October 24th, 2003

bald australia sepia

On Failure to Fully Flaunt Grice's Fourth Maxim (of Manner)

Dinner conversation tonight was great. It's nice to have new friends to just shoot the shit with.

But I wish I could zap a key to my inner sarcastic monologue into people's brains.

Tonight the phrase that came out of my mouth multiple times was "to go balls out" as in "you could soften the language in that article or you could go balls out and publish it with the call to violent revolution left in."

Traditionally such a phrase would suggest that the "brave", "manly", or "macho" thing to do would be to publish the article uneditted. But because I don't attribute any special positive value to masculinity and attribute a general negative value to machismo, the phrase means to me that that option, while the more risky, is probably (slightly) the more illadvised course of action. It was an indirect way of suggesting that I thought editting was a better way to go, hiding behind a (heartfelt) compliment about how radical the uneditted version was. If I had substituted "brave" for "balls out" in the sentence it would have implied a totally different judgement about which option was better.

I use this and similar phrases a lot to sarcastically poke fun at the positive associations of masculinity in our language. I like to use macho phrases in particularly inappropriate moments, such as refering to actions taken by females ("she's really got balls") or a traditionally feminine act ("someday I'll get up the balls to wear a skirt").

A similar thing is to tell a woman she has "manly biceps". In my head this does not imply that the pinacle of muscular coolness for a woman is to be like a man. Saying it like that, instead, to me, evokes the silliness of thinking that men are neccessarily stronger than women. There's nothing "manly" about a woman's strong biceps...most actual men have flabby biceps.

I don't think of this kind of analysis when I'm actually saying the phrases. The phrases just feel right and make me giggle on the inside. I don't sit there thinking "maybe I'll flaunt Grice's maxim of manner by using a macho cliche". I just do it because it's funny (to me) and it flows and I think it will bring levity to the conversation.

Tonight I got (lightly) chastised by the woman that I was talking to because talking about "going balls out" was excluding her from the conversation.

This is a problem I have from time to time with people who do not realize that ANY time I say anything mean or rude I am being sarcastic. I am sarcastic A LOT. duck2ducks and I had some kind of falling out over this years and years ago, as I remember. Then we both grew up a little bit and the crisis passed. Obviously I can not expect people to find funny the things that are funny in my head. Obviously I can't be as deeply entrenched in Zach-speak with new friends as I can with my oldest friends who are plugged into my rhythm (and whose rhythm I myself am plugged into). I can't expect someone who doesn't know me that well to automatically think "Zach would NEVER say a thing like that and mean it...ergo he must not mean it that way...".

I think sometimes I (falsely) associate failure to assume that I mean well with failure to trust me in general with unwillingness to really be my friend. I associate it with a failure of empathy on my part. When someone corrects some speech of mine that they find insensitive I am really set back, I feel that I've really disappointed them, that I've lost MAJOR radical cred, that I've been filed away into the "oaf" box.

I know I worry much too much about such things. I really hope the folks reading this LJ don't think I am constantly dysfunctional with worry about this stuff. It crosses my mind as an interesting concern, I like to share it because this is a journally place, but it doesn't bother me day in and day out. I know my friends still love me even if I am an oaf sometimes.

Still. I wish I could zap a key to my inner sarcastic monologue into people's brains.