Larousse Concise Woke-English/English-Woke Dictionary

by Daniel A. Kaufman

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Every culture and sub-culture develops and employs its own distinctive terminology and sometimes even its own language. At times, these linguistic innovations may be difficult to understand, especially in the absence of competent bilinguals.

Perhaps one of the best contemporary examples of such a language is that of the Woke (WL).  While WL’s semantic and grammatical simplifications might tempt us to think that it is an English pidgin, WL is not a hybrid, drawing exclusively from English, and tracing its history back to white millennial hipsters and their fellow travelers. WL is also distinctive in that its terminology and common expressions are almost entirely disingenuous and manipulative. The current consensus among linguists, consequently, is that WL is much more like a cryptolect or cant than a pidgin, and much of the difficulty in translating it, is that virtually all of its distinctive terms and expressions are lexically indistinguishable from their Standard English counterparts.

Because the Woke are an insular, suspicious, and hostile people, located almost exclusively in several large cities and haphazardly distributed around a seemingly unlimited number of coffee houses and organic microbreweries, linguists have found it difficult to embed with them in such a way as to develop a solid base of bilingual speakers.

This is we why are pleased to present the latest addition to our much beloved series of concise dictionaries: The Larousse Concise Woke-English/English-Woke Dictionary.  For each entry a Woke Term or Expression (WTE) is followed by its translation into Standard English (SE)

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WTE:  ‘I use X pronouns’/‘My pronouns are X’

SE:  You’d better use X pronouns when talking about me or else.

WTE: ‘I identify as X’

SE:  You’d better publicly acknowledge that I am X or else.

WTE: ‘The X Community’

SE: X’s who agree with me.

WTE: ‘Harm’

SE:  Things I dislike that I conflate with actual injuries.

WTE: ‘Structural X-ism’

SE: A take on X-ism that justifies going after people who haven’t done anything.

WTE: ‘Privilege’

SE: Any advantage of yours that I use to justify putting you at the bottom of whatever social or dialectical space we are in.

WTE: ‘People of Color’

SE: Everyone who isn’t of European origin, excluding Asians, but only if including them takes us off-narrative.

WTE: ‘White Adjacent’

SE: Non-white people whose inclusion under ‘people of color’ takes us off narrative. [See ‘People of Color’ above.]

WTE: ‘Problematic’

SE: Any quality or thing that I dislike and which I say causes harm.  [See ‘Harm’ above]

WTE:  ‘Educate Yourself’

SE: Read the sources and hold the views that I agree with.

WTE: ‘Center X Voices’

SE: [When said to non-X] Shut up.

WTE: ‘Queering X’

SE: Reconceiving X so that it becomes impossible to make any distinctions.

WTE: ‘Holding X accountable’

SE: Destroying X’s relationships, reputations, or sources of livelihood.

WTE: ‘Right Wing’ / ‘Alt Right’

SE: Everyone I disagree with, even if they are Marxist feminists.

WTE: ‘Microaggression’

SE:  A trivial bit of speech or behavior that causes no actual injury but is used as a basis on which to claim harm.  [See ‘Harm’ and ‘Problematic’ above.]

WTE: ‘Invalidating my existence’

SE: Saying – or thinking – things about me that I dislike.

WTE: ‘Safe Space’

SE:  A physical or discursive space in which no one says or does anything I dislike. [May or may not include puppy rooms.]

WTE: ‘Decolonize the Curriculum’

SE: Get rid of as many good books and influential people as possible.

WTE: ‘Non-Consensual Co-Platforming’

SE: Being included in a group endeavor with people with whom I disagree and who are better than I am at doing whatever the group endeavor is.

WTE: ‘Violence’

SE: Anything I dislike that is said or done or not done by someone I dislike.

WTE: ‘Marginalized’

SE:  Any group of people who receive the support of and are aggressively promoted by mass media, celebrities, and gigantic corporations.

WTE: ‘X-Phobia’

SE: Any view regarding X that I dislike.

WTE: ‘Bigot’

SE: Anyone whom I accuse of X-phobia.  [See ‘X-Phobia’ above.]

WTE: ‘Ally’

SE: Someone who believes and says and does everything I want.

25 comments

  1. How about the other extreme? Which existed before this, which this is in response to? Or is it so ingrained that you don’t even see it? Start following the trail with yellow, n……r and see where you end up. Because self assured arrogance is harmful from any direction. Just a friendly suggestion…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There seems to be two schools of morality.

      One is you get your own house in order first (you look in the mirror first, as Chomsky says) and the other is that you criticize the other guy first.

      I’m of the first school as well as on the left and that’s why I put more energy into criticizing woke culture as a form of leftism than I do to criticizing the alt right, which seems to me to be self-evidently toxic and just plain stupid.

      I’m Jewish and I’m more critical of Israel than I am of Egypt or of Saudi Arabia. Israel is my house, so to speak and I try to get it in order first.

