The New Buzz Wxrd

More and more words are being altered by swapping out letters for 'X'

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Living as I do in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is impossible to keep up with all the neologisms that have been concocted to promote inclusion. Recently I was at a local liquor store browsing the selection of Double IPAs for a friend’s birthday. After grabbing a few, largely based on the visual appeal of the label or a catchy name, I headed to the register. The checker pointed out one can in particular and told me that this one was from a “progressive” brewery in Oakland, and that I should read the blurb on the back about the name of the beer, Mx. Nottingsworth (or something of that sort). The beer can informed me that gender is a “spectrum” and “Mx.” is the new gender-inclusive title that can apply to men, women, and everyone in between.

After picking my jaw off the floor, it didn’t take long for me to recall the trend. More and more words are being altered by swapping out letters for “X,” in the name of gender inclusion. Two other trendy words quickly came to mind.  

The first is “LatinX,” a term used to describe persons of Hispanic origin without using gender-specific vowels (the masculine latino or the feminine latina). The impetus could only have been Spanish grammar rules: a group of women would be described as latinas, a group of men as latinos, a group of 999 women and 1 man as latinos. The female form applies only when describing women; in all other situations the male form is used. Is this sexism? Discrimination? Chauvinism? Stereotyping? Prejudice? All of the above!  

Similarly, “WomXn” is a word I often see in print to include anyone who identifies as female, biology aside — a stand-in for woman/women. I only see it in print because it is unpronounceable. I wouldn’t be able to decipher the word if I heard it spoken. Wom-zen? Wom-ex-en? At least my beer can had the foresight to inform me how to pronounce their neologism: Mix. 

There is growing pushback from communities targeted by these new inclusive “wxrds,” protesting their usage. With “LatinX,” English-speaking Americans are incrementally co-opting and re-writing another language, starting with words that describe the native populations. At least “WomXn” is a butchering of English to make a word that English speakers can’t pronounce. But to take a word from another language and do the same so that Spanish speakers can’t pronounce it adds insult to injury. If we can’t build a wall to keep you out, then we’ll at least appropriate your language and devolve it into something “progressive” that no longer represents you or your communities.   

The first time I saw “WomXn” in print was in an email promotion for a Thursday WomXn-only night at a local gym. I was left utterly confused, not about what “WomXn” meant but whether or not I could attend. As a cisgender (are you keeping up?) biological woman, I had no idea if this safe space for those who identify as women was safe for me. Would I be perceived as a hostile presence? Would I be ostracized? Who is excluded from this fancy new group with a fancy new name? Who belongs? 

This is yet another problem with this newspeak: it is extremely ostracizing. The intent may be inclusion but, really, it’s yet another distinction, another group for people to be sorted into. There is no overlapping of women and “WomXn”, of latino and “LatinX” populations, of Mr., Ms., and Mx. Each is a group unto itself, allowing those who have difficulty with their gender to be identified and isolated.   

There is no inclusion to be found. We are only further dividing ourselves with these nonsense terms that compartmentalize subsets of the population. There is no unity, just an overwhelming sense of “other”-ness as we sort individuals into their particular categories — strange, lonely categories that keep us a nation divided.  

  

Magdalena Moreno is a wife, mother of four, and Assistant Managing Editor for the NOR: opening mail, answering the phones and sending out renewals -- and now blogging, too!

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