What’s in a name anyway?

Let me pose you a riddle: When is a noun not a noun?

Here’s a funny dog cartoon for you to look at while you consider the answer…

A black and white cartoon with a woman sitting in a chair taking notes while a forlorn looking dog sits on a lounge saying "I like cat toys".

Who doesn’t love a good cartoon about dogs, hey?

Anyway, I’m sure you’re just dying to know the answer to the riddle: When it’s autistic!

The Unmasked Autistic wasn’t even my first choice name for this blog. Problem was that the domain name for each of my other choices – names that included The Autism Chronicles and Autistic for a Day – had already been taken. (They aren’t being used mind you – they’re just taken. For safe keeping, I guess.)

My hesitation around using the name I have now come to actually love was, that’s right, the use of autistic as a noun. I had never before seen it used as anything other than an adjective: ‘autistic person’, ‘autistic traits’, ‘autistic brain’.

Let me pause here for a moment because you may be asking yourself, Why is Glenn boring us with a grammar lesson? If I wanted a grammar lesson, I would have gone to a grammar site! Why is he practically begging me to click away from his already heavily ignored blog site?

Well, I used to teach English to international students at a couple of universities, and then I went on to teach English to international health professionals seeking registration in Australia. I loved it. And some of the classes my students seemed to respond to the most were my grammar classes.

Point is (yes, please Glenn, do get to the point!) language is important to me and, while I liked the sound the name The Unmasked Autistic made in my head when I said it, I wasn’t convinced by the use of autistic as a noun. (Really I was worried that someone with far more knowledge and experience of autism itself would give me s*hit about it.)

Solution? Pick my wife’s brain and comb the World Wide Web for answers!

As a lover of language and a former English language teacher, I am, and have been, exceedingly fortunately to have an incredibly knowledgeable, extremely experienced, absolutely gorgeous linguist living with me. And the Web – well, it’s everywhere!

Here’s how things went down on the WhatsApp chat I had with my wife.


Screenshot of a link to a definition of autist in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

ME AGAIN (before she had time to respond):

Screenshot of a link to a conversation on Reddit about the use of the word autistic as a noun.

THE REST OF THE CONVERSATION (me in green, my wife in white):

Screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation.

So, I think what this WhatsApp conversation clearly demonstrates is how annoying I can be, and how I’ll essentially go my own way despite the learned points and common sense displayed by my wife. (By the way, I found the discussion on Reddit a fascinating one. It’s well worth checking out by clicking on the link above if you have time to peruse it.)

The most important thing to consider here, however – the takeaway, if you will – is that in the end I went with my wife’s recommendation: The Unmasked Autistic (consider the omitted ‘person’ at the end of the title implied in this case). And that ultimately, no matter what anyone else thinks, was definitely the correct decision.

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  1. Hi Glenn,

    I came across your blog link on Linkedin via reframingautism.org.au and just had to reply to say I got a sense of relief reading it. I too am a late diagnosed Autistic person, (formal diagnosis forthcoming) albeit at age 62 and shortly after retiring from the WA Police Force. All your descriptions and recollections of thoughts, feelings, behaviours and coping without knowing all rang so true with me.

    Do you find the more you research the more you find others like us? people who for so many years didn’t know what the hell was wrong with us that we couldn’t fit in despite desperately wanting to?

    • Hi Dave, thanks for getting in touch. I’m really glad to hear that the blog post you read rang true with you. I haven’t been at this blogging business for long but the story I wrote for Reframing Autism has garnered me a small audience of people who are all in our situation or knew/know someone who was/is. So yes, there does seem to be a cohort of older Autistic people only now discovering that they are indeed Autistic. Perhaps those of us who were overlooked when we were younger because the world was such a different place then. I’ve been a writer most of my life, so this was the best way I could think of to try and find others and speak to them – starting this blog. That’s why I’m going to continue doing this for as long as I can! Hope to have you along for the ride.

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