The truth is, even as a writer and a person who absolutely ADORES words and language, sometimes words still really freak me out! Big long words with unknown origins, words that sound like other words but have nothing to do with each other, word imposters and word villains! Throughout my degree at UBC (I majored in Creative Writing & minored in Women’s and Gender Studies,) I often felt intimidated by certain words and terms and academic ‘JARGON’, but I learned to speak and write in it, albeit not fluently. But now that I’m out of university I continue to stumble upon word monsters and word gremlins that keep me up at night. And I worry that much of the language that I use is inaccessible to others. I think, what if my words are their boogiemen!? I don’t want my words to intimidate, confuse, silence, or scare. I want them to excite, ignite, strengthen, communicate, and liberate.
Coming from a position of privilege, as a white, able-bodied, financially-secure Canadian woman with all the technological means to look up the words I need at anytime (via smart-phone, lap-top, online connections, university networks etc.) I still find a lot of language extremely confusing and alienating. Even with the internet at my disposal, I find that adequate definitions are often really difficult to find. Even though I am very passionate about anti-oppression and feminism, I think these words and much of the language surrounding them, confuse, isolate and scare. And not everyone can go take a class or a whole degree about it! So, how can we work towards a world that is more inclusive, equal, safe, fun, and engaging for everyone when the language and words we are using are totally exclusive?
I am often too embarrassed to speak up when words or ideas just sound like jibberish to me, and I am really interested to find out how many others out there feel like me: feel isolated by language, and silenced by inaccessible words. During our time working as co-editors-in-chief for Ignite (UBC’s Women’s and Gender Studies Undergraduate Journal) Shiphrah and I, had many conversations about words and language and accessibility, and I was both thrilled and relieved to find that she, too shares many of my thoughts and experiences with the inaccessibility of some academic feminist language.
In my creative writing classes, our professors would always tell us: you need to learn how to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’. You need to be able to map it out, paint the picture with your words. But I think, sometimes, just words by themselves are not enough. My goal for this project is to create a website and eventually a book that shows people the meaning of words and terms using not just definitions and other words, but pictures, diagrams, art. I want to chalk it out until it all makes sense! And in doing so, I hope to connect, communicate, and learn from and with all different people and communities. I want to create a dictionary together, that is functionary, that is FUN, that is chalk-full of pictures, and chalk ART! So let’s get chalking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!