There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words. - Thomas Reid
In case it has escaped your notice, I use an awful lot of words; I publish over 1000 of them every day in regular columns, and that’s not even counting indexes and other static pages. All in all, that comes to roughly 500,000 words per year, or about 1.5 million since I started. You’ve probably also noticed that I choose them quite carefully; as I wrote in “Nasty Words”,
…words are my tools, and I cherish them and baby them the way a good mechanic cares for the tools of his trade. And just as a good mechanic always uses the right tool for the job rather than trying to make do with whatever happens to be nearby, so I insist on using the right word; if I can’t find it right away I’ll sometimes sit staring at the monitor thinking, or else typing and deleting a number of different ones until I’m satisfied…by the time most of you read any given column, you can be reasonably sure that any word you see is the exact one I wanted to use, even if it’s one that you have to look up (as some of you are fond of teasing me).
Sometimes, there isn’t an extant word or phrase which means exactly what I want it to mean, so I have to invent one; at other times, a word or phrase has a broad range of meanings or variations of meaning, of which I tend to use only one. Inevitably, both of these cause some confusion, especially in newer readers; I therefore think it’s long past time I publish a lexicon of terms I’ve invented, adopted or use in one specific manner. If you notice I’ve missed one, please mention it in the comments so I can add it to the permanent version. Terms on which I’ve published a whole column include a link to that column.
Ad scortum: A logical fallacy in which someone discounts a person’s argument not on its own merits, but rather on the grounds that she is a prostitute.
Archeofeminism: The recognition that men and women are already socially equal by nature, and the only way in which we become socially unequal is by the actions of laws.
Bottleneck effect: The principle that the greater the number of artificial restrictions placed upon any given human behavior, the greater the number and severity of undesirable effects such as violence, corruption, criminality, marginalization, etc.
Clipboard effect: The phenomenon that if an individual behaves as though he belongs in a place (such as by wearing a white coat and carrying a clipboard when in a hospital), everyone will assume that he does belong there.
Courtesan denial: The pretense that some or all kinds of sex workers in pre-modern times (including courtesans and sacred harlots) either did not exist at all or were somehow fundamentally different from modern sex workers, so that the latter cannot be validly compared to the former.
Driskill Mountain syndrome: My term for the inability of those who have been blessed with relatively untraumatic lives to recognize that the difficulties they have experienced are far less serious than those of people who have had relatively troubled lives.
Eglimaphilia: A paraphilia in which the chief excitement of seeing a prostitute is derived from the illegality of the act.
Enlightenment police: Those who believe that their ideas about proper living need to apply to everyone else’s personal preferences. See also universal mores, fallacy of.
Ice cream in the hand: A metaphor for female sexual response: “Imagine how a woman might react if somebody…[unexpectedly] slapped a scoop of ice cream into her hand…It isn’t that she doesn’t like ice cream; it’s just that she doesn’t want a nasty scoop of cheap vanilla ice cream slapped into her previously-clean hand by some random stranger when she wasn’t even in the mood for dessert…”
Lawhead: “One who believes that man-made laws are actually based in objective reality like physical laws; he is unable to comprehend that the majority of laws are completely arbitrary, and therefore views a violation of a ‘vice law’ with the same horror that normal people reserve for rains of toads or spontaneous human combustion.” For example, a lawhead believes that because a 17-year-old is defined as a “child”, he actually is a child in some fashion that meaningfully reflects reality.
Morality: Though many people use this word to mean “sexual mores”, I always use it in the larger sense of “[the set of] rules which nearly every sane, decent person accepts as governing interpersonal relations,” chief among which is that unprovoked violence against others or their possessions is wrong.
Myth: A framework or paradigm used to explain and interpret observable phenomena in the absence of (or contrary to) hard data, usually via the involvement of a supernormal force or entity which is not discernible by ordinary means and therefore must be taken on faith. Mythology is a body of related myths and procedures derived from those myths which act together to provide a faith-based world view.
Myth of the wanton: The irrational belief that the sex drive of women is greater and more uncontrollable than that of men. See also slave-whore fantasy.
Neofeminism: The irrational belief that there are no natural behavioral differences between the sexes and that all gender (other than genital dimorphism) is “socially constructed”. Neofeminists believe that if infant boys were “socialized” in the same way as girls they would act exactly like girls, even into manhood. The female standard of behavior is viewed as the “correct” one, thus normal male behavior is considered pathological.
Profession of faith: Nearly all religions have some basic creed statement which believers state in order to demonstrate their adherence to the religion; that of the “trafficking” cultists is, “A lot of people think trafficking doesn’t happen in [the place about which I’m speaking], but it does.”
Prohibitionist: One who believes that certain consensual human behaviors can and should be prohibited by laws enforced via violence and intrusive government surveillance.
Pygmalion fallacy: The belief that robot simulations of women could be competition for real ones to anyone outside a narrow segment of the population. Adherents fail to recognize that “any gynoid whose physical form and simulated functions…were indistinguishable from those of a human woman, and whose personality was sufficiently unpredictable and unique to pass as that of a woman in the close interaction of a date, would also be sufficiently human to pass any test a court might devise for granting human rights, and would almost certainly be interested in obtaining such.”
Rhinoceros effect: The tendency for any mass movement, no matter how ugly and destructive, to grow in popularity until many who once opposed it now defend and may even join it.
Secret Squirrel: Any device or procedure designed to ensure secrecy which is so disproportionately rigorous or extreme in comparison to its subject matter as to constitute a parody of such devices or procedures (from the American cartoon character of the 1960s).
Sex rays: The irrational belief that any adult sexual activity is so dangerous to the imagined “innocence” of children (including adolescents), that adults who are known to have been sexual in any way (outside of conventional marriage) must be kept from having any contact with them whatsoever; extreme cases of the belief even demand the quarantine of inanimate objects (including structures) with which sexually-active adults have come into contact.
Slave-whore fantasy: Self-doubting men have a deep and abiding need to believe that sex is not under female control, so they immerse themselves in a lurid, exciting and adolescent fantasy that female sexuality is always controlled by men (pimps and customers), and that all heterosexual women who are not owned by husbands are instead owned by “pimps” and “traffickers”.
Universal criminality: The establishment of so many complex, broad, vague, mutually contradictory and intrusive laws that every single person is in violation of at least some of them at any given time.
Universal mores, fallacy of: The false belief that everyone feels the same (negative and/or conflicted) way about sex as the believer does.
Vulgar: “Honest discussion of sex…is not vulgar. Nor is the use of one-syllable Anglo-Saxon words…when I speak of vulgarity I mean leering, childish, dirty-sounding ‘euphemisms’ for sexual acts and body parts which are actually much more offensive than just using the four-letter words.”
Whorearchy: The tendency for sex workers of any given type to imagine that they are “better” than other types of sex workers; the problem is exacerbated by laws which arbitrarily define some kinds of sex work as “legal” or “illegal”.