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Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Ross’s Ramblings: As society slowly changes, so does our language
Paddleboard instructor Tim Balasiuk with his plus one enjoying a lesson on the Niagara River. Ross Robinson

How do we manage to stay abreast of the changes in our world and the evolution of our words?

Long ago, in the days before computers and mobile phones, life must have moved so slowly, as letters and knowledge travelled by ship, stagecoach and slender people running.

And how about the fascinating concept of carrier pigeons? Not so long ago.

By definition, “language is a system for the expression of thoughts and feelings by the use of spoken sounds or conventional symbols.”

In our world, it is tiring just trying to keep up. Think of how the meaning of the word “Indian” has changed. And just one generation ago, “to be gay” meant “to be happy, in a lighthearted, fun mood.”

I may have not been paying attention, but just last month, I heard the expression “plus one” for the first time.

Brilliant, and such a great replacement for the often awkward word on invitation envelopes. With the ever-increasing terms we have due to the LGBTQ+ labelling, “plus one” is so simple, so all encompassing. So perfect.

But it’s potentially confusing for me, as my favourite golf outfits include dashing “plus fours,” practical trousers that provide coverage and modesty, and also avoid mud or rain stains. My Pinehurst specials.

But I ramble. Let’s get back to the term “plus one.” A loose definition from my thick Collins Dictionary says, “A person who accompanies an invited guest to an event or gathering at which guests are allowed to bring a companion or partner.”

Synonyms include “colleague, mate, wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, pal, chum, escort, sweetheart, lover, date, armpiece, offsider or cobber (in ‘Australier’), squeeze, person-of-convenience,” and the list goes on.

Trying to keep up with the rapid changes in our society, since 2009 I have made an annual GO train and TTC day trip to Yonge and Dundas for the Pride Parade. (And now, Niagara-on-the-Lake is finally going to get a Pride rainbow crosswalk.)

This whole alternate lifestyle thing is no longer fringe. It’s mainstream. The tens of thousands of participants, and the spectators lining the parade route, may not agree with everything going on, but we all show support and love for everyone’s right to make their own choices.

Myriad groups participate in the parade. The banks, political parties, religious groups, sporting types, school boards, ethnic societies, professional groups, fire departments and police departments, EMS, and lifestyle choice affinity groups. It seems almost everyone is loving one another.

How about the great banner this year saying, “Love is too beautiful to keep in the closet.” Or the elderly lady being pushed in her wheelchair by a much younger man with her sign, “I love my gay grandson.”

For over two hours, we were treated to creativity, pride, enthusiasm and humour. Spontaneous shout outs, music, dancing.

It seems we have to label everyone, so my favourite sign at this year’s Pride Parade said, in very big letters, “Labels are for canned soups.”

So there we go, eh?

Change on, learn on and love on.


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