Friday, July 15, 2005


Trademark this

The San Francisco Dykes on Bikes organization has been trying to register their name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and recently got their second rejection. The delicate sensibilities of these patent pinheads are offended by the word "dyke," despite the best efforts of the National Center for Lesbian Rights to explain it to them. The NCLR got a bunch of activists, scholars, and linguists, including yours truly, (I'm not sure which of those three categories I fall under, though I have been told I'm good with my tongue) to submit declarations outlining the evolution and significance of the word “dyke,” but to no avail. For what it’s worth, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” had no problem registering their name. Here’s a SF Chronicle article explaining the whole irksome affair in more detail.
Stunning. An example of politically correct idiocy as well as a sexist double standard (vis-a-vis QE). Not to mention denying minority communities equal protection under the law. Hope you can get these nitwits to see the light of reason. Good luck.
In a similar vein, I got my personal ad bumped from (yes, my dating life is that pathetic) because I said I was looking for a "queer-friendly" woman. Go figure.
If the Patent & Trademark Office authority to consider the offensive content of a particular word, which, apparently it does, it should also have the responsibility to consider its context and recognize the nuanced difference between DTWOF and DOB's use of the word on the one hand and someone using it offensively on the other.

I posted more on this issue at
I'm more than a little tempted to try to register my new all-male pogo-jumping enthusiasts club - just to see if "Dicks on Sticks" has any better luck...
If they won't admit the double-standard, how about checking consistency? "Dyke" is one of many reclamations in Mary Daly & Jane Caputi's Wickedary. Has the patent office allowed titles including the words "bitch," "witch," "hag," "nag," "battle-ax," etc.? If so, then by rejecting "dyke" they compromise their own standards.

(Of course, compromising its own standards is de rigeur for the government, but what the hey.)
I profess that I don't entirely understand - if the word 'dyke' is indeed the problem, are you telling us that "Dykes to Watch Out For" _isn't_ safely trademarked? That you haven't already done this for your own most amazingly wonderful business?
For "patently offensive", read "scary".

You can reclaim language all day, but "queer" still sounds kinda wimpy, and "dyke" still sounds tough.

Those knock-kneed lawyers, and the "general public" with its "sensitivities", will get over themselves eventually.

-- David in Cambridge
I think there's a way to make it work for them. do you guys know who I have to email to explain it?
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