Word Nerd Diary: “Themself”

As I pursue my M.A. Fashion Journalism, I often find myself mentally editing the works of my classmates and (usually) successfully stamp down the urge to publish these remarks within the class because I’m not the teacher and it is not my place. I understand this.

Today, in writing an essay for Current Developments & Debates in Journalism, I stumbled upon a grammatical anomaly. “Themself.” Is it a word? Is it correct? It makes logical sense as a gender-neutral singular reflexive pronoun.

themself5So I posed the question to the experts: former and current teachers and/or professors. The wife of a former history teacher immediately posted on my Facebook question that it should be “himself.” This is not gender-neutral. A former English teacher provided the same answer.

A former college professor said there is no such word, and to make the sentence plural to use themselves. Saved me the headache and my deadline, but didn’t answer the question at hand.

So I posed the question to current Language Assistant Professors in 3 of my 4 courses this semester, then proceeded to research the issue.

The Oxford English Dictionary blog has an entire post devoted to “themself,” and the rather heated debates it brings up. The author of the post, Catherine Soanes, breaks down the history and revival of the term, and offers this advice:

“the wheel has not yet come full circle and themself remains a standard English outcast. . . for now. You can be sure that Oxford’s lexicographers are keeping their eye on the situation: given the strong evidence for themself in all types of writing, it may well merit reconsideration within the next 20 years or so.”

The Language Assistant Professor in the Debates course, Alice Clay, got back to me this evening, listing my options to “be gutsy…and give themself a try,” or “be bold…and go with themselves,” or “to please most grammarians, go with himself or herself,” and finally to save myself the headache, make the sentence plural and go with themselves. Oh, and I may have inspired her next tutorial on the subject.

The Language Assistant Professor in Researching, Writing, and Reporting Features course, Sheila Hancock, applauded my decision to make it plural with the comment “I would have done the same because themself has never been considered a “correct” form of the reflexive pronoun.  I am inspired by your question to do more research myself.”

The Language Assistant Professor in Lead & Short News Bootcamp, Thomas Donahoe, provided an interesting bit of information: “Oxford says that “themself” is acceptable…but British grammar isn’t entirely the same as American grammar (so you could argue that it depends on whether one is writing for a British or American publication).”

Thomas also sent me to this GrammarGirl post which discusses the many facets of the issue without actually referencing “themself” as a potential solution.

Final Thoughts: After asking 5 professionals, researching 4 style guides, and researching in 3 dictionaries/databases, I have found:

1) “Themself” is a word, dating back to the 14th Century.

And

2) It is not an accepted reflexive pronoun in American English, but it is acceptable British English.

Which makes it either an archaic pronoun or a British dialect, and either way, the Steampunker in me is happy to use it as such colloquially, but I will continue avoiding it in formal writings until either American  lexicographers deem it valid or I start writing and publishing within British demographics.

Charlotte Fashion Week & Misadventures

This year, I took on a project. I contacted Charlotte Seen back in February or March, inquiring about a press pass to the 5th Annual Charlotte Fashion Week. Rita Miles, the producer of Fashion Week, got back to me and asked me to write a few pieces for their book. The verbal agreement at that moment was 10 profile pieces. Since I wasn’t doing much else this summer for lack of online grad classes, I decided to take it on for the opportunity of being published.

I spent the majority of my summer either traveling to the cities of Asheville, Charlotte, and Raleigh, or holed up in my tiny coffee shop here in Cherokee, conducting interviews, taking notes, and spinning tales.

On Tuesday, August 25, I packed my waist-high Oakley suitcase in Silvermist (my trusty Fusion), and headed to the NoDa district of Charlotte. I stopped in Hickory for gas, and my air conditioning would not come back on when I left the gas station. I drove with the windows down to the rented loft on Air BNB for the week.

I checked in, unpacked, showered, changed, and set my GPS to the first event location, Blue Restaurant of Hearst Tower. I get to uptown Charlotte, surrounded by tall buildings, and my GPS says “arrived at destination.” And I’m sitting in traffic looking around me thinking “where?!”

I turned off the street, drove two blocks, turned off another street, and parked. I paid for street parking in the mobile app Parkmobile. The app has this handy feature called “Find my Car.” I again set my GPS for blue, following a zig zag 6-block trail to Hearst Tower. I walked all the way through Hearst Tower and found the restaurant….two hours early.

