Slur in crossword puzzling

By Rachel Colberg-Parseghian

I decided to attend Macalester because I knew I would be around other people like me-weirdos. I was never ashamed of my geekosity or trying to hide it or anything, but for some reason it just wasn’t something that my friends and I would talk about very much. Arriving on campus last year was therefore a somewhat liberating experience; I didn’t have to be a nerd in silence anymore.

People vocalize their neuroses and bring attention to their individual peculiarities in a manner of freak-flag-flying I had never encountered before last year. I am now in a much more stable place to confront the adversities all dorks must face and I have matured in ways I never thought possible.

So why is it, then, that I feel completely alone and alienated from my geeky-brethren right now?

Many students have some designated activity that is therapeutic for them; something they can do to calm themselves down and unwind a little bit that almost functions like a meditation. Mine is crosswords.

There were times during my senior year of high school when I would literally buy every single newspaper I could get my hands on, crossword all through class and still run out before the end of the day. I consider the Tuesday New York Times crossword to be my psychiatrist. I’ll be really wound up or stressed out about something so I just make an appointment and somehow, during that session, I always manage to get something off my back or just let out whatever is bothering me, get it out of my system, and I leave the experience much more calm and laid back than before. Sad maybe, but it works for me.

As such, you can imagine my shock and outrage at the crossword puzzle that was featured in The Mac Weekly on Sept. 12th (“Protest or Contest?”).

I understand that we are all busy and, especially here, students are getting very involved in their studies already-but that is absolutely no excuse for carelessness.

First of all, I was horrified with the actual format of the crossword itself–regardless of how many you’ve done in your lifetime, there’s absolutely no way you would ever encounter a two-letter word. Period. End of story.

For example, “of” would never appear by itself in a crossword, nor would the answer for 64 Across, “tampon brand,” ever be considered an actual option. There is essentially no answer to the question if it only has two letters.

Second, there’s the issue of linguistics. I know Mac has a great program here for International Studies and Linguistics and general world-oriented sciences, but I was actually slightly offended that our school newspaper would print something so fallacious that it seems to suggest that the Latin prefix for “fake” is “pseud-.” The problem here is that “pseud-” is a pseudo-word because the root is actually “pseudo-” and comes from Greek-not Latin.

And I’ve saved the best for last: Fag. Yup, I said it-Fag.

Why am I saying that? Because it was the answer to the clue for 5 Down.

I can’t even begin to express my rage about the nonchalance and levity with which this must have been treated, because in my mind, there is no excuse for that word ever to emerge from someone’s brain.

Having been one of the first babies adopted by a gay couple, having grown up hearing what my parents had to overcome when they were younger, after enduring constant attacks on the legitimacy of my family as a functioning and stable unit, it has never even occurred to me that I would ever-under any circumstance-let that word come out of my mouth or even let it pass through my head.

Knowing how loaded a slur like that is, can you imagine my hysterical, blind rage?

Can you imagine how ashamed I felt after realizing that I had written down the word “fag” because that was the correct answer? That “fag” was right?

Aside from my personal adversity towards that word, I’m also shocked that something as loaded and potentially offensive as that can even be printed on campus.

I don’t know if maybe the goal was to poke fun at our sensitivity and make some kind of statement about how politically correct we are at Mac. I can take a joke just as well as the next person: I realize humor stems from being able to laugh at our own insecurities and from being able to toughen up a little bit so we don’t have such a sensitive disposition.

That’s essentially the only explanation I’ve come up with that I can even begin to wrap my head around.

I’ve said my piece. I don’t know if The Mac Weekly has gotten other complaints about this at all, but this place where slurs become intertwined with our hobbies and lifestyles is something I never thought I’d encounter again after surrounding myself with liberal intellectualism.

Rachel Colberg-Parseghian ’11 can be reached at [email protected]