      I’m not claiming that one school of morality is “morally superior” to the other. It seems like a question of personality traits.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I saw that Noam Chomsky had signed the now notorious letter to Harpers condemning cancel culture, that things had gone too far and become too crazy was clear. Remember that a while ago I distinguished here between
        the “Chomsky-watching, Leiter reading left” and the woke left? That schism is definitive.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. People talk about Chomsky (perhaps correctly so) wrt the letter, but there are two other signers, Salman Rushdie and Kamel Daoud, who know more about the threat of being cancelled as literal physical entities, than anyone else on that list. The lack of mention of their names when discussing the letter speaks volumes.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. And when I saw the Harper’s Letter was riddled with signatories who themselves had histories of cancelling other people and events for ideas they disagreed with, I knew the whole petition was a bad faith, troll baiting, fiasco. Even Chomsky himself does not escape the rank hypocrisy. When anthropologist Daniel Everett’s field work with the Piraha in Brazil found convincing evidence contradicting Chomsky’s theories of universal grammar and recursion, Chomsky’s acolytes in Brazil pressured the government to ban Everett from further visiting the Piraha. Chomsky’s reaction to the Everett’s findings was to call him a “charlatan”. And even though Chomsky knew about Everett’s ‘cancelling’, he did not speak out, but remained conspicuously silent.

          The Harper’s Letter seems to be some kind of sick joke, and has been rightly denounced for collecting some of the worst offenders of cancel culture to sign an open letter condemning cancel culture!

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          1. I have no idea whether or not Chomsky “cancelled” someone with rival theories in linguistics and I suspect that if I research the incident you mention, I’ll find that the versions align with whether the person who writes them is pro or anti-Chomsky. We all have some sins in our past although most of us, like myself, are not famous enough for anyone to bother remembering them.

            However, the fact that some of the people who signed the Harper’s letter are guilty of cancellation in the past in no way
            shows that cancelling is not a serious problem at present.

            If you want to learn more about the present situation, listen to Dan K.’s recent dialogue in Meaning of Life TV with philosopher Russell Blackford, who, by the way, declares himself to be on the left. You might also try the most recent dialogue between the two “black guys” (that’s the way they refer to themselves), Glenn Loury and John McWhorter, in Blogging Heads TV, about how cancel culture has turned into a witch hunt.

            I suggested to my sister, a lifelong environment activist and much more politically correct and devoted to the cause than I am, that she listen to Loury and McWhorter and to my surprise, she not only agreed with them, but also found them refreshing, given the level of political correctness that she has to face daily at work and in social media.

            So something is happening and it’s not pretty, and whether or not Chomsky has a skeleton or two in his closet, like almost everyone does, is not relevant at all.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. A good start, but I have two remarks.

    1) Microbreweries. They are the greatest invention since the big beer producers destroyed every distinctive beer they could put their paws on. Perhaps woke people like microbrews, but where I live, no lover of local beers wants to associated with the woke crowd. Don’t mention “woke” and “microbrewery” in one sentence!

    2) Privilege. I agree that for woke people expressions like “structural X-ism”, “structural X-phobia” etc. usually are cheap rhetorical tricks to obfuscate the fact that their ideology stands on shaky grounds, but privilege exists. It does. I noticed it again when my wife and I were walking through the neighborhood and we saw a girl teaching young kids how to skateboard. We were surprised to hear she gave her directions in English. English? She had a thick American accent, and the kids seemed to understand her, but can you imagine being a Greek, Italian, German, French, Thai, Dutch or Albanian girl, moving to the States and expecting the local kids to understand you? I can’t. Yet there was this girl, confident that “the natives” would understand her.

    I know it’s not her fault or responsibility she’s a member of a dominant culture, but on the other hand: she did nothing to deserve it. It just happened to her and it benefitted her. It’s possible that this girl in many aspects isn’t privileged at all, that she has to work hard and take odd jobs to earn the money to get her through her degree – but it’s equally possible that the privilege of being American makes it easier. I don’t know if she understands how blessed she is, being American, but it would be nice if she would be aware of it.

    My own particular privilege is being old, old enough not to fear that my organization is going to fire me – a distinct possibility in this economic downturn created by corona. It would make a serious dent in our earnings, but we had the opportunity to save, we’re almost free of debt, we own two houses, we will survive comfortably. My younger colleagues on the other hand … massive mortgages, few opportunities to find well-paying jobs in the coming years … For the first time in my life I’m glad I’m not young anymore. Being old is a privilege nowadays, and I’m aware of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I dislike American microbrewery beer. There isn’t a single one that is better than its European counterpart. Part of the problem is their palate destroying, over the top hoppiness.

