Arts & Entertainment
Parting Glances: Lost Language of S/he
By Charles Alexander
Originally printed 6/5/2014 (Issue 2223 - Between The Lines News)
As a post-pubescent teenager growing up on Detroit's Peterboro Street - just down the block from still-standing Burton Elementary School, recently turned movie and music theater venue - I spoke a made-up language called Quinish.
I have no idea why we who "spoke" it - I think that there were about three of us close buddies - one of whom I was more than aurally intimate with - that called it Quinish.
In a neighborhood somewhat streety and just a little, watch-out! rough and tumble, our shared secret language acted as both bonding and buffer. All for one. One for each other. Call the Quinish Embassy! Ereh omesc roublet!
Maybe the Quinish title gave our conversation an international flavor and conferred upon us speakers a certain hoped for worldly sophistication (It was cheaper and faster than memorizing Berlitz Spanish body parts and cuss words. Cajones, notwithstanding.)
We speakers of Quinish were under the delusion that it kept our devious plans and caustic commentary about too noisy adults off-limits to them. And! Quinish was simplicity itself. Take the first letter of a word, put it at the end of that word, and speak the hybrid vowel-cruncher as fast as possible.
There were of course competing "secret" street languages. Pig Latin is one, and more than likely still in the intellectual acumen of most of my PG readers. There's also Carney Talk, a patois of side-show barkers who needed to identify the proverbial, "There's a sucker born every minute."
QUINISH: Et-guh hoos-wuh werekuh. PIG LATIN: Et-gay Oos-hay Were-quay. CARNEY TALK: Gee-as-sit Who-as-zits G-as-ay (Excuse my ineptness with Get-Who's-Gay requisite accents. My language skills are somewhat rustic, er, rusty with age and viable cocktail party or brunch usage opportunities.)
It pleases me to no end - six decades now since speaking historic Quinish - to hear occasionally spoken these days the Lost Language of S/he. For many of us old timers it is the language of gay/lesbian survival. The verbal tool for honing our Goddess-given, innate gaydar. Closet speak that often works.
(Do keep it in mind, that there actually was a time, mid-last-century, when one could coyly ask the question, "Are you gay?" And, believe it or not, get the frequent answer, "Yes! I'm happy aren't you?") As for the Lost Language of S/he: it is, like Quinish, camouflage itself.
If you want to keep straights out of your personal, private, romantic or sexual business, simply change your pronouns, substituting she for he; or, vice versa, he for she, if you play golf, rugby or touch football.Charles@pridesource.com