Behind the scenes at Blue Restaurant, Angela Kim designs, Charlotte Fashion Week.

I proceeded to the “Model Room” where HMUs from Sigma prepared models for designer Angela Kim of Asheville. This was a sampling of the same collection she debuted just two weeks prior at Asheville Fashion Week.

As the evening wore on, I met some of the people I had interviewed by phone, Heather Dignan and Lesley Ann Thiel and Howard Spikes. People I had captured on paper in 200 or 400 words and never even seen a photo of. It was thrilling moment as a journalist.

At 9 PM, I decided to call it a night and return to the loft. I stepped out of the restaurant and pulled up Parkmobile, and clicked “Find My Car.” The map pulled up and showed my car was in the vicinity of College St. I start walking, looking at street signs and my phone. I found a police officer at an intersection, and he pointed me in the correct directions. About ten minutes later, I’m still hopelessly looking for Silvermist near Time Warner Cable Arena.

It was here that I met Ellis. Ellis was an older man, dark skinned, and looking for a different kind of help. As he helped me search, we strike up a conversation in which I learned he is homeless, can’t afford to eat or bus fare to get to and from his new job. As a rule, I never carry cash on me, so I stop at an ATM to help him out: to find my account nearly empty from my travels. I tell him the truth, and he continues to help me look.

We get to Church St, and a police officer in an unmarked car asked me what we were looking for. I show him the app and explain that I can’t find my car. He asks if Ellis is with me, if I actually know him. I say no. I tell Ellis that the officer is going to help me look and to have a good night. I get in the car, and the officer drives me all over uptown, (as we search, he asks where I’m from, what brings me to town. His daughter is actually a student at my alma mater, Western Carolina University) until I find Silvermist…on Poplar St. A good 4 streets away from where the app said. At 10 PM.

It took an hour, a stranger, and two police officers to find my car. Thanks, Parkmobile. Thanks a lot.

The next morning, I take Silvermist to Capital Ford because her air conditioning still isn’t working properly. They work me in as fast as they can. Three hours and $175 later, they tell me that my car needed a software upgrade and that should be the end of it. Arielle Bailey had come to my rescue at the exact moment they said I could go.

So I followed Arielle to the other side of Charlotte where we had coffee and lunch. Arielle had worked with Charlotte Seen projects before, and we met during this particular project. She is a talented art director, and I believe we may have formed a lifetime partnership here.

Afterward, I head to “a private club in Charlotte” which is the venue for the rest of Charlotte Fashion Week. (Thank the Creator I did not ever have to return to Uptown Charlotte!) Everything in the hall is white. White curtains, white chairs, even a white ironwork interior balcony. I check in with the Seen Team and gather my press pass (the entire reason I went to Charlotte).

I settled into my second row seat, and watched as models from little children to a dancing elder took the runway in ensembles reflective of who they are. While it was an interesting show, and I gathered the theme, it didn’t entirely make sense to me from an industry perspective.

Runway Shows are designed to sell fashions to the public, from a selection of designers, lines, or collections. This particular show represented hundreds of different merchants. I couldn’t have gone out and bought one of those outfits if I wanted to, because there were too many to keep track.

Back to the loft.

Thursday, I went to Smelly Cat Coffee, as recommended to me by the host of my loft. Organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee roasted in-house, just like home. I went to the Southpark Mall to finally do some shopping, asking myself how I’d been in the city for 3 days without shopping yet.

I was excited to explore the Hermes. Lovely customer service and assistance, even for a lost and astonished mountain girl like me. The Neiman Marcus was like a dream come true for my inner fashionista. I was happily surprised to find a Lush Cosmetics, and purchased a lip scrub and mascara. (Seriously, their mascara is the only one that makes my lashes soft and not brittle.)

I went to Dillard’s and found my dress for the Charlotte Seen Ball for Saturday. While I had brought formal separates in the form of corsets and bustle skirts (in true Steampunk Style), I realized rather late that I had no assistant available to properly lace me up in said corsets. The dress has a corset lace in the back, but easily slips over my head with the ease and luxury of a silk nightgown. Perfect.

I found an Earth Fare, tried to buy just enough groceries to last the remainder of the trip, and returned to the loft. Put groceries away, changed my clothes, and back to the club.

