Further to previous posts on this theme – negative formulations, the language of avoidance – I thought it’d be worth examining the idea of ‘sobriety’.

My lifelong understanding of sober is of it meaning ‘straight’, or, in relation to drinking, ‘not drunk’. This is reattained within hours of drinking, depending on what you drank how much of when. I’d also apply it as an antithesis of intoxication in general. Not high, not totally wired. There is in addition the more general usage pertaining to seriousness, or at least attempting to be serious; strait-laced, straight-faced. Wearing a sober suit.

Something about the ways it can be used, though, means I hesitate before applying it lightly as a term for what I’m trying to achieve.

I mean, I am aware that something resembling a duck, that walks and quacks like a duck, is likely a duck. If you want to call me ducky, feel free. I’m not avoiding or denying anything, just querying terms.

The Wikipedia page on ‘sobriety’ is unambiguous. It’s all about the booze.

Sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from alcohol.’

This seems to narrow things considerably to a quite specific definition, ignoring any more general meanings, as well as application to other substances people might use to access their particular ‘click’.

The sobriety referred to there is linked to preconditions such as ‘sustained abstinence’ from drinking. Again, that *is* what I’m attempting, but, gah, the idea of ‘not doing something’ implied in the word abstinence! The concept of ‘self-denial’ also, where what I’m trying to foster is more an idea of… self-indulgence? Just in ways different to ones I’ve used since way back?

Regarding ‘effects from alcohol’, we must be talking here about something beyond the physical effect of having-had-booze. That (not inferior or superior) effect of the need for a drink, sometimes some weeks, months or years away from any having been consumed… That urge is important to get to grips with, but it is not associated exclusively with booze (or other substances).

Still on the wiki, I found this sentence arresting:

‘Someone who abstains, but has a latent desire to resume use, is not considered truly sober.’

Considered by whom? one might ask. It is here that I make ‘ah, but, yeah,’ faces. Any latent desire to resume use is separate to a conscious state of being sober, surely? Not a barrier to sobriety, but a distinct aspect one can process more effectively when sober and abstemious?

Saying you’re not supposed to entertain those feelings at all seems an unreasonable height of bar.

So, yeah, not sure about ‘sobriety’ in that sense. Etymologically, sobriety comes from the Latin sobrius (not intoxicated), as well as the word sobre found in various European languages, stemming from the Latin super, meaning ‘above’.

Latent desires or not… Sobriety indicates being over something.

This was going to be another worked-up, serious-faced, lengthy post discussing language, words, and the wording worders who mangle them.

Languages change. Given this, one has to adapt, keep up, or risk not making sense. This is an individual thing, though, and attempts to impose orthodoxies on others should be resisted. Words can be keys or cages. It is advisable to use them carefully.

darwin_responsive_shh

One could aim at least to see when familiar or habitual ways of saying things might cause confusion or upset – are not developing anything.

Contexts change too, and the importance of being aware of this was exemplified in the recent revelations of English soccer administrator Richard Scudamore’s infelicitous emails as seen in the Mirror, also reported on BBC, in the Telegraph, etc.

The Mirror’s headline:

England football supremo Richard Scudamore made sexist slurs in a string of emails to soccer pals

To recap, briefly: British man in his 50s, father of five, former Head Boy of his school, former law student, and footballer, turns out to be a Bantersaurus Rex. Imagine our surprise!

With a strange next step in the process of “whistle-blowing”, former temporary PA Rani Abraham had passed the sorry dossier of shame to the Daily/Sunday Mirror.

The Mirror website updates its links frequently, but when I first saw the “sexist slurs” article, it was juxtaposed with this in the sidebar:

Sexy selfies of the week! Bikinis, bums and boobs – we’ve got it all right here

"Uh... jiggle?"

At that point I stopped getting worked up and started giggling.

tl;dr:
Languages change. Contexts are important. Keepy-uppy.

Content note: contains grumpy swithering and language.

Saw this recently:

'Who was it...?' 'He didn't say.'

Hmmm…

I DON’T SAY
“I DON’T SAY
[X BECAUSE Y]…”
BECAUSE IT MIGHT CONFUSE MY VALUE JUDGMENTS WITH STATEMENTS OF FACT.
BECAUSE CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING.
BECAUSE WORDS DO WHAT WE TELL THEM.
BECAUSE CAPS LOCK IS SHOUTING.
BECAUSE I JUST DON’T SAY WHATEVER IT IS I DON’T WANT TO BE SAID.

Well! It got my goat. “I was forced into parody, m’lud.”

I mean, though. Saying you don’t say something and then saying the thing… just to stick its little word head on a spike pour encourager les autres. Bah!

Stepping back a little, taking a breath, I see their point, sort of.

Fiona McCrossin, one of the student participants, told BuzzFeed in an email: “I am doing this project because language is a reflection of our culture as a whole and it contributes to a person’s understanding of what is ‘normal’ or ‘good.’ We hope to start conversations about the cultural practices that these words reflect and start to change the hostile environment that they create. I personally chose not to use these words because I want to contribute to that change as much as possible. I encourage people to do the same, but I understand if they do not wish to.”

I agree. We would all benefit from less hostility and more positivity. However, while acknowledging Fiona McCrossin’s qualifying statement on Buzzfeed, the back-pedalling implied in the final lines – “Yeah, but it’s just my choice, no biggie if you don’t want to…” – sits at odds with the hectoring certainty of the campaign proper.

AND, and, conversations are not begun by stating emphatically an opinion as fact and then standing there with your arms folded. Not effective conversations, anyway.

I dunno, it all just came across as being a bit… pompous. “Think before you talk” is an admirable tenet, but I would prefer it if people did not assume that their semantic certainties are anything of the kind.

And are our cultural practices not threatened by greater problems than a few words? Linguistic versus actual minefields…

‘Shocking paintwork,’ muttered Lord Wimpleby, gesturing at the ship’s hull as the lifeboat descended.

They’re right, though, really. It’s all part of a parcel. For want of a nail… One can admire the stance, I suppose. Well done to them. Go for it! We need enthusiasts.

“Fookin students.”paulcalf

I understand if you do not wish to see it in the same way.

If you celebrated Christmas with decorations, tradition has it that you are supposed to have taken them all down by now.

Twelfth Night, whenever you think it should be marked (indeed, should you think this), has passed. Here, the decorations are safely boxed until later in the year, when the festive cycle of tinselly joy will begin anew – possibly sometime in August depending on where one shops.

Taking down the cards, we had a dewy-eyed re-read of the lovely wishes from those of our pals who like to still indulge in a stamp. It can be really hard to find suitable cards, though. The wording on this one struck us as a bit odd. A bit… well, passive?

passive-christmas

“It’s hoped…”? Words are very rascals, as Feste the Jester suggests(-ah)!

Fortunately, a perfectly happy Christmas was had. That’s it over officially now, though. Back on your heads…