Living with a Lisp

The style guide for a publishing house I sometimes work for has just been updated. The section on disability is so mealy-mouthed as to be unintelligible. My own practice, which is to use whatever phrase is preferred by those suffering from a particular disability except in historical/literary contexts where another phrase may be called for, is now disallowed. I must no longer refer to the Parable of the Man Born Blind but to the Parable of the Visually Impaired Person. Ah me.

I wonder where lisps come into the general scheme of things. I have a soft voice and a slight lisp which becomes more pronounced when I am tired. Anyone similarly afflicted will know that a lisp is both trivial and a source of never-ending strain as one struggles to articulate clearly and comprehensibly. People sometimes make fun of my lisp (see the comments on the YouTube version of my Faith 2.0 talk, for example) but more often pretend it doesn’t really exist. ‘Oh, no, it’s scarcely noticeable.’ I don’t think denial is much of an improvement on the circumlocutions of political correctness. As far as I’m concerned, I lisp, I live with it, and those I speak with will have to live with it too as it is beyond my control. I am certainly not going to start talking about having ‘a minor speech defect’. Apart from anything else, who is to say it is minor — or even a defect if we are to be perfectly p.c.? Lispers of the world, let us refuse to be cowed by the style guides and proudly call a spade a thpade. We can do no other.

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9 thoughts on “Living with a Lisp”

  1. Love this! I, too, have a slight lisp (and whoever coined that particular noun either did not lisp or had a strange sense of humour), although it seems to have become far less prevalent as I’ve grown older.
    I remember introducing myself once to someone who was slightly deaf and a hilarious exchange ensued with me trying my best to say my name, Tess, and my new acquaintance saying “Eh? Teth? Teth? That’s a funny name, sounds a bit like Tess.”

  2. I recall the first time I met someone with an [English] public-school accent. (A Chicago public-school accent, like I have, is *very* different!) I had never heard his accent before, and frankly, it sounded to me like he had a badly corrected cleft palate. Only later did I discover how much his parents had paid for him to acquire that “lisp”!

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