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Gay Gayer Gayest
February 4, 2005 11:18 PM   Subscribe

JoeMyGod implores his queer peers: What's the Gayest Thing You've Ever Done? • ''That is SO gay! I've been thinking about that expression a lot lately. What does it mean? Is it a playground epithet that is simply in vogue with the grown-ups? Or is it a sign that gay culture is so integrated into the pop culture that even the hets now see the evidence of homo-style in their everyday lives, and make jokes about it?" A followup to the original post, Part II: Flaming Son of "Gay, Gayer, Gayest"
posted by dhoyt (94 comments total)

 
(The original post is several weeks old, but I assume most had not seen it....)
posted by dhoyt at 11:19 PM on February 4, 2005


I think the gayest thing I've ever done is reply to a post about haow gay something could be..

Unless you're talking about homosexual..
Well, then.. There's all kinds of stuff..
Even with my wife in the room!!
posted by Balisong at 11:58 PM on February 4, 2005


Once I went to the shoe store and really wanted to buy a bunch of shoes. And also I think I'm fat.
posted by delmoi at 12:20 AM on February 5, 2005


btw, today's shoe fassions suck ass. the shoe designs of like 3 years ago were much nicer.

Wow, I'm so drunk right now.
posted by delmoi at 12:21 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


The gayest thing I've ever done huh...

I'm a pretty 'straight acting' gay guy, whatever that really means.. That being said...

I'm looking to adopt a dog and I'm unbelievable drawn to teeny tiny dogs that I can carry with me wherever I go on the subway. (In a cool and fashionable little carrier)

I also want to buy all sorts of cute outfits to keep my little baby warm and dry in the winter.

Something like this gal is right up my alley.

Do that qualify as 'really, really, gay' ?

I mean I'm really psyched about this all around. (Plus, nothing makes me feel warmer inside that the thought of taking a terrified shaking little doggie out of the scary pound and giving her a smothering loving home. If that's really gay, screw it)...
posted by PissOnYourParade at 12:22 AM on February 5, 2005


Yes, PissOnYourParade, it does.
posted by Balisong at 12:24 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


This will not end well.
posted by keswick at 12:24 AM on February 5, 2005


Also people need to stop defining themselvs by what they like to stick in their butts. I mean really, just because you like a big fat cock up your ass dosn't really make you that 'diffrent', like you're a whole other class of humans.

The other day I was at target and got rang up by the gayest cashere I'd ever seen. His nametag even said "Pacey" or something equaly gay. and he talked with this super-accentuated gay accent. What's the deal with the gay accent anyway.

Anyway, I hope this is just a 'phase' that gay people are going through.
posted by delmoi at 12:25 AM on February 5, 2005


You GO, girl!!
posted by Balisong at 12:31 AM on February 5, 2005


My wife hates when I say "that's gay." But I picked it up from one of her bridesmaids.

It is really weird. It's as if gay has separate meanings to people like me: one to indicate a homosexual lifestyle, and the other one that's probably not very nice unless you rationalize it by saying it's not the same kind of gay.... which is not really OK anyway.

So I'm trying to stop saying "that's gay." The problem is, I have gay friends but I have only one mobility-challenged friend, so I usually say something like "that's lame."
posted by bugmuncher at 12:41 AM on February 5, 2005


Many gays don't sit around discussing how gay they are.
posted by HTuttle at 1:30 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


I got yelled at recently by a bi friend for using the term 'acting gay' to describe a bunch of men who were, indeed, acting very, very gay. It made me mad. I mean, if I can't use the word 'gay' to describe when gay people act gay, then WTF? The only meaning left then is "gay" as "lame," and I quit that after high school. I figure, use the word "gay" in the proper context as much as possible, and help remove the negative connotations.

So, that said: this is a really, really gay FPP. Like, not your everyday gay, but a super-strong new form of ultra-gay heretofore undiscovered by man.

(Try it - it's fun! gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay)
posted by ruddhist at 2:23 AM on February 5, 2005


Oh, and also: Even though I'm not gay, I love the term "queer peers," and I will be working it into general conversation ASAP.
posted by ruddhist at 2:26 AM on February 5, 2005


What's the Gayest Thing You've Ever Done?

Had sex with a guy.
posted by MikeKD at 2:38 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


oh, and paid $115 for a pair of jeans.
posted by MikeKD at 2:39 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


It's a playground epithet. I don't use the expression myself, but when I hear people say "that is so gay" they are usually using it in the sense of 'uncool.' It is mostly a blue-collar neighborhood guy thing. "Tony got a new haircut, it's so gay." Like that.
posted by fixedgear at 3:19 AM on February 5, 2005


All the more reason to use it in the proper context, I say.
posted by ruddhist at 3:31 AM on February 5, 2005


hanging with the flintstones, as it turns out, is gay.
posted by Hat Maui at 4:24 AM on February 5, 2005


JoeMyGod's thread is hilarious reading, and an eye-opener. Thanks for posting, dhoyt.

The gay community redefined the word gay a long time ago - as I recall, it had queer-ish overtones even in Oscar's day. Now, just when we want it to remain with it's post liberation meaning of 'homosexual', or 'fabulous', or whatever, language moves on. We can't stop it evolving, but we can stop using it to mean queer. From now on, to me, the meaning of the word 'gay' is 'lame', or 'naff', or 'fake', or ...whatever.

I reckon 'gay' was just a transitional word, till we were everywhere and even polite company could talk about us. Now lets get your maiden aunt to say 'queer', meaning homosexual, not pervert: thats the real challenge!

