Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches”
— Margaret Atwood; The Haidmaid’s Tale.

(broken Latin, meaning ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’)

Many will recognise this quote from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (and the subsequent – and epic – Hulu adaptation for the small screen). But where does this ‘fake’ Latin phrase originate? Michael Fontaine, a classics professor from Cornell University; and this blog’s author, Ryan Vandeput, an English Literature Masters Graduate from the University of Leicester, took their best guesses.

“It was likely an old school joke, for those who took Latin class. It’s not really ‘true’ Latin; rather, it sounds like something a school pupil made up for fun. It might even be something Margaret Atwood remembers from her schooling & childhood” surmised Vandeput. Another similar Latin joke phrase with the same supposed translation is “illegitimi non carborundorum,” which Fontaine noted was equally fake—though it’s perhaps a little more legit as Latin, since it at least doesn’t use the made-up “bastardes.”

“Illegitimi is a real Latin word,” Fontaine continues. “It could indeed mean ‘bastards’ (though it’s not the usual word, which is spurius or nothos).”

“My guess is that c. 1890-1900, some American people thought it would be funny to pretend like ‘carborundum’ was actually a Latin word meaning ‘needing to be worn down’ or (making allowances for ignorance, which is surely part of it) ‘to wear down.’ If the phrase was originally illegitimis non carborundum, then the original idea was that ‘there must not be a wearing down (of you) by the bastards,’ or in plain English, ‘don’t let the bastards get you down.’ Either then or soon after, illegitimis would have become illegitimi, which changes the grammar, but most English speakers can’t tell because our grammar doesn’t work that way. That would pretty quickly give you illegitimi non carborundum”

“The key to the mystery is knowing that carborundum was a trade name (for an abrasive scrubbing powder used for cleaning),” he continued. “Whatever it was, it’s not in use any more, so we’ve lost all memory of it. Nowadays it just looks like a strange, broken Latin word to us,” Fontaine concluded.

— Ryan Vandeput, 2018

Loss

‘And loss, strangely, can attune you to what is beautiful about existence, even as it wounds you with what is awful.’ — Ryan Vandeput

‘I thought that love could last forever. I was wrong.’ — W. H. Auden

Pride Season: How we can learn from the Stonewall Uprising, even today.

This year marks the 50th anniversary since simply being gay was no longer a crime. 

In 1967, changes in the law in the UK meant that homosexuality was at last decriminalised. In fact, it was what happened at the Stonewall uprising over in the United States that heralded in a new dawn for gay rights. Indeed, the very first Pride march took place shortly after these riots and have evolved into what we now recognise as annual gay pride. It surprises me all the time that so many people from the LGBT community have no idea of origin of pride. It’s not just a big gay knees-up. Yes, it’s great to celebrate the achievements of those before us, but we must never forget that there is still much to do. Social attitudes have changed, but more could be done. Government policy has moved forward, but not enough. Laws have been made or amendmended, but not where total equality is possible. Religious stances are evolving for the better, but at a ridiculously slow pace. In short, there is still much to be achieved, and while most see Pride as a great time to party, let us not forget why pride came about, and why we now have our freedom to love whoever we choose. Let us remember that there is still a need for activism, to better the lives of LGBT people everywhere, at home and abroad. 

“Let us remember that there is still a need for activism, to better the lives of LGBT people everywhere…”

We also need to look within ourselves. The once safe inclusivity of the community is being lost. We are quickly forgetting that it was a need for activism, because of persecution from other societal or religious groups, that brought us together as a movement in the first place. It wasn't being in cliques and ‘type categories’ that segregate us and push us apart. Much of the non-LGBTQ community is full of its very own negative stereotypes, abuse, slurs and hate towards us, without our own community adding to it – and we do. We need to remember what is important. An idealistic viewpoint is that we need to love and respect each other all over again.

We need to recognise that even today, when we feel that so much has been done for the LGBTQ community, so much more can be achieved and that there is always that call to arms, that call to fight; there is always opportunity for activism. Let your battle cry be heard!

For the most part, we’re doing great, but as my teachers often said, we “could do better.”

Finally, if you’re a reader from the non-LGBTQ community and wondering why there is no ‘Straight Pride’, remember this: gay pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So, instead of wondering why there isn’t a Straight Pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.

Happy Pride Season!

If you’re interested in watching the incredible documentary on the Stonewall riots, you can watch Stonewall Uprising here:

http://www.pbs.org/video/1889649613/

(If you’re outside the USA, find a good VPN client. I recommend BetterNet, which is available free on AppStores and online.)

You are loved.

Quote Card - Twitter - Old Style copy.jpg

“Life is short. I often find myself lost in thought about those little, sometimes unnoticed, but very special moments in life. These moments are often fleeting, are buried in the minutiae of life, and yet they sparkle with the piercing iridescence of tiny stars on a sky of black velvet. There is still beauty in everything. Even in darkness.”
— Ryan Vandeput

It’s not about living anymore, it’s about surviving. I’m dying on the inside, and it has to stop. My grandmother always used to say “tell the truth and shame the devil.” So I guess it’s time to shame that arcane, evil bastard.

