Monday, March 23, 2009

I am a geek, but I want this

I love language and flirted with the idea of becoming a linguist, but then I'd probably be making even less money than I am with my journalism degree. Anywho...the multi-volume Dictionary of American Regional English sounds awesome.

If you don't know a stone toter from Adam's off ox, or aren't sure what a grinder shop sells, the Dictionary of American Regional English is for you. The collection of regional words and phrases is beloved by linguists and authors and used as a reference in professions as diverse as acting and police work. And now, after five decades of wide-ranging research that sometimes got word-gatherers run out of suspicious small towns, the job is almost finished.

The dictionary team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is nearing completion of the final volume, covering "S" to "Z." A new federal grant will help the volume get published next year, joining the first four volumes already in print.

"It will be a huge milestone," said editor Joan Houston Hall.

The dictionary chronicles words and phrases used in distinct regions. Maps show where a subway sandwich might be called a hero or grinder, or where a potluck—as in a potluck dinner or supper—might be called a pitch-in (Indiana) or a scramble (northern Illinois). It's how Americans do talk, not how they should talk.

"It's one of the great American scholarly activities and people will be reading it for a century learning about the roots of the American language," said William Safire, who frequently cites the dictionary in his "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine. "It shows the richness and diversity of our language."

Doctors have used it to communicate with patients and investigators have referred to it in efforts to identify criminals, including the Unabomber. Dialect coaches in Hollywood and on Broadway have used the dictionary's audio recordings of regional speakers to train actors. Author Tom Wolfe has called the dictionary "my favorite reading." Read more...
Another book I geek out with is "Do You Speak American?" by Robert MacNeil and William Cran. A companion to a PBS documentary, the book celebrates the diversity of American language and accents. Think you can tell where a person is from just by hearing them speak? Visit the Web site for "Do You Speak American?" and test yourself.

