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The New Thing

“What’s up, Semple Jenkins. You’re moving pretty fast out here.”

“Tryna get home with this stationery to finish this letter to my folks down South. I thought it would only take a few minutes, but my godson decided to help me. He from college like you. So I ran out of paper.” Semple extended his right hand to display the plastic bag from the drugstore containing a writing pad, some new pens, and a variety of candy.

“I’m not sure I get the connection,” said Junior Boyd. “Do you mean that his helping you has elongated the process?”

“Not stretched. Just twisted. It’s the new thing. I had to keep starting over because I try to make a good impression with letters. I sat down and wrote ‘Hi, Folks’ the way I be doing. Folks. He stopped me and said it should be Folx. I know he from college, but it didn’t sit right with me.”

“He was trying to get you to make a stronger statement of solidarity. The x is often used to create non-binary terms to resist patriarchal norms and indicate support of marginalized populations.”



“He was saying something like that, but I was, like, these my folks; we solid already. All margins is in this crew, including him. I figure he on the margin of something. Anyway, we went back and forth and he wore me down with all that education. So it didn’t feel right, but I did it. I got a new piece of paper and wrote ‘Hi, Folx, How is everybodyx?’ Then my godson started laughing and say I didn’t have to do all that. He say everybody is everybody. Don’t need an x. I didn’t get it. I’m thinking if everybody everybody, why ain’t my folks my folks? But I fixed it. Wanted to cooperate. Got another piece of paper. But then I was confused and wrote, ‘Does anybodyx know the exact dates of the family reunion?’ So that was another piece of paper. You understand where this was headed, Junior Boyd.”

“I see. But you know, Semple, language has to evolve with the times.”

“I figured you would say something like that. I needed you there when he was lecturing about the pronouns. He said I wouldn’t necessarily mess up this particular letter too much, but he said I should find out what people’s pronouns are. And I should declare my own. I’m not sure I even know how to do all that.”

“It is not a difficult task,” laughed his friend. “The exaggerative aspects of your personality never cease to amaze me. You merely ask and state your own preferences.”

“But what if I don’t wanna be doing all that?”

“If you don’t, you could be considered to be exercising an invisible, hegemonic power.”

“You got your money’s worth with them words. But we go way back. You know I ain’t never powered much visible or invisible.”

“On that I concede,” nodded Junior Boyd with a sigh.

“Junior, who pick the evolving thing? Who do have the power? I remember people scribbling Amerika with a k and Amerikkka with three of them and Afrika with a k. That was, like you would say, a solidarity thing. But I don’t see that too much now. I need to know more about how these things flow.”

“I’m glad you mentioned flow. You have to remember that identification with pronouns is fluid. You have to keep asking about them because people can change preferences.”

You have to keep asking? You mean me. Today a he and a him. Man, that’s too much like playing the numbers. Is you 513 today? Or it could be like what the Five Percenters ask, “What’s today’s mathematics?”

“There you go again with exaggeration, Semple.”

“I’m just saying. You say it’s about the times. Let me turn on the news and let them start out the day saying it’s the 12th. Knowledge. Wisdom. And hold true to that.”


#TheLanguageLane #KeithGilyard #Semple