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Comment: The word Gay

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  1. I think the negative use of the word is a passing fad. I’m not saying no help is needed in shifting it, however. When I was growing up it was perfectly acceptable to go to the P@ki shop or order a Ch!nky. D@rkie or S@mbo were deemed polite alternatives to the always offensive “n!gger”. These terms seemed just as permanently embedded then as O’Neill feels Gay is now.

    1. willintyne 2 Jan 2014, 10:25pm

      There was also no 24 hour television or social media back then either, so much for progress.

  2. Gay… at one time it didn’t always mean what people now say!
    interesting article and brought this to mind!

  3. Wow! Well written piece, guy.

  4. I totally agree with the author that the word “gay” should not be used as an insult, but have a linguistic point…
    The insulting uses of the word “gay” tend to be adjectival, and not nominal, as the author writes. Consider the following cases:
    (1) That’s so gay
    (2) What a gay b******
    (3) How gay!

    There are some insulting nominal uses of “gay”, but these are less common:
    (4) You’re such a gay
    (5) What a silly gay
    (6) The gay over there is being what they are.

    1. Spanner1960 6 Jan 2014, 5:09pm

      Your comments are totally gay.

  5. johnny dee 31 Dec 2013, 7:11pm

    we need a new word for ‘gay’, or homosexual. We can adopt anything, and it will also take root, leaving both newer meanings of ‘gay’ behind.

  6. Seems to me “sogay” is a completely different word to “gay”, “Your trainers are sogay” for example. It’s almost always “sogay” rather than just “gay”, My parents are sogay.
    Put sogay in the dictionary and then we can forget about it.
    So Graham Norton

    1. willintyne 2 Jan 2014, 10:20pm

      I beg to differ since it’s always said “So gay” not ‘sogay”.

  7. I can see the point being made here but I wonder if the world can’t accomodate both meanings. Consider the word ‘Bow’. To Bow as a mark of respect, the Bow of a ship, to bow a violin, bow as in warped, bow and arrow etc. An alternative strategy is to specifically use the word in two different contexts to establish the *Different* meanings. I do wish there was a proper collective noun for us. ‘Gay’ is so Lame, or is that insulting to the disabled?

    1. Brian, while I see where you are coming from, the various meaning of the word “bow” have very different etymologies and some of the words are totally unrelated.

      Of course there are instances of words with two completely different meanings. The Muppets are of course the much loved puppet creations of Jim Henson’s Workshop, yet who here hasn’t referred to a stupid or ignorant person as a muppet at some time. Does that mean that all Muppets are muppets?

      Nevertheless, Patrick Cash is correct when he states that the use of gay to mean rubbish is directly borne out of its connection to same-sex relationships. I’m of an age where we were regularly referred to as sexual deviants and thus gay=deviant or unworthy.

      A lot of playground banter is ephemeral and in a generation there will be yet another word that is being used to mean something’s rubbish. Perhaps we could turn this thing on its head with a campaign along the lines of:

      It’s really no so gay to be Gay!

  8. this article is definitely GAY

  9. Frank Boulton 7 Jan 2014, 4:36pm

    There is no doubt that the word “gay” has recently started to be used as an adjective with a rather vague pejorative meaning. I think that this is a passing fashion, over which the modern meaning of “homosexual” will quickly predominate again. That is not to say, of course, that we should just accept this pejorative usage. We can challenge pejorative and derogatory use of the word and reinforce positive use through positive images of LGBTI people and culture. There is some evidence that the word was being used colloquially with meanings other than merely “joyous” as early as the 17th Century. There are competing theories about the word’s semantic shift.

  10. Iain Logan 8 Jan 2014, 1:55am

    Love it how all the oldies are saying this is a passing fashion…. I can assure you as a 21 year old recently out of school and at uni… it is certainly NOT passing. At least not fast enough!

  11. Words like “spastic” and “mongol” were used in my childhood as descriptions of disabled and Downs children. They were also used as insults, quite innocently. As we grew and realised how damaging and immoral the terms were, we stopped using them, and they disappeared from the English vocabulary. I wish we could find a word to replace “gay”, with its overtones of effeminacy, but “homosexual” is clinical and “queer” just hurtful. In my opinion.

  12. A nice article! And a good sentiment: but there is the unfortunate linguistic reality that, while the original use of gay does appear to have been positive, use of the word as an insult predates the modern usage within the LGBT world by a couple centuries…

    The OED provides attestations of the word meaning “Wanton, lewd, lascivious” back to the 15th century… And “dissolute, promiscuous; frivolous, hedonistic” dating back to the 16th. And “Esp. of a woman: living by prostitution. Of a place: serving as a brothel” throughout the early 19th….

  13. I went through school hearing “gay” tossed about as a casual word for “lame” or “bad”, and while it was said in jest as often as in seriousness, and only in small ways, it’s used SO frequently now that I do feel it’s become a real problem for young gay teens’ self worth. Grains of sand, and all that.

    However, to flip the appropriation of words and the argument of linguistic heritage on its head, I find the gay community’s use of “queer” as a new positive word even worse than the use of “gay” as a negative one. The concept of “taking back a negative insult and turning it into pride” aside, where I live queer is still used in the traditional sense to mean not right, wrong, weird, ill, etc, and so still associate the word with those negative connotations, and yet some people seem determined (particularly in America it seems) to change the image of that word; does that perhaps undermine the argument for happy and positive “gay” also changing?

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