Jessica Lowell Mason

Hex Edyewcation, Sapphix, and the MaThematix of Hex Linguistics

Do you speak more than one language? Have you long wished to be multilingual but have felt too intimidated, or unequipped? I suppose you might think about the nature of language in very traditional sense, as cultural constructions attached to or deriving from geographical regions, but language formation is very much a product of the consciousness, and as such, linguistic construction and practice transcends geography. For a moment, I would like to take you out of your usual conceptions about the meaning of language. Seeing language as a product of geography is a very normal thing to do and it happens when your consciousness has been instructed to think about language and life through the limitations of The Literal and The Simplistic; but there are other, abnormal, less literal, and more complex, ways of looking at language that are –just as if not– more fulfilling.

You have, no doubt, encountered “sign language,”– American Sign Language (ASL), but the study of language, through lexicology and semiotics, tells us that that the signs and symbols that comprise human languages expand beyond individual systems of application or titles.

Have you ever wondered what a LESBIAN LANGUAGE might look like? Lesbianism is not traditionally thought of as a language, but there have been lesbians, like poet Adrienne Rich, who have urged readers to consider that there are shared experiences among lesbians that should be recognized and honored through language and linguistic practices. Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language suggests that the connection between consciousness and language can play a role in the development and survival of communities, particularly of communities that are oppressed or endangered in some way.

Sapphic languages exist and hexist: that they have existed since the dawn of Sappho.

I have created this website to share with you fragments of my what I call my ‘Sapphic consciousness’ as well as to introduce to you the substitutive linguistic practices in which I strive to disrupt and dismantle certain traditional linguistic practices, including some normative uses of the ‘rules’ of grammar and punctuation in Standard American English.

Hex Linguistics, or Sapphix, is one of many projects that are part of my ongoing study of language and identity.

Let’s get started.

SAPPHIX is part of the Sapphic system of HEX LINGUISTICS. It is a hexperiment with language and is always in-process. SAPPHIX is ever-evolving and non-static, like Judith Butler suggests about gender performativity; it comes to hexist via the mobility of SAPPHIC SUBSTITUTIVE PRACTICE. In this way, it is practice writing theory rather than theory generating practice. I began engaging in Sapphic substitutive practice on a whim, in the spirit of fun and just playing around with words, especially with the beginnings and endings of words. Over time, I became a hexpert and a mistress (or mystic /mistrexx – linguistic subversions ‘master’) in the Sapphic substitutive practice.

While I had no prior knowledge of Mary Daly’s work in Wickedary (what she did not call but what was Sapphic Substitutive Practice) when I began engaging in these linguistic hexperiments; I consider Mary Daly’s Wickedary, as well as the work of Gertrude Stein, as being source material for Hex Linguistics and Sapphix, and in all of my applications, I recognize and give credit to Daly and Stein for laying the foundation for what has evolved into Sapphix and Hex Linguistics. I recommend highly that if you are interested in learning Hex and speaking Sapphix fluently, you first read something by Stein and Wickedary by Daly. A dose of Chaucer wouldn’t hurt, either.

Before you proceed any further–

If you engage in SAPPHIC SUBSTITUTIVE PRACTICE, or if you practice THE ART OF HEX LINGUISTICS, and if you apply the language of SAPPHIX, please note, in the spirit of citation, that you are doing so.

Hex Linguistics is an art, and, therefore, what I consider a form of magic. Lavender Magic. (Anyone can read ‘the classics’,  but very few know how to read (the) Sapphix…)

The most basic of all Sapphic Principles:

The (x)=(ad) Head/Hex Substitutive Principle from The (Hypo-thetical) Book of Sapphix.

If He(x) = He(ad), then (x) = (ad).

See ‘figure’ below for a compelling example.

 ‘Madchen in Uniform’, 1958. Alamy Stock Photo. 

Hex Substitutive Principle (x)=(ad):

(X) = (AD) / (x) = (ad)

Application Formula: Insert substitutive principle (X)=(AD)/(x)=(ad) into any linguistic context in order to perform a substitutive linguistic hex on –or to HEX– the patriarchal use and to engage in the Sapphic subversive linguistic practice of the language SAPPHIX.

If you want to Sapphically encode something and make it hard for others to understand, you can apply the principle: as much or as little as you see fit. You can apply it in instances in which it looks aesthetically pleasing to you and can be understood by others, or you can apply it to baffle and totally confuse your reader, rendering yourself in some way safer from comprehension and judgment, which may be of use or interest to you, depending on how interesting you find language and whether you want to try to develop a degree of proficiency in the art of coding, ala Sapphix.

