Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"words. words, words, words."

the other day i was at work (big surprise, yes?) and i clicked to the main website rather than the archives website and i found this news story about a professor working on a legal project. i must confess that i didn't read the story through very closely at first (i have since read it over with more care); what caught my eye immediately was the acronym: sgbv.

quite often the neu news feeds feature stories about research scientists working at the university, or professors who have gotten grants, or engineering grad students who have presented something nifty to someone interesting, or people on co-op doing something spiffy -- but that's not what this story is talking about.

and i should say right off the top that it sounds as though this professor is doing dynamite work. if what she does gets help for people who need it, that's great. more power (and chocolate) to her.

but the acronym -- sgbv -- struck me and i couldn't think why for a minute until i realised it reminded me of the opening of this george carlin routine. (i'm not bothering to embed the player because i couldn't find a live cut and i really don't want a still shot of george carlin (r.i.p.) glaring out of my blog at me.) the part of the routine i'm thinking of is the first two to three minutes -- not very much of an eight minute cut, but the rest is absolutely worth listening to if you like what you're hearing so far.

he's talking about the shift in language over the course of the 20th century from "shell shock" to the current "post-traumatic stress disorder." (i'm not even sure he gets as far as ptsd; i think he might stop with "battle fatigue" but you get the idea.) and he's talking about this shift as a softening of the words, a multiplication of syllables -- and a distancing from the actual poor sod suffering from the medical/psychological problem in hand. he was making a very specific point in regards to vietnam veterans not getting adequate medical or psychological attention for the issues they were suffering from, but i think his idea, besides being very funny in a "wow, that isn't really funny at all is it -- but why am i laughing?" sort of way, has broader applications and i think "sgbv" is along the same lines.

what the hell does it stand for? well, according to the news article, it stands for "sexual- and gender-based violence." okay. so, in old-school terms, physical attacks like rape. i realise there is a broader spectrum of attack possible here covering not only the physical (probably the highly aggressive physical searches most of the republican prisoners i'm writing about underwent count under this heading -- both the physical search itself and the resulting trauma) but anna isn't here for me to pick her brain for what these things might be and i am very tired, so i'm just going to let you fill in the blanks on your own. i'm sure you've read the odd news story you wish you hadn't about horrible things happening to children or young women or old women or young men or old men or dogs or cats or chickens; just pick something from there.

and as i said before: if what she does gets help for people who have these horrendous things happen to them, good. excellent. but i don't know if i think this kind of acronym is going to help.

it's...catchy. sort of.

it's memorable. -ish.

it covers a lot of ground. absolutely. almost too much, in fact. if you say "sgbv," people say, "huh? what?" but if you say "rape," people know what you're talking about. there's an immediate visceral reaction to the word. this is bad. something bad has happened. (and if you recognize that really vague movie allusion, give yourself a hug.)

i thought i would have a really coherent post to write about this, but i find that i don't. i just find the shift away from what seems like the precise language to the vague acronym -- troubling on some level. maybe it's just me.

but whichever way you think about it, that's a pretty miserable thought for a wednesday (and i could go on about the irish republicans. really. i could. with quotes. you don't want me to.) and so i'll leave off instead with a clip from my latest fun thing which is eddie izzard's stand-up. netflix has been insisting for years that mr. izzard and i are meant to be "bff." i didn't believe it, so i didn't watch any of his stand-up until this week. the up-side of this is that now he has something like six (6!) routines that i get to watch -- yay! (plus or minus movies, of course.)

anyway, this is from his dress to kill show in san francisco; if you watch nothing else of this, watch the first 2-4 minutes and take in the full glory of his theory of european history (and i want his nail polish):

probably nsfw. :)

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