I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

toward a new swishiness

santa cruz 065

Conformity is more respected than difference, and male is more respected than female, so when we describe a man as swishy he takes on connotations of frivolousness, weakness, and moral idiocy.

This is unjust all round, but let's focus on the swishy man.

I refrained from describing someone as swishy recently, because I worried it was insulting. This troubles me: swishy should be complimentary. This man's swish had sweetness and bite, and was bracing, like a good artisanal ginger ale.

I learned that swishy is onomatopoeic in origin, expressing the sound of ostentatiously stylish clothes in motion. (I thought it specifically denoted a man with a mincing walk, probably because an art history professor with a mincing walk was the first man I heard described as swishy).

Swishy, mincing, lisping: Why is sibilance a marker for effeminate male queerness in our culture? Loads of other consonant sounds could be equally queer. Do they feel left out?

And couldn't the sibilance of swishy be as easily associated with dashing, or swashbuckling (also onomatopoeic in origin)? We often run across the smart, swishy man of action, and are charmed, and we hear him on NPR in the person of the accomplished correspondent and parkour-enthusiast Ari Shapiro... but in the narratives of our culture, we can only look to the heroes of Ellen Kushner's ahead-of-their-time Riverside novels for a smart, swishy hero, and...


(Jack Sparrow doesn't count, being, so far as we know, straight, and not entirely on the level.)

Fictional liberators Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel veiled their swash behind a facade of swish, but I dream of a day when swish is understood to connote smarts, celerity, competence, and heroism.

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