Sapphix must always be used with a sense of humor and with linguistic longing. It will not work otherwise (for instance, if you don’t know the traditional meaning of the word “parody,” don’t even think about trying to understand Sapphix).

There is a formula to the Sapphic principle of Sapphix (as you witnessed above), but subverting the formula to suit your Sapphic needs is always encouraged, as long you cite Sapphix and the Sapphic Sphinx.

Hexamples for your Sapphic Codification Pleasure:

Sex –> Sead (“I haven’t had Sead in ages” or “God you’re so Seady.”)

T-Rex –> T-Read (“Look out; Tyrannosaurus Read is about to eat you!”)

X-Ray –> Ad-Ray (“How long has it been since we took ad-rays of your crooked mouth?”)

Examine –> Eadamine (“It is time for me to eadamine you; get on the table.”)

Flex –> Flead (“Flead those non-existent muscles”)

Exact –> Eadact (“Eadactly: that is Eadactly what I did not mean.”)

Experiment –> Eadperiment (“I want to be your lesbian eadperiment.”)

Elixir –> Eliadir (“She poured the Sapphic eliadir down her throat, and voila!”)

Juice box –> Juice boad (“There is too much high fructose corn syrup in this juice boad!”)

Read –> Rex (“What do we do after school? We rex. We rex books. Ever heard of them?!”)

Bedspread–> Bedsprex (“She lay buried beneath a bedsprex infused with lilac extract”)

Saddness –> Sxdness (“Her eyes were transfixed on the sxdness of the portrait.”)

Radical –> Rxical (“Rxdical lesbians support transgender rights!”)

Misadventure –> Misxventure (“I begged her to take me on a misxventure”)

Steadfast –> Stexfast (“My love for Fraggle Rock was stexfast; nothing could move it!)

Advent –> Xvent (“The cat was grateful for the xvent of the French Angel Fish in her terrarium.”)

Hex linguistics involves the deliberate practice of Sapphic substitution: the substitution of traditional morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, roots) and letters for Sapphic morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, roots) and letters.

Of course, the most effective uses of the (x)=(ad) Sapphic Substitutive Principle are those that involve words that have ‘HEAD’ or ‘HEX’ built into them.

Spearhead = Spearhex

Fiddlehead = Fiddlehex

Beachhead = Beachhex

Blackhead/Whitehead = Blackhex/Whitehex

(Or, if you’re a witch, the obvious: Greenhead = Greenhex)

Metalhead = Metalhex

Heady = Hexy

Headstart = Hexstart

Headcase = Hexcase

As far as HEX words becoming HEAD words: the reversal can and should be done. However, the hex words, in and of themselves, warrant attention just as they are for the purposes of hexification (or Sapphic Redefinition).

Hexarchy is a word that traditionally refers to a group of six states, but the Sapphic definition is this:

Hexarchy: An alliance of six Sapphic states of mind that combine in a cauldron of Sapphic consciousness to perform Sapphic anarchy against patriarchal and heteronormative govern(mental) forces.

This is the magic of hex. The magic to create Sapphic meaning, at will. And it is only the beginning, only scratching the Sapphic surface of Hex Linguistics.

Who might be interested in hex linguistics? Anyone interested in language or lesbian culture and writing.

Hex linguistics will expand with the hexpansion of your consciousness, but only if you, by Sapphic nature or Sapphic nurture, have developed a Hexth Sense.

A hex is spell conjured by a linguistic witch.

The application of a linguistic hex has to do with dismantling grammar and disrupting patriarchal, heteronormative usage. Hex linguistix creates space for something else to exist (to hexist). It is the art of creating Sapphic meaning– the subversive creation of something new.

What, for instance, is a ‘beachhex’? What is ‘fiddlehex’ and what is ‘spearhex?’ New language uses creates opportunities for new definitions and applications. This is what some writers do!

Such words, of my invention, warrant an dictionary entry in the Sapphic Dictionary of Hex. Words invented using Substitutive Principle of Head/Hex (ad)=(x) become part of the language of SAPPHIX, and I define them using my Hexicology and background in Sapphology.

Hex is synonymous with Head for preliminary purposes, but when the substitution of ‘hex’ for ‘head’ occurs, the synonymic limits of language dissolve.

Note: Reproduction rights to the image from Madchen in Uniform were purchased from ASP for personal, non-commercial use by the webmistress, HJ.

