See to me, I heard that message loud and clear. But I’ve used those terms in front of non-Dickinsonian’s, like my boyfriend when he comes to visit, and I lose him. There is definitely a suite of Dickinson vocabulary that one must acquire to communicate with other Dickinsonians. Even as I am writing, I am realizing that “Dickinsonian” is one of those vocabulary words that are definitely not recognized outside of Carlisle.
We pride ourselves as being a prestigious and selective institution of higher education. With that comes a certain level of exclusivity. As a student here, you belong to a special club, united around the shared Dickinson experience. And as such, this exclusive club has developed a language and a required level of literacy to filter out the outsiders.
As a freshman, you could be mistaken for one of these aforementioned outsiders if you don’t pick up the learning curve quickly enough. Fortunately, it shouldn’t take too long or too many interactions with upperclassmen to get a hang of where and what the “cushies” are, or that we are all fans of abbreviations.
In reflecting upon or own brand of Dickinson literacy, it is making me realize more clearly that while literacy can help raise people up through the metaphors of adaptation, power and grace, it can also be socially divisive. Our previous reading on the three girls from Galveston, TX started to illuminate how people can be left out of different aspects of American life due to their differing levels of literacy. But now I understand that it happens on even smaller social scales. The selectiveness of Dickinson literacy creates in-groups and out-groups, people who are “in the know” and then those who feel excluded.
We can see this within organizations and social groups on campus. There’s a certain lingo that the people involved with Greek Life utilize that can exclude others at times. There’s even a discernable difference between English major and biology major literacy. And while I think literacy is a gift and a powerful tool for people, the difficulties in making it universal is striking me as a sad fact of society.