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language musings

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language musings

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bad grammar
This is solely about the what of the word: not the why or the who.

Lately, I've been encountering the term 'cisgendered' a lot. Once I knew what it meant, it pleased me: far better to have a word that puts non-trans folk as an equally valid alternative to trans folk than to fall into the logical pitfalls inherent in referring to non-trans folk as 'normal' or 'not different.
So- I like the word: I'm just trying to suss the roots on the prefix 'cis-'. Your thoughts, lazyweb?
In other news, internet's down in the office or I'd look this up myself.
  • Quoting directly from Wikipedia:

    The word has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis, meaning "on the same side" as in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry. In this case, "cis" refers to the unity of a gender identity with a gender role.
  • Ding!

    It's Latin, meaning "same side of" or "this side of".
  • (no subject) -
    • (no subject) -
      • Digging, it seems that cis/cide only mean to cut as a suffix: circumcise, for instance, 'to cut around'. As a prefix (cisgender) it seems to mean 'on this side'.

        A curious mess, is modern latin.
        • cis/cide would actually be a root, not a suffix. A suffix could be added to the root to make a different word form, exampliae grates: circumcise --> circumcision; homicide --> homicidal.

          I'm in wonderment as to how, in two years of Latin, I never learned cis as a preposition/prefix. I do remember my Latin teacher (whom my dad thought was hot, but everyone else, well, at least her English students, thought was a raging bitch) explaining how a preposition was any word that could be used to describe a spatial or relational (or in some instances conceptual) connection to a box: around the box (circum), from the box (de or ex), about the box (de), above the box (super, supra), below the box (sub), in or on the box (in, with ablative case), into the box (in, with accusative case), toward the box (ad), away from the box (ab, or ex), across the box (trans), within the box (infra), between the boxes (intra), before (or in front of) the box (pre), after (or behind) the box (post). But we never learned "on this side of the box" (cis). It's really sick how much of this I remember, 22 years post facto.

          I also remember one of my classmates (whom I thought was hot, and who was definitely NOT a raging bitch, even though she was part of the high school "in crowd"), after learning prepositions, came up with this phrase, incorrect in Latin, but makes sense when literally translated to English: "semper ubi sub ubi" ==> "always wear underwear". She also came up with the idea that Cincinnati means "born kinky" (letter C is always hard in Latin, id est, "Kinkinati" (as opposed to C being sometimes flaccid in English? (and how is it that flaccid is pronounced with a soft C in English, when, with "cc", it should be pronounced "flaksid", like "succinct" (and why all the nested quotes, and lack of succinctness, in this reply?)))). Cincinnati (Cincinatus (noun, or noun with an adjective, as opposed to "Cincinate" noun with an adverb, both translated idiomatically to English the same way) actually means "born fifth").

          There you have it, far too much information over a simple preposition.

          I remain,

          your ever wily linguist.
  • I'm familiar with cis- and trans- as Chemistry terms, also used occasionally in Biology (trans-acting gene transcription promoters, for example)... Am I to understand that in the new vernacular, I am cisgendered, being reasonably happy with the equipment I've got (or at least the general type of equipment I've got)?
    • Right: you and I, whose gender matches the sexual organs we were born to, are cisgendered. If gender and anatomy didn't match, we'd be transgendered.
      I like this languagewise: it makes it a pair of possibilities, rather than a normal/abnormal dichotomy- and therefore makes the exception unexceptional.
      • It kind of contributes to the idea of gender as a polarity rather than a spectrum and that wouldn't be my personal ideal. (Sexual organs should remain discretely binary so that we can continue to overpopulate the planet of course.) Other than that, I like what you're saying.

        On the other hand, I can now introduce myself as a cisgendered, right-handed, HIV-negative, and white: non-Hispanic.

        huh?

        I'm ordinary.
        • Transgendered is the umbrella term for anyone who's sex and genders don't match up. transexual is for people who actually transition are transitioning (some people also say planning to transition, but that's debated in trans circles). Transgender includes all the non-binary genders such as neutrois, androgyne, genderqueer, gender fluid, bi-gendered, etc. it's not as restrictive as it might sound.
    • In addition to organic chemistry, the prefix will also be familiar to historians and classicists -- Cisalpine Gaul being the province of Rome on "this side of the Alps" (and itself being divided into Transpadane and Cispadane parts -- "this side of River Po", "that side of River Po"). There was a Transalpine Gaul as well, but the Romans mostly just called it "our Province", thus today's French "Provence".
  • It is also a chemistry pun. Some molecules have structures that lend themselves to stereoisomerisation -- nearly every biologically-produced organic molecule is so formed. Typically there's a rather high isomerisation threshold energy involved in transforming one stereoisomer to the other (because double bonds do not like to twist).

    Our corner of the universe predominately uses L-structures, thus L-tryptophane, L-arginine, u.s.w. D-structures don't fit in proteins built for L-structures and are among other things indigestible. If memory serves, the D/L designation is derived from which way polarised light is rotated when shone through a solution of a particular molecule.

    The cis/trans thing comes in when dealing with isomers of particular symmetry. And clearly I don't remember much of what little organic chemistry I ever learned (I was really much more fond of physical chemistry, especially when done with pencils or whiteboards) because the example I was trying to put together rapidly fell apart.

    The point of it being that when we talk about trans folk we don't fall into the unpleasant habit of treating not-trans folk as normal and trans folk as deviant. By adding the cis- prefix we avoid constructions like 'real,' 'biological,' 'genetic,' etc. which hurt our feelings. Of course there are people who claim that the cis-gender construction hurts their feelings, but they're not really people we want to talk to.
    • The D/L designation is derived from whether the attached groups are ordered in a clockwise or anti-clockwise fashion around the central carbon chain when viewed from largest group to smallest group (or was it smallest to largest?). It can't be assumed, based on the D or the L, which way polarized light will rotate when passing through the molecules. For any given molecule, though, the D isomer will be consistent in its rotation of polarized light, as will the L isomer.

      This moment brought to you by my need to believe I actually remember something from *shudder* O-Chem. *shudder*
      • Speaking as a former organic chemist:

        It's from smallest to largest, with the molecule viewed along the carbon's axis so that the carbon is in back, the other three attached groups in the foreground. D is clockwise (to the right or Dexter), L is counterclockwise. "Largest" in this case, refers to the atomic number of the first atom attached to the carbon - all things being equal, proceed out from that atom to others until you find a difference. EG, R-C(H)(CH3)(CH2CH3), H<CH3<CH2CH3 in terms of ordering. There are some amino acids, Glycine for example, which aren't chiral at all - they'd fit into either a D- or an L-world. This is clearly more than any of you needed to know.
        • Thank you for chiming in to correct in a field that is, well- one that YOU are the person I'd look to correct. *laugh*

          meliny: I'd say you remembered almost everything there, really. largest-to-smallest vs. smallest-to-largest, in a field you haven't played with in ages? Heck, I do worse with remembering chunks of T. S. Eliot analysis.
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