At this point, I’m a familiar face to the professionals in the photography pit at the end of the white runway. I met some truly gifted people here, whom I look forward to working with in future.

As I resume my seat in the second row, I’m rather excited for this show. Tonight is the competition of designers in the categories of Emerging and Recyclable. Asheville’s own Charles Josef won the Emerging Category, and I look forward to interviewing with him soon.

The collections presented here that truly caught my attention were by Aiperi Yusupova, Michael Concha, and Bell et Corge by Jolina Roberson.

Bell et Corge is a luxurious line designed for real women in mind, with modern simple silhouettes in velvet and silk fabrications.

Michael Concha’s collection, aptly named “The Dark Phoenix,” began with the innocence of Irish stepdancing children in white and green, followed by harrowing characters in blacks and chains. This was the edgiest collection of the entire fashion week.

Aiperi Yusupova’s collection was the epitome of simple elegance. Her partner, Yves, is from Rwanda. Aiperi herself is from Kyrgyzstan. They met in college in Charlotte, and I look forward to interviewing them soon.

The Recyclable competition was the most creative of the week. Often, designers only showed one piece, but these were crafted from the stuff of dreams and imagination. The winning design was a rendition of Maleficent, made of tissue paper.

Friday was a personal battle with my demons in the forms of anxiety and depression. I returned to The Smelly Cat. I had a meltdown. I called my mother and my boyfriend. I went to the loft, ate a sandwich, and binge-watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the millionth time. I changed clothes, and returned to the club.

Because I arrived at 7 and not my usual 5, I wound up parking nearly a mile away on the street and taking a tram to the doorway. It was here that I met Andre of The Face Magazine, which I may be contributing to in future. The theme of the night was Emerging Designers and Boutiques.

My favorite collections of the night were Moniquea Renee Couture, The Tuxedo Lady of DW Designs, and Seelah Boutique.

Moniquea Renee Couture showed a collection entirely in white. White ruffles, white lace, white rhinestones. From work to cocktail hour to just because, this collection proves that the modern woman can live her life in white without appearing the least bit bridal.

The Tuxedo Lady of DW Designs is a work and formal wear couturier for men. She opened the collection with a Sherlock Holmes ensemble, and I was sold. Everything was impeccably crafted, from the rugged leather accessories to the massive fur robe.

Seelah Boutique is an inspirational collection from an inspired soul. Seelah comes from the biblical book of Psalms, which meant “pause” or “rest” from a musical perspective. Her objective was to create beautiful clothes for everyone, and she succeeded with this black and gold collection.

Back to the loft.

Saturday. The day of the ball. I meet with my college friend Olivia Bellamy for brunch. It was good to catch up with her, and we’ve decided to catch up more often. (3 years is a bit long.) As I cranked Silvermist to head out, the air conditioning failed again. So I drove to the loft with the windows down again, and changed for the ball, arriving at the club at 5 PM.

The photographer’s pit is missing. The risers have been replaced by a single red velvet rope. The hall is redesigned, from 4 rows of seats on either side of the runway, to a single row with a table. In the middle, where the runway had been, is a third table with dessert spreads laid out, minus the sweets themselves. Four ballerinas are rehearsing to Phantom of the Opera, models are practicing the U-shaped runway, and I finally found my way to the balcony. (I’d been dying to get a view from up there all week!)

Here is where I met the opera singer Xela Pinkerton and the runway dj Benita Kerr. Only six collections showed that night: Angela Kim couture collection, Alice Andrews at Canvas, A Boutique, Estbythelna children’s couture, Darpan, a reprise of Tuxedo Lady, and Pixton.

The ball itself commenced after the runway shows were over, with seasonal summer hors d’oeuvres and scrumptious pastries with sweet creams on the dessert table. DJ BK got the party started with The Cupid Shuffle and The Electric Slide back to back.  Later in the evening, dance extraordinaire Berhan Nebioglu and photographer Laurence Logan took the floor in contrasting styles of ballroom and Michael Jackson footwork.

Charlotte Fashion Week No. 5 The Story was the experience of a lifetime, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Asheville Fashion Week – Part 1

On Thursday night at the Altamont Theater in Asheville, NC dozens of people find their seats 4 and 5 rows deep surrounding a runway. The dim lighting and club mix beats filled the air with a palpable anticipation.

