Monday, January 10, 2011

Bridging the language barrier

I admit it, oft times I have no idea what the British are saying. Yes, we do speak the same language but it is the colloquialisms that throw me for a loop. Apparently one of American sayings has thrown Jessica Valenti of the Guardian right over the rails (emphasis added):

After all, the phrase – and sentiment – "man up" was one of the most popular in the 2010 elections. In the Colorado Senate primary, Republican Jane Norton accused her opponent of not being "man enough"; in the Delaware Senate primary, Republican Christine O'Donnell said that her opponent was "unmanly"; Angle told Harry Reid to "man up"; and Palin praised Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as having "the cojones that our president does not have" to enforce immigration laws.

In a country that sees masculinity – especially violent masculinity – as the ideal, it's no wonder that this type of language resonates. But it's a sad state of affairs when women in politics have to resort to using the same gendered stereotypes that kept all women out of public service for so long.

Valenti is writing this in the context of the Arizona shootings. Apparently, Ms. Valenti is unaware that the term “man up” means “take responsibility”. Lest I confuse Ms. Valenti further, “take responsibility” does not mean shoot twenty people. In fact, settling one’s grievances at the point of a gun is the opposite of manning up.

I’m not sure I know where Valenti got the idea that violent masculinity is idealized in this country-perhaps she has listened to too much rap music, but I can assure her that we do not equate masculinity with violence. I’ve been blessed to have mainly avoided violent men in my life but those that I have known struck me more wussy little weasel than VA VA Voom manly.

In any case it is not unusual for things to get “lost in translation”. I hope this little language lesson helps.

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