v. t.

to place beyond the regular bounds; to oust; to reject

the Dictionary according to Cynthia




Yesterday I emailed a friend with my regrets that I couldn’t join her at a workshop she’s attending. I had a commitment to a continuing education day, required to maintain my professional credentials.


In my email I said, “I’ll bet your workshop will be funner than mine!”


My computer, in its computerish way, said, “ ‘Funner” isn’t an acceptable word. Please change it.”


I love having arguments with my computer that I know I can win. It can underscore “funner” (and “computerish”) to its motherboard’s content, and I can override its sensibilities and still use my made-up words.


The French, like my laptop, often take issue with the imprecise way we Americans use our English language. I once told a French hostess that I had been anxious to meet her. She immediately corrected me: “I think you mean you’ve been eager to meet me.” (In fact I was both eager and anxious, but it was best not to explain that to her.)


I, however, prefer to think of playing with words not as frivolous or irresponsible, but as creative, and often instructive. If a made-up word brings a reader up short, that pause is a precious moment through which a smile, some delight, or even a new thought, may enter the world.


My computer doesn’t like it when I use “outside” as a transitive verb.


My computer takes it upon itself to uphold the linguistic rules of our culture. It has a little built-in grammar conscience that says, “Sorry, but that’s incorrect. That’s not the way we speak and think.”


In America we’ve recently become comfortable with using “out” as a verb meaning “to expose.” We talk about “outing” a person, or the person outing themselves, regarding their hidden talents, their unexpected leadership skills, their closeted sexuality. My computer hasn’t caught up with that public acceptance yet. It still points its digital digit at me if I write, “The committee outed his great chairmanship potential.”


But “to outside” is a verb so new that there is as yet no public awareness of this use of the word.


When we outside someone, we move them away from the social center of things and place them at a margin. We outside them beyond the boundary of acceptability, and we make them an “outsider.”


So consider, for a while, our cultural outsiding. [My computer says “outsiding” is outside its acceptability boundaries. So once again I must override it.] Think about outsiding. Think about how often and unthinkingly we do it.


See if, when you hear the word “outside,” you can grasp it as a verb. See if it causes you to wonder, for just a moment, about how our social margins came to be. Who has outsided the people who live in those margins?


5 replies
  1. Roger
    Roger says:

    I found this a thought provoking piece — and also the comments posted by other. I’m brought up short to realize the extent to which I outside myself, and, indeed, have done so all my life.

  2. sarah macdougall
    sarah macdougall says:

    This sparks my inner curiosity. I wonder how I outside myself?? And how society has outsided me or how I bought into that outsiding. I love circle because it brings people in, it invites people in and allows anyone on the rim to outside him/her self- ask for what you need;offer what you can!

  3. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    My practice this year has been noticing how I “outside” others unintentionally. Then stopping, noticing, and choosing to include, celebrate, reframe, accept them instead. It’s a full-time occupation—maybe even a life’s work. I’m happy to have begun and to have the company of your lovely soul and counsel along the way. Sending love across the states, not so united at the moment.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      It’s so empowering to be connected with you in this “work.” And how wonderful to remain connected despite distance, time, and silences! Much love to you, and to the spiderweb that joins us at its crazy angles. C


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