I’ve been thinking a fair amount about the meanings of words since last night’s #AutBurnout chat.
One of the questions was about whether we use the term “special interests” or a different one. My response was:
I prefer “focused” to “special” = focused interest, current focus, or current topic(s) of interest are all terms I use. I also like the term “immersed” to describe how I feel when I pursue my current interest.
The term “special interests” doesn’t particularly bother me on a personal level, but I understand why others are bothered by it. It sounds a bit condescending and brings to my mind terms like “special snowflake” that are often used derogatorily.
Then, while the topic was already on my mind, earlier today on Facebook a friend of a friend mentioned that they didn’t have another word for “perseverate” when referring to how lovely it is when our mutual friend talks at length about their current topics of interest. So, I thought for a few minutes about potential alternatives. The definition for perseverate and perseveration are rather unflattering and not at all applicable to the exposition of topics that someone is passionate about, in my opinion.
: continuation of something (as repetition of a word) usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point
That first definition causes me to wonder: “Beyond a desired point” for whom exactly? Who decides that the exposition of a topic is past the point of “desirability” and to the point of pathology or perseveration?
Too often I think the “beyond a desired point” is based on the perceptions of the allistic (non-autistic) people who are listening to autistic people speak with passion about our interests. It’s not a word that at all accurately reflects how I feel while discussing my passions at length.
To go off on a bit of a side tangent for a moment: one thing that I’ve learned after being involved in various groups seeking normalization, is that it matters what words we use because they can create a vastly different perception of the concept in question.
A few examples from groups I’ve been involved in through the years:
“Delayed cord clamping” sounds negative, while “physiological cord clamping” sounds positive, yet they both describe the same thing. “Extended breastfeeding” and “full-term breastfeeding” describe the same thing, but they bring to mind very different viewpoints of that concept – one that implies this method of breastfeeding is “extra” while the other brings to mind the idea that it’s the usual thing. “Uncircumcised” sounds as though circumcision is the default and that it was left undone while “intact” sounds complete as it is.
The way we choose to word things is powerful.
Back to perseverate. Sometimes that term is accurate in my own life – such as when I’m going over and over discussions from years ago in my mind for the umpteenth time. That sort of repetition is not really serving a purpose, even for myself. It’s highly unlikely that I’m going to suddenly learn something new and important from going over it yet again. The process drains my energy and I don’t usually want to be doing it either.
That, to me, is a good example of something that’s moved beyond a desired point and has easily reached redundancy.
But speaking to others (even at great length) about the topics that interest me serves several important purposes. It allows me to connect with others, to better retain the information in which I’ve been immersing myself, to discover new connections between my interest and the things the people I’m talking with are interested in, and to potentially meet other people who are interested in the same or similar things.
The definition of “perseverate” specifically does not fit that experience.
However, the word “rhapsodize” perfectly captures the feeling I get while talking about a strong interest of mine.
: to praise or describe something or someone with a lot of enthusiasm and emotion
Speak or write about someone or something with great enthusiasm and delight:
Enthusiasm, emotion, and delight, yes! Those are just a few of the strong positive feelings I experience when discussing my passions; the topics/games/books/etc in which I am currently immersed.
Personally not much makes me happier, when I’m around other people, than to listen to them talk enthusiastically, to rhapsodize, about the things that bring them joy. I love learning new things and I am fully on board with Charlotte Mason’s ideas about the joys of learning from people who are passionate about the topic in question! Dry texts are often difficult to get through, but the writings and speaking of those who truly love a topic?
Listening to them is like comfort food for the brain!
Even if it’s something I’m not at all interested in, it’s still fun to learn about new topics from people who enjoy rhapsodizing about the topic in question and who have learned as much as they possibly can about it.
To sum up: I do not perseverate about my special interests. I rhapsodize about my passions and expound at length upon subjects in which I am an expert.
And if someone in real life finds themselves bored with my rhapsodizing, I wish they would just tell me clearly so that I know and can stop wasting my time on someone who views my knowledge & enthusiasm as perseveration.