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Take this Word to Rehab: “Out”

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A Meditation Beyond Gay

07222013-tumblr_mqaztxDDNl1qbcporo1_1280A few days back I posted There’s Something About Out (Out Always Informs In) and noticed a slight uptick in hits. My theory: the uptick had to do with the word “out” in the headline and subhead, a signal word for the LGBT community. Walk with me as I argue the value of “out” is beyond ownership by any particular set of people and is useful for anyone trying to communicate to those outside their immediate peers.

One lesson to be learned these days is the walls that traditionally provided sharp borders for any community are falling quickly. Social media opens a rolling window into nearly any group—if you know the right search keywords. With keyword searches we expose what poets and writers are doing, what glass-blowers and comic-con enthusiasts and copywriters and geocachers are up to. The corollary is that if you are in a tightly-delineated group with high walls, there has never been a better time to begin to explain yourself to those outside, because someone is likely peering in.

Out is more and more important—especially since we battle xenophobia (fear of strangers) on so many different levels: acute and generalized, nationally, locally, in Congress and on the street. Fear of strangers ought to be decreasing given increasing frequency, but it seems the opposite is happening.

In my copywriting practice I often help clients organize their thoughts for those outside the organization. How difficult can that be? Good question. The truth is that we all get caught up using shorthand, insider terms that have less to do with communication and more to do with identifying others who are part of our tribe. Real communication happens when we make our ideas and ourselves accessible to those not from our neighborhood or company or tribe or sect.

The challenge of “out” is communication beyond our self-inscribed language borders. First we need to identify the borders (and possibly our tribe). Then we need to know what’s important and remarkable that someone outside would care about.  The challenge of “out” is to step outside our circle with honest, clear language that also happens to make us vulnerable. But those things that are important to us are worth sharing.

Other words in need of rehab: fellowship,  strategy, and maybe “lovingkindness.”


Image credit: Corrado Zeni via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm

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