Life Imitates the Volokh Conspiracy:

Last Summer, I asked,

Can anyone who knows something about modern Greece tell me what (if anything) the inhabitants of Lesbos -- Lesvos in modern Greek, I believe -- think about the term "lesbian"? Do they perceive it as annoying? Offensive? Amusing? Is there no dominant view on the subject? ...

A separate question, which might make some point, but which I stress is analytically distinct from the empirical questions I ask above: Say that the inhabitants of Lesbos find the term offensive. Should others, including lesbians, try to shift to a different term? Or should they go ahead with the term that they've used for a long time?

This Spring brings this lawsuit (from the AP):

Three islanders from Lesbos ... have taken a gay rights group to court for using the word lesbian in its name.

One of the plaintiffs said Wednesday that the name of the association, Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, "insults the identity" of the people of Lesbos, who are also known as Lesbians.

"My sister can't say she is a Lesbian," said Dimitris Lambrou. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos," he said.

[Lambrou and two women] are seeking to have the group barred from using "lesbian" in its name ....

Lambrou said the word lesbian has only been linked with gay women in the past few decades. "But we have been Lesbians for thousands of years," said Lambrou, who publishes a small magazine on ancient Greek religion and technology that frequently criticizes the Christian Church....

"Lesbian" as an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (a term closely linked to the term "geographical designation" that Lambrou uses)? OK, not quite, but still, intellectual property scholars should take note. Thanks to How Appealing for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Lesbian-on-Lesbian Action:
  2. Life Imitates the Volokh Conspiracy:
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Maybe lesbians should just be forced to use a disclaimer. Or, like libertarians, call themselves "small-L."

To repeat someone's joke from the previous thread: The lesbian section of a bookstore could be called the "aisle of Lesbos."
4.30.2008 2:39pm
Frater Plotter:
I had been under the impression that the modern word for someone from the island of Lesbos (or Lesvos) is Lesvonian anyhow ... kind of like Israelite vs. Israeli.
4.30.2008 2:48pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Next up, the Island of Crete... (which no doubt also came up in the prior thread.)
4.30.2008 2:50pm
The Real Bill (mail):
Maybe they are behind the "gayelle" movement.
4.30.2008 2:50pm
Is that law suit any weirder than these being reported at

Academic litigation, cont'd: Dartmouth lecturer says she'll sue students
Walter Olson
on April 30, 2008 12:05 AM
"Priya Venkatesan (Dartmouth '90, MS in Genetics, PhD in literature) emailed members of her Winter '08 Writing 5 class Saturday night to announce her intention to seek damages from them for their being mean to her." Venkatesan, who is working on a book entitled A Postmodernist in the Laboratory, was the instructor in a class called Science, Technology and Society, evidently an example of the Science Studies genre. "Essentially, I am pursuing litigation to see if I have a legal claim, that is, if the inappropriate and unprofessional behavior I was subjected to as a Research Associate and Lecturer at Dartmouth constitutes discrimination and harrassment [sic] on the basis of ethnicity, race and gender. This includes not just students, but a few faculty members that I worked with." (Gawker, Apr. 29; Dartlog, Apr. 26; IvyGate, Apr. 29; Above the Law, Apr. 29).

Law professor sues his students
Walter Olson
on April 29, 2008 10:03 PM |
Richard Peltz, a specialist in media and First Amendment law at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, says he feels like a pariah after two students active in the school's Black Law Students Association made "false accusations of racism" about him. Civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate, often quoted on the subject of campus free speech, contends that even if Peltz is correctly characterizing the students' talk about him, a lawsuit is the wrong way to proceed. (Above the Law, Apr. 29; Michelle Hillen, "Experts watch as professor sues students", Arkansas Online, Apr. 27).
4.30.2008 2:58pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Yes, if anyone has thoughts on the way "lesbian" and "Lesbian" are rendered in Greek, I recommend that you first read the previous thread, which had a lot of informed commentary on that very question, from actual Greeks.
4.30.2008 3:44pm
Greeks seem to have a problem with other people usurping their geographical terminology. Witness the crisis over the use of 'Macedonia' by the Republic of Macedonia.
4.30.2008 3:55pm
T. Swift:
"I'm a male Lesbian," the Greek said gaily.
4.30.2008 3:58pm
Anderson (mail):
My sister can't say she is a Lesbian

Sure she can!
4.30.2008 4:12pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
"[T]he people of Lesbos...are also known as Lesbians."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
4.30.2008 4:16pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Since Lesbos is an island, people from Lesbos could identify themselves as "Lesbos Islanders".
4.30.2008 5:07pm
Paul B:
I guess this means that we've already had a major party candidate for President who was a Lesbian. Mike Dukakis' father came to America from Lesbos.
4.30.2008 6:19pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
An island where everyone's a lesbian? That's hawt.
4.30.2008 6:50pm
Wouldn't a case like this fall into the same territory as companies trying to preserve trademarks on their names after those names had evolved into generic usage (e.g. Google)?
4.30.2008 7:43pm
Bleepless (mail):
How about lesbette?
4.30.2008 11:30pm
As a youth, I recall playing the board game National Geographic's On Assignment. One of the questions I had to answer was "what are natives of the island of Lesbos called?" I naturally said "Lesbians" only to be informed by the game card that they are called "Lesbosians."
5.1.2008 1:25am
mojo (mail):
I humbly suggest that the islanders continue to call themselves "Lesbians" (or "Lesvians", as the case may be), and the same-sex-preferring females call themselves "Lesbeans", pronounced identically.

Or is that offensive somehow?
5.1.2008 1:35pm