Word view

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

The cover story this week is a typically great feature from our news ace, Dennis Myers. He dives into the history of gay Nevada, as told in author Dennis McBride’s new book, Out of the Neon Closet.

In the story, Dennis mentions that some readers might find McBride’s “free use of the term queer jarring.” This caught my eye, because to me, queer was long ago reclaimed by the gay community as positive and self-affirming—or, at the very least, a neutral term. “Queer studies” has been an academic discipline for decades.

It got me thinking about how so many of these terms—the ones used to classify, separate and distinguish people—not coincidentally began life as pejoratives, as insults to be flung.

It can be difficult to keep up with what terms are considered socially acceptable or politically correct. There’s some value in this. Language should be reevaluated. It’s a work in progress, subject to constant revision. And sometimes language choice can reveal prejudices (just think of Donald Trump’s obnoxious, tone-deaf Tweet last year: “The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”).

But I also sometimes wonder if peaceful messages are sometimes lost because the writers used the wrong terms. As when parents don’t think The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be taught in school because of its racially charged language.

In general, we at the RN&R try to stay current. We mostly follow Associated Press guidelines, but sometimes we try to be more progressive—AP was still capitalizing “Internet” until last year.

And sometimes it’s tough to make the right calls. Should “gay” be used as a noun or just an adjective? How many letters can be appended to LGBTQIA+ without it becoming a joke? Now that the Washington Post has adopted “they” as a gender-neutral third-person pronoun, should we follow suit?

Many marijuana advocates now prefer the term cannabis instead of marijuana, but personally, I like reefer.