Friday 6 December 2019

No matter how I try, I'm still not the better of my foolish pride

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones

John Masterson

I have always prided myself on being good with words, grammar and spelling. There are people I spend time with who view themselves similarly. We spend hours going over the howlers we have seen and heard in the last while and feel superior. Pride, as we all know is the predecessor to a fall.

Over the years I have occasionally been horrified when I discover a mistake I have made. I spelt 'environment' as 'enviorment' for many years when studying psychology and was only corrected when I submitted the first draft of a typed thesis. This says something about either lecturers who marked handwritten essays or, more likely, reminds me that my handwriting is even worse than I thought.

I have a friend, whose writing is illegible, who regularly reminds me that good handwriting is "a dunce's accomplishment". I pretend to agree.

With spelling and meaning the most important thing is to have some doubt and a sense of when something is amiss. I know I have blind spots with names like Penelope and Cecile but thankfully don't know any.

I never know the correct meaning of 'disingenuous' so I avoid using it. Recently, the word pride and my personal pride combined to bring about a ginormous fall. As a man I have always been comfortable with any 'female' parts of my personality. It doesn't bother me if men cry, though I very rarely do. I grew up with sexual equality taken for granted. I was a feminist before I ever heard the word.

In a mixed group there was chat recently about the newest Bridget Jones film. One woman said it was the best laugh she had all year, adding that there wasn't a man in the cinema. This got the males thinking and two of us decided if it was that funny we did not intend to miss it.

And that was when I added that in any case I was a 'shemale'. There were sharp intakes of breath all around.

Being that bit cocky I pointed out to them that the word meant a feminist man at ease with the male and female aspects of his personality. I think I convinced some of them. I scorned them for confusing the word with 'lady boy' or some such concept.

One women who is very, very good with words asked me was I sure. I was. I had been using the word like that for years.

Some little bit of doubt began to grow. That night I found myself googling the word 'shemale' and I am still not the better of it. Not only does it not mean what I thought but, despite many variations in use and meaning over time, it never did. It was much closer to what the sharp intake people thought, and further is considered rude and offensive by all sorts of people.

I begin 2017 with a blanket apology. I was wrong.

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