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Evolution of Language

A Journey of Self-Acceptance while living on the Spectrum.

By Susan Eileen Published 2 years ago 5 min read

On a family trip to Cincinnati, a most unusual hobby was born. You see, I have always been interested in the evolution of language, fonts to enhance a book, and finding new words in books that I read.

I digress, my family and I went to visit the American Sign Museum in Cinncinnati. If have the same interests I do, I suggest you visit if you find yourself in Cincinnati. It is about the evolution of fonts in advertising. But that really has nothing to do with my dictionary, Metropolitan Jargon. Let me take you on a journey of self-acceptance, as most word aficionados will not ever create a dictionary, and how I have arrived at the knowledge that being on the spectrum will lead to the most curious hobbies indeed.

My youngest daughter has always been a handful. During this trip she was whispering her complaints in my ear, much to my chagrin. In a fit of almost rage, I told her stop whisper bitching. My now son-in-law, jokingly said to submit whisper bitching to Urban Dictionary. On a lark, I did so and a curious past time was born.

As an educator, I know Bloom’s taxonomy, the framework for K-12 teaching, indicates that the pinnacle of learning is creation. In other words, when you really know when the knowledge is internalized, creation is possible. I have been making up my own expressions my whole life. I speak in analogies and make up words. The ability to create new words fascinated me. It also was spurred on and influenced by one of my favorite books, a sure to be classic in the future.

When I tell people who my favorite book is “The Professor and the Madman” and that it’s the history of the English Oxford Dictionary, I have a pretty good idea of what people must be thinking. (I might add that it was last book my mother ever gave me, so I’m sure there’s some nostalgia there, too…). Although it is about the dictionary, it also is about the Civil War and asylums for the criminally insane. As it turns out, one of the dictionary’s biggest contributors was writing from an asylum. He contributed over 10,000 words from the privacy of his hospital room.

James Murray was the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and Dr. W. C. Minor is considered its most prolific contributor. What Murray didn’t realize is that Dr. Minor was contributing from an asylum for the criminally insane. Minor had lived in America. He joined the army right before Gettysburg and became unhinged at the Battle of the Wilderness. He was plagued with delusions of militant Irishmen coming to kill him after he had been forced to brand a D (for “deserter”) on an Irishman. One night, after he returned to living in London, during one of these delusions, he killed an Irishman. This event led to a life inside an asylum, where he surely read the appeals for submissions to the English Oxford Dictionary.

“The Professor and the Madman” is an imaginative re-telling of these two ”inextricably and most curiously entwined” lives, framed by the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be and the history of dictionary making itself (a more rambunctious profession than one would expect).

​Shakespeare didn’t use a dictionary. The first English dictionaries appeared about the time of Shakespeare’s death, listed only ”hard” or ”choice” words; the earliest were arranged not alphabetically, but by subject. ‘‘The English language was spoken and written – but at the time of Shakespeare it was not defined, not fixed. It was like the air, taken for granted, this medium that enveloped and defined all Britons. But as to exactly what it was, what its components were – who knew?”

It’s ironic that the Oxford English Dictionary, now revered ”as a last bastion of cultured Englishness, a final echo of value from the greatest of all modern empires,” would demonstrate by the degree to which English is not fixed, but endlessly changing".

I noticed, year after year, that words crept into my language – wardrobe malfunction, tot mom, humblebrag, Arab Spring, 99 percenters.It was while I was reading about planking, that I discovered horsemaning. Horse-maning is the act of posing for a photograph in such a way that the subject appears to have been beheaded, their head resting on the ground or on a surface. Such photography was a fad in the 1920's. The practice derives its name from the Headless Horseman, an evil character from Washington Irving‘s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

I wanted to be a part of a new dictionary, one of my own creation, one that was fun and slightly salicious like Urban Dictionary, only a tiny bit classier. A hobby was born… Just this year, I came across whisper bitching in “The Book Thief”. One of the characters had said something, and the description of how they spoke was “It was a shout delivered as a whisper.”

I, alike Dr. Minor, now submit words to Urban Dictionary for publication. Like Tedious chaos, Bosnian Mountain Time, and the original that started it all, Whisper Bitching.

I’ll let you be the judge whether I belong to an institution for the criminally insane or not… I, however, tend to view myself a visionary, if I embrace my authentic self. Living on the spectrum will lead to curious hobbies, and I should worry not about being "normal."

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About the Creator

Susan Eileen

I am an aspiring writer currently writing a book on the Sober Revolution we are in the midst of, a book about essays that will change the way you think, and a novel about a serial killer. I am also working on a book of poetry.

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