Modeling the Hattitude collection from McKinney Gough, Day 2 of AFW, courtesy of Asheville Fashion Week Facebook page

Over 100 models take to the runway, showcasing looks from local designers McFarland, McKinney Gough, Southern Charm/Charmed, Deirdre Blume, Tasha Lief, Runway Ready, Chapeaux by Simone, MG&B, and Diamond Outdoors.

Thursday’s most impressive surprise was the debut collection designed by a pair of local 16 year old girls, MG&B. Their designs are fun, colorful, and bold. A white knit dress with spoons on the front, a green chiffon ball skirt with a black bodice, and a fun mix-print crop top and skirt were crowd favorites (based on the amount of cheering).

On Friday night at the Millroom of Asheville Brewing, The crowd was larger, the runway staggered in a Z shape, and the lights were pulsating color-changing orbs. Collections shown included Sacred Garden by Anna Gordon, Tricia Ellis, a reprisal of Diamond Outdoors and Deirdre Blume, KatDog Couture, Legends of Hollywood retail, Wildflower Bridal with accessories from Uber Kio and Hatchett Creative Group, and Xen by Rachele swimwear.

Models for Xen by Rachele after the show, courtesy of AFW Facebook page

Friday’s presentation was phenomenal. From casual date night looks by Diamond Outdoors to opera-worthy ensembles by KatDog Kouture, to fairy-tale wedding inspirations by Wildflower Bridal, there was something for everyone on the runway.

What these two incredible nights showcased wasn’t just fashion: it was the creative soul of Asheville. Produced by Gage Models and Talent Agency, which created Chattanooga and Knoxville fashion weeks, the models of Asheville were guaranteed a spot on the runway. These were real men and women of real proportions from petite to traditional model to plus size wearing real clothes from local and talented designers.

This afternoon begins the last day for Asheville Fashion Week with the children’s collections, and tonight is the Grand Finale at the Renaissance Hotel.

Author’s Note: I am honored to bear witness to these historic event. I am blessed to have found my path as a fashion journalist in the same time as the blossoming of Asheville’s Fashion community. Special thanks to model and stylist extraordinaire Sarah Merrell for making Asheville Fashion Week a reality.

Pub is Short for Public House

  Welcome to Frog’s Leap Public House in historic Waynesville, NC. 
Those of you who follow my Twitter or Instagram may have seen a pair of photos from my lunch earlier today: caprese salad and a hummus veggie plate. 

There are several notable things about this pub: 

1) It calls itself a public house. This is a gathering place for families and friends to feast and celebrate within rustic, comforting walls. 

2) They work and partner with several local, even family owned, gardens and farms to provide a natural ever-changing menu. 

Local Farmers and Partners

3) That ever-changing menu? It’s dated. Today’s menu was created on 7/31/15. They can only prepare what nature, and these local organizations, provide. 
4) The entire staff, from my waitress Anna to the head kitchen chef, is understanding, educated, and helpful with dietary needs. Whatever your restrictions or requirements are, they will take care of you with kindness. 

5) The food is good. I can’t believe how fresh everything was. And delicious, healthy, and satisfying to boot. 

 

Caprese Salad

 
I, for one, will definitely be frequenting this gem much more often. After all, on the same block is The Classic Wine Seller, and around the corner are many of my long-time favorite shops, including Fifi’s, The Jeweler’s Workbench, and Twigs & Leaves

Costume Drama Delivers

Summers in Asheville, NC are nothing short of alive. From the street performers to the purple comedy bus to the PubCycle, Downtown Asheville has a thriving energetic ambience, defined by the Artistic Community. Asheville Community Theater is but a part of the growing Fashion Scene in Asheville, having contributed by creating and hosting its signature annual fundraiser for the last 4 years: Costume Drama: A Fashion Affair.

It’s a fundraiser, a fashion show, and a fun competition with audience participation. This year, the event was expanded and sold out. A pre-party, a silent auction, four categories of runway, voting, a post-party, and silent auction on the very costumes from the runway.

“[This event] shows Asheville talent. The designer is a pastry chef. No matter the day job, people have hidden talents,” says model Gessi Boyd in the green room backstage.

The four categories of competition were Christmas in July, Nature, Tape, and Inflatables. 

