but it looks to me more like a usage issue than a word issue. If we say African-American instead of negro, an easier linguistic fix, what changes? Subbing out what's embarrassing seems more like an effect than a cause.

Devin Lenda said...

Whoops! First post, around glass o' wine #3, didn't go through at first, hence the second post, around glass #6, attempting to recapture lost ideas of the first. Please ignore the second.

(A nicely controlled experiment, actually. Only differences were intoxication level and awareness of repetition.)