Allow me to, as they say, extend and revise my previous remarks re: “priestess.”
My thanks to all who have written things in my defence. However, I must say that I agree in part with those who think I offended. A Certain Blog That Shall Not Be Named drew a line, and I crossed it. So I got whacked. I admitted as much in my blog post. Think of it as civil disobedience—I’ll do my time in the philological equivalent of the Birmingham jail and I won’t complain.
My point was, and is, that I am tired of being told that “priestess” is off limits. Words when spoken can be used with a contemptuous tone. Words when written—that is, plain English words that have a neutral meaning in any normal context (hence my citation of a recent award winning work from Princeton UP)—that are not used in an insulting manner are something else. It becomes clear that it is the word itself that is now declared off limits, and by people who do so because they object to its normal dictionary meaning, not to any implied insult. It is the very meaning of the word that is held to be insulting, even though it is that very meaning one is trying to convey. This is not an attempt to enforce politeness, but an effort to control thought.
Consider this: would A Certain Blog That Shall Not Be Named ban anyone who used the word “sodomite”? Somehow I doubt it. Yet there are, as we know, a great many who find the word offensive. Why? Not because of its descriptive content, but because it implies moral disapproval, and that from a divine source. Yet for that very reason, “sodomite” is a far, far more insulting word than “priestess.” No, “priestess” is only considered insulting by those who do not like their status questioned—which is, once again, the point.
In any case, it’s nice to know that C. S. Lewis is now banned from A Certain Blog. I’m in good company.