Author’s Statement:

The linguistic practices that I refer to as ‘Sapphix’ and ‘Hex Linguistics’ grew out of encounters I had in high school with Shakespearean wordplay and, subsequently, the influence of my undergraduate encounters with the substitutive work of Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiology. The shifts in my awareness of possibilities in my own language uses, especially with grammar, grew over time and with private practice. The language play with which I experimented was very much connected with my exploration of identity, and I began to see that challenging and moving outside of linguistic norms was connected at a deeper level with consciousness and identity. What I saw in language others could not see, so to speak, and what I thought to do with language, others were not thinking to do, and so I discovered that I could make a language that came from me and my identity as a lesbian –– the language itself and the choices I made when using it came directly from a desire to speak in a language outside the heteronorm, and for me that was Sapphic –– a language for or between women. The new kind of seeing, which recognized Sapphic possibilities in language that heteronormative others could not see, was an art of identity and consciousness-making that I knew would be perceived simultaneously as abnormal and mad. And yet, that seemed to me no reason not to explore and develop it as a language system born of outsidership, having its own set of rules and enacting its own forms of insidership and validation. Thus, Sapphix was created out of a need to communicate in a way that creates possibilities, offers safe subaltern intimacy between its users, and challenges heteronormative linguistic legibility itself by devising its own.

Language can be played with so that new meanings are added or created, or that hidden or double meanings are developed through subversions and substitutions . It is a Sapphic code, its own linguistic system, where the devising of the language is ongoing and wherein the process of creating language is also a space for articulating something that resists legibility: Sapphicism. As we know and conceive of Sappho, the ancient Greek poet, today, there is both contestation and ambiguity surrounding her identity, sexuality, and history. As a figure, she resists legibility and subverts biographical narrative. Her writing and her identity are only available to us in fragments, and in this way, her work resists normative interpretation. The non-sense of the fragment is not without sense: it makes a sense that is not legible through heteronormativity. The nature of the fragment is a mad form of language in that the norms of logical ordering and normative coherence are disrupted. The ‘rules,’ or norms, of language are dismantled by the fragments through which her writing enters the world today. We can try to force the fragments into normative narratives of  meaning or identity, or we can choose to learn from the fragment to make new meaning and think differently about language, meaning, and identity. 

Sapphix is a manifestation of a pursuit and exploration of the latter. It is an example of my own lesbian “hysterical” expression, not meant to be understood through a normative lens, as it combines my attention to the linguistic practices of lesbians, is derived from my own play with the role of lesbian linguistic hysteria – a pushback against Western medicine’s harmful patriarchal construction of ‘female hysteria,’ and is reclaimative in the sense that the construction of madness – of resistance to linguistic sanist legibility – is an act of agency and empowerment. My interest in contributing to mad epistemologies is focused primarily on the way that Sapphix brings attention and study to the subjects of diversity in legibility and linguistic justice.  It draws wisdom from the normatively-illegible, that is, what is illegible and inaccessible to a heteroneuronormative majority but legible and accessible to a neurodivergent queer mad lesbian minority. By disrupting the idea that we can only engage with language in heteronormative ways and by demonstrating what thinking outside of heteronormative linguistic parameters looks like, I hope to encourage others to claim their power to play with and create their non-normative linguistic systems, as well as to increase understanding around how mad practice can be studied and understood as a praxis. This is a praxis that asserts that madness can be the state of creation of something with its own internal logic that is legible given a wider diversity of lenses for legibility or linguistic apparatuses.

Jessica is shown before a grey ceiling and dark wooden door. Jessica has pale skin, and blond hair which is dark at the roots, and falls below the shoulders. Jessica wears eyeshadow, a silver circled-star-with-pendant earring, a black band choker, a red sweater or blouse, and a grey vest.

Jessica Lowell Mason is a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant in the Global Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University at Buffalo. Jessica has taught writing courses at Buffalo State College, Carl Sandburg College, Spoon River College, and Western Illinois University. She currently teaches courses related to gender, pop culture, and media literacy at the University at Buffalo. A writer, educator, and performer, Jessica has worked for Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Ujima Theatre Co., Just Buffalo Literary Center, the Jewish Repertory Theatre, and Prometheus Books. In 2014, Jessica was awarded the Gloria Anzaldúa Rhetorician Award by the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Some of her poems, articles, and reviews have been published by Sinister Wisdom, Lambda Literary, Gender Focus, The Comstock Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Lavender Review, Wilde Magazine, IthacaLit, The Feminist Wire, and Praeger. Her first chapbook,  Woman in Disguise, was published by Saltfire Press in 2013. Her first full-length book of poetry, Straight Jacket, was published in 2019 by Finishing Line Press. She is the co-founder of Madwomen in the Attic, a feminist mental health literacy organization in Buffalo, NY.