It has come to my attention that Mr T, a resident of the alt.adoption House of Dysfunction, objects to my name. Bastardette. He complains about Americans “hijacking the world’s languages,” and claims that the “word” Bastardette simply doesn’t exist–since after all, the word, derived from French is a feminine noun. Personally I think he’s pushing it a bit. The word comes from Middle English, via Old French, and is probably of Germanic origin; akin to Old Frisian “bost” (marriage), and the Old English “bindan” (to bind.) If Mr.T would type “bastardette” into Google he’d come up with 477 hits including a definition from The Urban Dictionary. But that’s beside the point.

An aa, housmate, Mr. J, jumped to Bastardette’s linguistic defense pointing out that the term “ette” is perfectly acceptable in the US citing the words dinette, layette and barrette.

I could have chosen Bastardess, of course. (Don’t even suggest Love Child!) A power positive word, it unfortunately conjures up, for reasons I can’t explain, the image of Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers batting around the mansion in “Rebecca.” Worse, it’s too close to “adoptress” a word favored by the anti-adoption birthmother crowd as in “My son’s adoptress gets her hair done at Fiesta.”

“Dette” implies a pop notion of irony and subversion. Dettes are cute. Dettes are transgressive. Our cultural birthmothers are not only suffragettes but the Rockettes, Ronettes, Chordettes, Velvetettes Bobbettes, Starlets, Jaynettes, Marvelettes, Ikettes, Raylettes and Sham-lettes. Bastardettes for the most part ignore English Departments.

It is exceedingly odd that Mr. T, who knows well the vagaries of adoption, would object to personal naming etymology, even on the grounds of American linguistic hegemony. In the make believe world of adoption identity is fluid, artificially created by the state. Jews become Southern Baptists, Koreans become Swiss, and the poor grow up in Shaker Heights. For the squeamish, transracials morph into Greeks, Italians or Puerto Ricans. If bad little boys could be turned into desirable blue-eyed compliant little blond girls, they would. Rebirthing killed Candace Newmaker. Adoption recreates, reculturalizes, recontextualizes,and renames us by whim and statute. The beneficiaries of this codified benevolence should never complain, lest we be labeled ungrateful for missing our date with the Dumpster.

The least they could do is let us call ourselves whatever we want. We exist whether or not we conform to international laws of linguistics.

2 Replies to “WHAT’S IN A NAME?”

  1. Not to put too fine a point on the issue of your nom de doom, but the suffix “ette” is itself of French origin and is used as a diminuitive. Never having met, of course, I cannot attest to either your legitimacy or your size, but your use of the term appears to be authentic in every other detail.

    Your humble servant and counselor in all things of small consequence,

    Mr. J.

  2. Alas, I forgot to footnote my post.

    Mr. J.

    Main Entry: -ette
    Pronunciation: ‘et, “et, &t, it
    Function: noun suffix
    Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, feminine diminutive suffix, from Old French -ete —more at -ET
    1 : little one (kitchenette)
    2 : female (farmerette)

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