The transformation of French bardache, ultimately a borrowing from Italian denoting the passive partner in sex between men, to English berdache, referring to Native American nonbinary gender identities or roles, involved a complex translinguistic dialogue in North America in the early nineteenth century. This history has never before been adequately explained. While berdache is now largely obsolete and considered offensive due to its exoticizing, colonialist, and ethnocentric origins, its multifaceted history encapsulates variation and change on phonetic, graphic, semantic, pragmatic, axiological, and ideological levels. In recent decades, Indigenous queer people have adopted Two-Spirit as a means of challenging this imposed categorization and asserting linguistic self-determination. With the aim of correcting previous accounts and omnipresent misconceptions about the history of the lexeme berdache, this article uses a qualitative philological method to describe the development of this internationalism from a linguistic perspective.

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