I wish, just for once, I would allow this inferno of a pressure cooker inside me to just explode, gushing out a scalding geyser of everything that’s making life pretty helpless, painful and empty, in a glorious maniacal onslaught. I wish I could tell you what a shitty existence I feel I’ve fallen into, through no fault of my own, and how deeply and unavoidably unhappy I currently am. I wish I didn’t have to hide this disease, often for the preservation of others, often to appear normal and healthy on the outside. I wish I wasn’t so good at applying and wearing undetectable makeup with the only purpose of giving me the appearance of health and glowing vitality. I wish I saw a bright future ahead of me, with exciting adventures to seize with unquestioning, open arms. I wish I didn’t often see potential love – and even the world – casually pass me by. I wish I didn’t crave the love of ‘one’ so intensely. I wish I wasn’t alone. I wish I didn’t daydream about a life with my very own beautiful children, only to shed many a tear over the children I will never have; that’s one of the things that hurts me the most deeply of all.

I wish I could grab a bag and run out of the house at five minutes notice because a friend surprised me with a weekend away or just for a perfectly spontaneous dinner date. I wish I didn’t promise to join friends when I’m invited to do something incredible & life-changing, or just invited do something wonderfully everyday, like going to the shops and laughing at silly things. Or being asked to travel the globe and feel the sand between my toes… because at that very point they asked me to join them, I knew I had already broken my promise before I even said yes; because as naïve as I am, I always believed there was hope, and I might be strong enough/well enough to make it, maybe next week or in a month or two. In reality, that’s rarely the case. Hope now seems more akin to a malevolent entity, or a cruel mistress. Now, joyful excitement feels too much like fear.

There’s more, so much more I could say. However, I can’t; doing so, in my naked and raw truth, and to completely lay oneself bare, is an impossibly. In doing so, I would alienate the few friends I have left, because nobody wants to hear that, and really, no one should. So I censor my self-pitying self and psyche, so not to rock the boat, to keep things nice and neat and sterile and reliable, as its always been. Heaven forbid I might appear a weirdo, a freak, a depressing force that will only drag you down. I can’t post certain ‘arty’ photos I take, because some find them uncomfortable and read too much into them… and then ask me if I feel suicidal, which I do not. If art provokes an emotional response, even if that response makes one uncomfortable, doesn’t that mean the art is doing its job? Anyway, isn’t that a little irrelevant? Think about it.

There’s very little left of me these days – even I miss the old me. I’m dying on the inside, and I’m so desperate to live again. Despite my all the shattered pieces and shards of razor sharp glass strewn at my feet, I still have so much love to give, and to give freely, unconditionally. This existence has to stop. My worry is that there might only be a handful of straws left, and my back might already be too weak…

From what I’ve seen, most people with an opinion on this horror in Orlando are trying to claim or disclaim it for something:

– He did it for ISIS.
– He acted on his own without orders.
– This was an Islamism-inspired massacre.
– It was a homophobic massacre.
– He was gay or had gay tendencies.

It is perfectly possible for all the above statements to be simultaneously true, and highly likely they are. Yet they are being treated as if they contradict one another.

The victims were targeted because they were gay. That matters, and it particularly matters to gay people – why shouldn’t it? As the slaughter of Jews in the streets of Europe and Israel has shown us, when people are being murdered simply for being the thing they are, that is terrifying thought, and rightly so. It does make it about you, more so than about everybody else – whether you like it or not, and trust me, it’s “not”. So it’s all very well taking the line, “This was an attack on all of us, on our society, on our freedoms,” and yes, it was. But the dead people are gay people, and to treat that as somehow secondary is adding insult to grotesque and unfathomable injury.

Islamist groups, by their cult-like nature and grandiose rhetoric, inevitably attract the disaffected, the fucked-up and violent – whether directly or claiming to act in their name – because they give those people a cause, licence and purpose with which to gratify their ugly impulses, even if they know fuck-all about that cause. Other causes and groups have performed the same function over the years. But this is where the problem lies *right now*, so it’s highly relevant.

The whole “This has nothing to do with religion” line is plainly wishful thinking. It has a great deal to do with religion. But what is also true is if you took religion out of the equation, abominations like this scumbag would find something else to latch onto – and then we’d have to look for a way to address that. Cults and causes provide the channel, the amplification, for the nasty to become the deadly. Islamism is the major such channel *today*, which is when we live; and Islamism subsists within Islam, not separately to it; so we need to recognise that.

Those desperate to exonerate Islam entirely, and those desperate to blame it entirely while shrugging off the obvious homophobic nature of the killings (“Oh, look, he was gay, so it can’t have been homophobic!” – fucking hell, seriously? You can’t have gay homophobes? Have you thought about that for three fucking seconds?), are picking out the bits that suit their existing take on things and binning the rest.

On the obviously crucial issue of gun control, I’ve got nothing useful to say, as I can’t imagine anybody who’s ever going to read this would disagree with me on the matter, and none of us are able to have the slightest effect on it or influence those who might. So what’s the point?

But as for the rest, well: disentangling what you would like to think from what is actually going on won’t stop it going on, but it will be a start. I’ve struggled to do that myself, but I’m finding that even if you don’t want to confront reality, reality will make it its business to confront you.

Finally, nothing here is ever promised, and there but for the grace of God go you or I. Life is short, love is love, we must enjoy life in freedom and not simply exist in fear.