 The Christmas in July category was full of breathtaking, angelic, and magical constructs, from Olivia Mears modeling her own red and gold wrapping-paper Tree Topper with mobile white angel wings to McKinney Gough’s blue, silver, and white Nutcracker, to Susan Vonceil’s candy-cane striped poolside pinup.

Susan Vonceil's creation Model: Sarah Merrell Photo: Hannah Silberman

Susan Vonceil’s creation, modeled by Sarah Merrell photo by Hannah Silberman

The Nature category was definitely a crowd favorite, featuring woodland warrior fairies, dragonflies, garden wardens, and an ocean goddess.

Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd

Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd, photo from model’s FB page

The gown is a gorgeous blue and white goddess dress, with cascading ruffles at the mermaid hemline remniscent of waves cresting on the beach.  The bodice is constructed of pearls on one side, bringing to life Caroline Williams’ vision of “surf and elegance.”

Despite Gessi’s nerves of her first runway (ever), she felt “empowering, exposed, and freeing” in the gown.

The Tape category was interesting, to say the least. Designers were challenged to use tape to construct their designs. (If you’re anything like me, your mind goes to duct tape or scotch tape.) The creativity presented here is nothing short of inspiring, from VHS and Casette tape flapper dresses to painted painter’s tape fairies to caution tape tulle ballgowns.

The papparazzi dress, by Stephen Lange,  constructed of light reflection tape materials, looked like something Lady Gaga would wear (if she hasn’t already).

The most whimsical category, inflatables, presented the most memorable creations and characters. From Charles Josef’s balloon bridesmaid to Sheila Thibodeaux‘s lionfish to Marla Looper‘s jellyfish, ensemble after ensemble left the audience excited and craving more.

The house was packed, warm, and filled with applause and laughter as the Category winners were annouonced: Danielle Chaboudy & Sue Ellen Black with their golden tree-topper (a month in the making) took Christmas in July, Olivia Mears with her woodland fairy took Nature, Sally Garner took Tape with a VHS film party dress, and Carina Lopez with her doctor’s glove cocktail dress took Inflatables.

Applause, laughter, and nervous indecision filled the air as the audience took one final vote for best in show. Christmas in July, modeled by Jessica Robin Riley took home the victory.

All four of the winning designs are currently on display through Saturday, July 18 at Bellagio Everyday in Downtown Asheville.

An Ancient Cure for Arthritis?

Jopai Weed or Queen of the Meadow

Use the roots of this plant to create a tea to treat arthritis and rheumatism. Photo credit: Vick, Albert F.W. at wildflower.org

In the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, the homeland of the Cherokee, lie the secrets to ancient medicine. There was a time, according to legend, when there existed no sickness. The animals were tired of being hunted, and vowed for each animal that was killed, a disease would be released. The plants heard of this, and being friendly to humans, vowed that for each disease, a plant would offer a cure. And so until European contact, the Cherokee had a cure for every ailment.

When his grandfather hunted deer, Davy Arch recalls, he would pray to the entity “Little Deer” in song. He would then watch and wait. While the rest of the group would move, one deer would behave differently either by hanging back or facing a different direction. He would make the kill, and again pray through song for forgiveness of what he had done. The intestines were removed, the game then taken to the river and cleansed before the hide was ever cut: this elaborate ritual done so that a family might eat and survive. If the entity is not appeased before the journey begins, the meat will poison those who partake with rheumatism and arthritis.

To cure rheumatism and arthritis, a plant known as Queen of the Meadow or Jopai Weed offered a cure. Use the roots to create a tea. The tea’s medicinal properties are that of a blood cleanser. Cleanse the blood, the blood cleanses the body, removing chemical build up near the joints and along the bones. Science, of course, backs this knowledge, but in ancient times, it was simply logical.

To gather the plant for medicinal purpose, pass peacefully by the first six growths. If found in a patch, watch and wait with quiet purpose. One will offer itself by facing a different direction, stirring a leaf, etc. Leave a white bead in its place as an offering of peace, thanks, and forgiveness.

Davy Arch is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and may be contacted at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC where he works as the Education Manager. Other sources include personal experience and history,  Mooney’s Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the Ethnology of American Indian by Professor Charles O. Noble, Ph.D. published in 1973.