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Summary Details


Query:   SUM: So gay
Author:  Dorine S Houston
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Summary:   RE: LINGUIST 13.267

THANKS TO THE MANY LINGUISTS WHO WROTE IN RESPONSE TO MY QUESTION!

I ASKED WHETHER MEMBERS OF THIS LIST HAD BEEN HEARING
A NEW USE OF 'GAY' TO MEAN 'STUPID'. THE QUESTION AROSE WHEN IN
INTERNET CHAT WITH AN INTERNATIONAL GROUP OF WOMEN ONE
MENTIONED HEARING IT AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE IN HONG KONG.

MANY RESPONDENTS FROM THIS LIST INDICATED THAT THE MEANING WAS NOT
NEW, AND REFERRED TO THEIR CHILDHOOD IN THE 1970S AND 1980S.
IN THE GROUP I WAS CHATTING WITH, WHERE NOBODY KNEW THE USE AND EVEN
REMEMBERED AN OLDER MEANING OF 'HAPPY', 'CHEERFUL', 'BRIGHT',
THE GROUP MEMBERS ARE ALL WOMEN RANGING IN AGE FROM 50 TO 70+,
IN OTHER WORDS, A CONSIDERABLY OLDER GROUP (ALL ENGLSH NSS FROM
SEVERAL COUNTRIES, AND NONE LINGUISTS) THAN THE RESPONDENTS WHO
INSISTED THAT THE USAGE HAS BEEN AROUND 'FOREVER'.

I THEN QUIZZED MY NIECES AND NEPHEWS, RANGING IN AGE FROM 12-34,
AND GOT A MIXED RESPONSE, MORE OF THIS 'NEW' USAGE ATTESTED TO BY
THE YOUNGER ONES. HOWEVER, A 4-YEAR-OLD GODDAUGHTER DOES NOT
KNOW THE TERM. (SHE GOES TO A PRE-SCHOOL IN THE NORTHERN SUBURBS
OF PHILADELPHIA). MY HUSBAND, WHO TEACHES HIGH SCHOOL IN THE
SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA, IS NOT AWARE OF HEARING IT IN HIS
SCHOOL (86% AFRICAN AMERICAN AND 4% HISPANIC STUDENT BODY.
I GATHER FROM THE MESSAGES THAT THE RESPONDENTS WHO KNOW THE
USAGE WERE BROUGHT UP WHITE AND SUBURBAN. A RESPONDENT WHO
HAS JUST MOVED TO THE PHILADELPHIA SUBURBS MENTIONED THAT HER
CHILDREN, NOW LIVING IN A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE SUBURB, ARE
NEWLY PICKING UP THE USAGE. ON THE OTHER HAND, A NIECE OF
MINE ATTENDING A PRIVATE AND 99% WHITE PRIVATE SCHOOL (JR.
HIGH) IN THE SUBURBS OF WILMINGTON, DE, DOES NOT KNOW
THE USAGE.

SOME REPONDENTS REFER TO ITS USE IN MOVIES AND ON TV--I
HAVE NOT SEEN ANY OF THE ITEMS MENTIONED.

MOST RESPONDENTS DO NOT ASSOCIATE THE TERM WITH ANY FORM OF
HOMOPHOBIA, THE YOUNGER THEY ARE, THE LESS LIKELY THEY SEEM TO
BE TO DO SO