Women's History Month Blog Carnival: Jaded

This is the first in a series of posts related to the Women's History Month blog carnival, co-hosted by What Tami Said and Women's Space. This year, we asked women to write about how the 2008 presidential election cycle changed them. Unfortunately, the number of submissions received this year greatly pales in comparison to last year, but we wanted to share the wonderful posts that we did receive. We will continue to accept submissions of poetry, essays, art, video, etc., through March 31. Following is my essay.
About a year ago, I took the descriptor "feminist" out of my blog profile. Those few strokes of a "delete" key symbolized a shift in the way I define myself. I still believe fervently in equality for women, but I was frustrated and hurt over the racism I observed within the feminist movement--bias that had been inflammed by the Democratic primary race between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Today, a few months on from the heat and passion of the presidential election cycle, I do not regret what I did. My beef is not with "feminism" as doctrine, but more with a Western feminist movement that too often mirrors the same old oppressions and power structures found in larger culture. But here is the good news: The realization that the feminist movement is not mine and exists primarily for the benefit of women unlike me, makes me a better ally and more effective in the fight for justice for all women.
Submissions for this year's Women's History Carnival didn't fly in as they did last year, when feminists and womanists were ready to throw down over issues of sexism, racism and politics. I've wondered if our topic was the barrier. We asked women to revisit all the stings and slights of the presidential election season and tell us how they had been changed by the internecine warfare. But what is past is past. And perhaps my sisters have moved on. I have moved on. But the imprint of what transpired during the 2008 elections is firmly stamped on the way I view the feminist movement and progressive causes.
I will not recount the racial sturm und drang of the last year in this space. I don't have the stomach or energy, and there is no point preaching to the converted or trying to change cemented opinions. But I will tell you about my epiphany. I had always believed that being oppressed makes one sensitive to the oppression of others. Too, I was sure of the enlightenment and righteousness of the purveyors of lefty causes. I thought I was clear on who the oppressors always were. Foolish, I was. Here is the truth: We live in a sexist, racist, ablist, homophobic and classist society. ANYONE who is a part of this society--no matter how personally oppressed and liberal-minded--absorbs its biases. Last year, I learned Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza's word kyriarchy from Sudy and it is now the most important word in my activist vocabulary:
Let me break this down for you.  When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination -- they're talking about kyriarchy.  When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that's kyriarchy.  When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that's kyriarchy.  It's about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid.  At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it's more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they're not the ones I find most dangerous. There's a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down. Read more...
This is how black men can be sexist; straight Latinas can be homophobic; and yes, white women can be racist. So, it should not surprise that the feminist movement as a whole would find within it the same prejudice and power structure that exists outside of it.
Today, I also more strongly appreciate that those of us who suffer under multiple oppressions need safe spaces of our own. And I am flirting with the idea that most of our activism should focus on our own communities. The idea goes against my fundamental belief that all human beings are connected and that we should seek more ways to unite not separate. But women of color, transwomen, lesbian women, poor women, disabled women, etc., shouldn't have to wait for justice until white, straight, cisgendered, upper-middle-class, able-bodied women are free; or until they deign to recognize that all women are not the same and, though we are created equal, in this society we are not treated so. Online and in life, I need places where I can drop the mask, where I don't have to explain, where the people around me "get me" and are of common mind and experience, working toward common goals. (Goals that may be shaped by race, class or other factors) Everyone deserves that. More practically, if an activist group is to get anything done, there MUST be some coalescence around identified challenges, solutions and objectives.
Does that mean, for instance, that black women and white women cannot work together? Emphatically, no. There are many, many white women within the mainstrean and radical women's movements who are amazing allies, who understand intersectionality, who work hard not to elevate the needs of just one group of women. And there are myriad issues that affect us all that require work. Won't that work be easier and less disappointing, won't it be more effective, if we are clear-eyed about each other? If we don't expect each other to be perfect in our progressivism? If we expect some flaws, blind spots and biases? If we realistically know when to come together and when to walk away?
Women's equality, I think, is best achieved--not through a feminist movement, but through feminist movements comprised of coalitions of women working toward their unique goals. Maybe that's the way it has always been. Come to think of it, I'm sure this is the way it has always been. All different kinds of women doing their thing in their communities. It is the larger society, with its skewed notions of who is most important, and (sometimes) recognized feminist leaders, who have absorbed those skewed notions, that have assigned a "face" to feminism that is not mine and may not be yours. But, in truth, feminism is not one face, but faces. We should all remember that.
I don't call myself a feminist so much anymore. If I have need of a label, then womanist feels more comfortable.
I am a bit jaded, yes. But I think I am a better ally now, because I have been stripped of my naivete. I no longer expect to be understood and I recognize that I may not always understand my "sisters." With that knowlege, I can form more effective partnerships that are based in reality.

Podcast archived: Get smart about the financial crisis

I am very proud of last night's episode of "The Best of What Tami Said" and I hope you will take time to listen to it. I was joined by Pamela Kemp, Pamela Kemp of Pam's Coffee Conversation, who has been studying the economy as a layperson for five years and covering the current turmoil on her blog, and Alan Silberberg, CEO of You2gov, a political social networking site that helps citizens to become more powerful, more informed, and more able to influence government decisions that affect them.

We talked about the origins of today's financial crisis, but most importantly we talked about the importance of citizens staying informed and seeking out the facts about our country's financial health and our individual financial health.

Listen to the archived show using the player at right or visit the show page.



Pamela's Coffee Conversation

Rec'd by Pamela Kemp

Robert Manning's site for the book "Credit Card Nation"

An interview with economist Micheal Hudson author of "The New Road of Serfdom"

Bartlett on Bush

C-Span (Watch those hearings!)

Bill Moyers Journal (PBS)

Rec'd by Tami

"The Overspent American" by Juliet Schor

Official White House Web site

Learn how your representatives are voting on key issues
(I signed up for e-mails on my representatives' voting records through The Nation, but I can't seem to find that link on their site anymore. These folks seem to do something similar.)

Write your Congressperson

Write your Senator

Rec'd by Alan Silberberg (More to come)

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

Support this site. Learn more about the books above and purchase them using the Amazon widget at right.


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