      Duvel; Chimay; Ayinger; a dozen different English Bitters; are all better than any American microbrew.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. May I add two WTE expressions from law professor and trans woman, Alex Sharpe. Sharpe distinguishes ‘trans women’ from ‘non-trans women’. This has the advantage of removing the term woman or women from our vocabulary altogether. In SE the first term means: ‘biological males who may be recognised by law as being ‘women’. But in order to do this the law creates the legal fiction that it is possible to change sex. The second term (non-trans women) simply means: women.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A statistic flashed across the television screen the other day. Approximately 62% of people in the United States admit to suppressing their opinions because such might not be viewed as acceptable.

    I think the fundamental problem is that Americans are not woke to the fact that their sincere attempt at tolerating others might actually be the problem. There should be a concerted effort throughout our society to help us realize that appreciating the other is a much more productive approach. Even those we deeply disagree with can often times teach us something:

    All innovation and progress start with the individual.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. WTE: ‘You are complicit’
    SE: You are an apt target for reproof because you are perpetuating Structural X-ism or X-phobia by choosing not to recite the anti-X-ist or anti-X-phobic liturgies or to make the approved anti-X-ist or anti-X-phobic gestures.

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  6. Why do you concede half of the ‘left’ part of the politicaI spectrum to the ‘woke left’ ? ‘Leftist’ politicaI philosophy is about three main things: (1) the economic organization of the productive and investment capacity of a society, (2) democratic structures within that productive capacity (ie workplace democracy), and (3) solidarity with people suffering from unjust/anti-democratic (mostly, but not exclusively) economic arrangements in other societies. IIRC, and I’m not confusing you with someone else (honest apologies if I am), you identify as a ‘leftist’ wrt the above definition.

    For me, PC/identity politics ‘thought’ is as much my ‘enemy’ as is free-market fundamentalist thought, as is totalitarian Stalinist thought. I see no reason why I should cede any ground to it, just because it’s in vogue. Fuck them, as they say.

    On an unrelated topic (well, not really), iirc you’re in Chile, no ? What’s happening with the plans for the referendum on reforns of the Pinochet-era constitution ?

    Thanks.

    Un abrazo fuerte.

    Like

    1. Ira Glazer,

      I assume that your comments were directed to me, not to Dan K.

      In October we in Chile are scheduled to vote on two questions: whether we want a new Constitution and whether we want that Constitution to be drawn by a Constituent Assembly or by a mixed body composed of newly elected members
      along with current congressmen. That vote was originally scheduled in April, but postponed due to the pandemic.

      If we select a new Constitution and a Constituent Assembly, there will be another election (in April, I believe) to elect the members of the Assembly. Half of the members will be women.

      They will have a certain amount of time (it was 9 months, which could be a year if necessary before the pandemic) to draw up the new Constitution, which will be approved or rejected in still another election.

      I’m not sure if we’ll be able to vote in October, due to the pandemic, but so far it hasn’t been postponed. If that is postponed, that postpones the whole process.

      According to polling, an overwhelming majority of voters want a new Constitution, to be drawn up by a Constituent assembly.

      Glad to answer any more detailed questions. Un abrazo para ti también

      Like

  7. Amusing.

    I find the use of the word ‘problematic’ in the sense given here particularly infuriating. It’s quite a lot more common than many of these other expressions too.

    What is particularly irksome about it, as a friend of mine pointed out to me when we were discussing this thr other day, is that it is weaselly. It doesn’t exactly state firmly that I myself have a problem with xyz, or that there is one, but implies that there might be or that others might think there is. (‘Potentially problematic’ is clearly even more sneaky). It is also completely nonspecific and vaguely but damningly condemns without committing to any stated thesis to which people can respond.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You know how when you learn a new word it seems to be everywhere? I read the below not long ago, come across your article, and had the same feeling. From an article in Discourse and Society from 1992:

    “the person who accuses the other as racist is in turn accused of inverted racism against whites, as oversensitive and exaggerating, as intolerant and generally as ‘seeing racism where there is none’ … Moreover, such accusations are seen to impose taboos, prevent free speech and a ‘true’ or ‘honest’ assessment of the ethnic situation. In other words, denials of racism often turn into counter-accusations of intolerant and intolerable anti-racism.”

    Just search-and replace ‘racist’ with the accusation that fits each entry in your lexicon, and it seems to work pretty well.

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  9. Trying to come up with some more definitions that are missing.
    Diversity = Woke supremacy
    Inclusion = The exclusion of everything that could potentially be `Problematic` (see `Harm` and `Problematic` above).
    Lived experience = Experience that people who aren’t Woke can’t have, therefore they are wrong.
    Equity = Arranging to get the same outcomes by treating people unequally (see `Structural X-ism`).

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  10. WTE: ‘You are complicit’
    SE: You are an apt target for reproof because you are perpetuating Structural X-ism or X-phobia by choosing not to recite the anti-X-ist or anti-X-phobic liturgies or make the approved anti-X-ist or anti-X-phobic gestures.

    Like

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