THESE COMMENTS REMINDED ME OF MY MOTHER-IN-LAW (1912-
1991) WHO ALWAYS USED 'QUEER' TO REFER TO PEOPLE OR THINGS
THAT SIMPLY SEEMED STRANGE TO HER. SHE WAS A VERY LIBERAL
WOMAN AND WOULD HAVE NEVER ENGAGED IN ANY FORM OF
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ANY 'DIFFERENT' GROUP. ON THE OTHER
HAND, MY FATHER (1918-1986) REBUKKED ME IN THE EARLY 1960S
FOR USING 'QUEER' THE SAME WAY. HE SAID HE HAD LEARNED IN
THE ARMY (WW II) THAT IT HAD A 'BAD' MEANING AND HE DID
NOT WANT ME TO USE IT. HE REFUSED TO EXPLAIN IT, HOWEVER,
SAYING I WAS TOO YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND (NOT TRUE AT THAT POINT).
WHEN I UNDERSTOOD THAT IT MEANT 'HOMOSEXUAL' (I DID NOT
ENCOUNTER THE WORD 'GAY' FOR HOMOSEXUAL UNTIL THE END OF THE
1960S) I REALIZED THAT MY FATHER WAS NOT SO MUCH CONCERNED
THAT I NOT SLUR SUCH PEOPLE, BUT THAT HIS 'LITTLE LADY' DAUGHTER
WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW SUCH THINGS OR SPEAK OF THEM.
IN SHORT, I BELIEVE HE CONSIDERED IT AN IDEA A 'LADY' WOULD
NOT SPEAK OF OR KNOW ABOUT. I SENSE THAT 'GAY' FOR 'HOMO-
SEXUAL' WAS PROBABLY NOT USED BY 'SHELTERED' PEOPLE UNTIL
THE PAST 30 YEARS. ON THE OTHER HAND, ONE RESPONDENT SENT
ME THE TEXT OF A 191TH CENTURY POEM THAT USES 'GAY' IN THIS WAY,
A SURPRISINGLY (TO ME) OLD ATTESTATION TO THIS MEANING. MY FATHER-
IN-LAW (1911-1982) DID NOT USE IT AS OFTEN AS HIS WIFE,BUT HE WAS
GENERALLY MORE TACITURN. HE HAD NOT BEEN IN MILITARY SERVICE AT ANY
TIME--HE WAS A TEACHER AND EXCUSED--SO MAAY NOT HAVE BEEN AS
BROADLY EXPOSED AS SOMEONE WHO SPENT 3 1/3 YEARS IN THE ARMY.
MY MOTHER HAD NEVER USED 'QUEER' IN ANY SENSE AND COMPLAINS THAT
'GAY' HAS BEEN 'HIJACKED', AS DO SOME OF HER FRIENDS.

A NEPHEW NOW IN AFGHANISTAN, AN ARMY MAJOR, KNOWS 'GAY' FOR
'STUPID' BUT HIS SISTER, A HOMEMAKER WITH 3 CHILDREN, DOES NOT.

SO MUCH FOR BACKGROUND ON WHY I THOUGHT 'GAY' WAS UNDERGOING
A SECOND CHANGE IN MEANING IN MY LIFETIME. SOME RESPONDENTS
SEEM TO SHARE THAT FEELING WITH ME; THOSE WHO DO MAY BE OVER
40. ?? YOUNGER RESPONDENTS (WHO REFER TO BEING IN GRADE SCHOOL
IN THE 70S OR 80S) SEEM UNAWARE OF GAY AS 'HAPPY, BRIGHT', IN CONTRAST
TO MY GRANDMOTHER (1896-1972) WHO ONLY KNEW THAT MEANING.

THIS 'NEW' MEANING SEEMS TO BE BOTH WIDE-SPREAD AND SPOTTY. EVEN
HERE IN THE TRI-STATE AREA RESPONSES ARE MIXED.

BELOW IS THE COMPLETE TEXT OF ALL THE RESPONSES, AMOUNTING TO SOME 20
PAGES IN WP--EXCEPT THAT I HAVE DELETED THE SALUTATIONS AND CLOSINGS TO
SAVE SPACE.

SUMMARY OF 'SO GAY'

FROM: RK283@CAM.AC.UK

I'M A 20 YEAR OLD LINGUISTICS STUDENT - AND WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL
JUST A FEW YEARS AGO IN SUBURBAN CONNECTICUT, THE WORD

LL Issue: 13.498
Date Posted: 23-Feb-2002
Original Query: Read original query