Labels are for Mayonnaise
Using them on Humans? Lazy Language.
I’m not going to tell you what’s wrong with this whole lit-up debate on our generational differences. Boomers vs Millennials. Enough. There’s simply too much of it and it’s really distasteful and disrespectul from any vantage point.
A four-year old sees a bunch of grown-ups behaving like children and simply can’t fathom it. They are all grown-ups. So let’s leave that one aside for a moment.
We love to label human beings. Everything from what they wear, what they look like, how they laugh, the size of their feet and the size of their brain are all fair game. Now, with the recognized identity fluidity of gender, tagging yourself “he/she/they/it”… certainly that has validity. But maybe it’s time for a change. We’re all human. All people. Is it not possible to come up with a pronoun referencing humans? I don’t have the answer, so for now, they/their works for me. It works for many of my friends too.
Consider the importance of given names. A way for humans to communicate who you are and identify you. Without using adjectives or descriptors. Let’s use them when we can, shall we? My name is what makes me turn around when you shout from across the room. I typically don’t respond to “hey short girl” and if I did, I might be prone to do so in a fairly negative way.
Countless sci-fi novels have been written where first robots, then people, were identified by number/letter combinations. WTF? Seriously if I had an android in my home doing my chores, I would think they would prefer “Good morning, Pete” to “How’s it goin X1898320?”
My new personal gripe is BAE. Sorry, I’m a ‘boomer’ and have no f*ng idea what that is except lazy language. There, I said it. It’s almost on par with How R U? in a text. Response? A thumb’s up emoji. Lazy language. Now I recognize using it in text messages is similar to old-fashioned shorthand. Timesavers.
But I’m here to draw the line at referencing other human beings with lazy language. Just don’t. Abbreviations are one thing. BFF for example. I get it, it’s an acronym. It works. BAE?
Not an acronym. Not even appropriate.
Translated, I’m told it’s Babe. Or Baby. Referring to one’s significant other. I am not fond of that term even when used in full. My hubby (again, nickname signifying husband and that is acceptable when writing a loose and humorous piece) has never ever uttered ‘babe’ in my presence. I’m not his baby, we had two of those thank you very much, I’m his wife. Not wifey (because of course not appropriate) just his wife. Spouse. Significant other.
Why don’t they just say my ‘SO’ instead. Waitin’ for my SO at the bar. Short for soulmate too…
Significant Other/Soulmate = SO
Because it’s ridiculous sounding.
About the boomer thing. I’m a boomer, technically I suppose. Why do I need the label? Why do we find ourselves constantly labeling people. Possibly because it excuses behavior and attitudes.
Labels are for Mayonnaise
If you are alone in the forest and have run out of nuts and berries, and find a jar of white goopy creamy stuff without a label, and you have no idea it’s made of raw eggs, you could in fact die from ignorance. In this case, the label could save your life.
We’re all guilty to a degree of labeling. But isn’t it time to draw the line at using it on humans? Think of how divisive this practice truly is. You are calling out differences. Now there are exceptions to every rule. When is it proper to refer to someone by a physical feature? When it’s important to the narrative.
The short woman reached up on her toes for the box on the top shelf.
The woman reached for the box on the top shelf, but she was short and couldn’t quite grasp it.
Either is passable, if not acceptable. Here’s what’s not.
“Hey, shorty, grab that box!”
Acceptable: “I know it’s been years since you attended school, but…”
Not acceptable: “OK, boomer, can we fast forward to the 21st Century now?”
Acceptable: “Look, I know things are different for you now than back in the day.”
Not Acceptable: “You Millennials have no idea how good you have it. Back in my day…”
Calling someone who is convicted of a crime a criminal is probably on my approved list. Calling someone sitting on a stoop in front of a city apartment a vagrant? Rude.
Time marches on. Quickly. Everything moves so fast now, we don’t take the time to use our words. To choose them carefully. And there’s a bit too much snark behind much of what we say now as well. I spent a bit of time in the banking universe where acronyms ruled. But honestly when I exited that circus, I had had enough acronyms to last a lifetime.
The latest trend is signing off abbreviated emails with an initial.
How r u? The fam?
How are you? Good to hear from you. How is your mother? The kids doing well? How have you been?
Let’s stay in touch, it’s been awhile!
All the best,
Labels represent lazy language. That’s my way of going back to my point. I do tend to wander. But really it’s all of a piece, as someone once said. No idea who. I’m not going to get into the psychology of it all, as that’s way too much to unpack here. Given names are too personal. Labeling can protect personal space. And so on and so forth.
Next time you’ve forgotten someone’s name, and you must introduce them anyway, try this. Whisper in their ear “I am so sorry I’ve forgotten your name,” and maybe they’ll whisper back. “It’s Dave, but D is fine, thanks for asking.”