So many words about words. Thoughts about their impact. Their direction.
Does feminised jargon like SHEO inspire or infantilise? Is mainsplaining fair when condescendingly explaining the obvious isn’t an exclusively male domain? Are we bringing women down when we call each other gorgeous or are we building each other up?
I think of Rupi Kaur’s apology:
i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that
That’s the problem with words. They are given one way and taken another. And the gap in between can stretch for miles.
That gap makes me wonder about my love of “lovely”. I used it to address my friends constantly. Hello lovely. Thanks lovely. See you soon lovely.
The lovely in that greeting means “you are a joy”. It means “I feel lucky to have you in my life.” It means “you are so wonderful to be around.” It means “I enjoy our friendship”. When I address the wonderful people within this community as lovely, it means “I really appreciate you being here – it means a lot to me”.
I wonder if that’s what’s read and heard. Or whether it comes across as shallow and dismissive.
I don’t call the stranger behind the counter, lovely. It’s not an empty word, easily passed around. It’s not “dear”.
I don’t call my husband lovely. Even though he is quite lovely. It’s a term divorced of any romantic leaning.
It’s a sobriquet full of friendly affection.
But maybe I should be saying Hello Brilliant. Thanks Courageous. See you soon Extraordinary.
But it doesn’t work. It’s awkward.
Positive words aren’t necessarily interrupted positively.
One of my lovely friends and I were listening to a podcast. Mia Freedman said that women hesitate to describe themsleves or other women as ambitious. That it is always delivered with side eye and the implication that ambition comes with a host of machilivian tendencies. My friend and I immediately assured each other that ambitious only meant good things in our minds.
Because we get each other. And I think all those I address as “lovely” get it.
The gap between intention and understanding closes when you know each other. You get a know a person and their nuances. Certain words that would ordinarily rankle, soften when given context. My friends know that if I call them beautiful it’s so much more than skin deep. They know that I refer to their minds, their hearts and the wonder they bring into the world.
So I’ll continue calling those I love, lovely. Because they are.
Do you have any words that you use all the time and worry about how they might be construed?