O, and delmoi: lesbians don't define themselves by what they stick in their butts, but by which sex they prefer to sleep with. As indeed do queers and straights.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:51 AM on February 5, 2005


Playground epithet
(A whole week's worth of comics on the subject; read on!)
posted by Wolfdog at 5:33 AM on February 5, 2005


Do that qualify as 'really, really, gay' ?

I was once in Dupont Circle and saw a guy carrying a chihuahua that he had dressed in a sailor outfit.

Also people need to stop defining themselvs by what they like to stick in their butts. I mean really, just because you like a big fat cock up your ass dosn't really make you that 'diffrent', like you're a whole other class of humans.

Yeah, I'd rather that homosexuals define ourselves by our ability to spell correctly.

I don't like to hear people say "that's so gay" to mean "that's so lame." If you want to say "that's so gay" to describe something that's quintessentially stereotypically homosexual, then go ahead. I do the same thing, on occasion. Though on other occasions, it's just a compliment.
posted by anapestic at 5:33 AM on February 5, 2005


Many gays don't sit around discussing how gay they are.

Those would be the ones who are secure in their identity. I went out on two dates with a guy who wouldn't shut the hell up about how gay he was. How thoroughly, completely and unrepentantly gay. Well, that's nice, but I'd assumed that fact had already been established. Turns out that he's about the most insecure person I've ever met, and "gay, Gay, GAY!" is just a shield he uses to not bother working on himself. Disasterous, all that was.

And about Pacey the cashmere cashier: seems that pop culture hasn't given many young queers a variety of images to emulate/identify with other than prissy, effete and gum-snapping men who act much like mall-girls in 8th grade. That's going to change, I hope, much like over fifty years the media went from Step-n-Fetchit to Afro-American US Presidents. Being gay now is 'cute,' because you can have your own decorating show, and you can freely zhuzh and sass a celeb's hair during a makeover segment on a morning news show. While I skipped the femme 'phase,' I identify with the need to feel connected to something universal when coming out, and hopefully as all of us 'Merican gays mature, we won't need pandering, two-dimensional and powerless images in the media to help define us.

If there was any singular moment of extreme gay frivolity on my part, it'd have to be the night I dumpster-dove a wig that was perfect for a party's drag ensemble I'd been planning.
posted by moonbird at 6:36 AM on February 5, 2005


Well, if we are defining gay as 'pursuant to an alternative sexuality that may or may not involve sticking things up one's butt' and not 'the feeling which comes over a person whilst watching "Easter Parade" and Judy Garland', then mine would have to involve grape popsicles.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 7:18 AM on February 5, 2005


You're only linking to that Joe because he's hotter than this one.
posted by joeclark at 7:35 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


A friend was playing a video game that had a new mission each level. Most of them involved blowing up buildings and the like. Upon receiving one new task, though, he exclaimed, "Rescue the dolphins?!? What a gay mission!"

It made me laugh, but I've been wondering about it since-- would it make more sense to be offended?
posted by ibmcginty at 8:04 AM on February 5, 2005


A few years ago, me and a friend of mine (both of us hetero) discussed which one of us was "gayer". I paid money to see Morrisey live, he went down on a guy.

We called it a draw.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:20 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


...then mine would have to involve grape popsicles.
Noooooo...way too cold!

I guess mine would have had to have been when i walked into a meeting at work, and shouted, "OK--Which one of you bitches is my mother?"
posted by amberglow at 8:24 AM on February 5, 2005


I was once in Dupont Circle and saw a guy carrying a chihuahua that he had dressed in a sailor outfit.

We have a winner!

I don't care if you sang ABBA covers on Christopher Street while dressed as Judy Garland, comapred to that guy you're Al Bundy on Super Bowl Sunday.
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on February 5, 2005


"OK--Which one of you bitches is my mother?".
I remember once when I got that phrase exactly backwards in Night Court and next thing I knew, I was dressed up in a sailor suit being hauled down Dupont Circle. Ah, youth...
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 8:42 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


Is it a playground epithet that is simply in vogue with the grown-ups?

Somehow, I can't imagine any real grown-ups saying this. Of course, there are a lot of older people running around lacking in maturity and good sense.
posted by rushmc at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2005


The "that's gay" comment used to mean uncool is usually spoken by the same kind of person who says "don't be such a pussy." Both phrases make my skin crawl. When I hear either of these, I inevitably make a comment about it, like "oh so if being a "pussy" means you are weak or cowardly, then aren't you saying that by nature women are weak and cowardly?" I've gotten a few strange looks, but more often I've started a conversation about why phrases like these aren't okay. You don't hear anyone substituting "jew down" for negotiating prices anymore. It's a cultural litmus test for me--quite telling about societal beliefs (not to mention the awareness of the individual speaker).
posted by Lossewen at 8:44 AM on February 5, 2005


I'm with you on the cultural litmus test, Lossewen.

I can't help but wince when I hear people call things "retarded," either. I know that the user's intent is almost never to make fun of retarded people--for one thing, the word is never used to apply to people but rather to situations or events--but it still seems like a crappy thing to say.

It's rampant in Boston and the surrounding 'burbs--is it common in the rest of the country?
posted by jesourie at 9:03 AM on February 5, 2005


It's rampant in Boston and the surrounding 'burbs

Must be an accent thing.
posted by jonmc at 9:04 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


My sister is a lesbian, and she uses the term "that's so gay" as a perjorative. My head a splode.
posted by Foosnark at 9:33 AM on February 5, 2005


My sister is a lesbian, and she uses the term "that's so gay" as a perjorative

A lot of the use of the word "gay," has to do with the way the word sounds, I think, and even it's original meaning of cheerful. I hear the word "gay," and it still has that la-la-la connotation of effeminacy, archness and (for lack of a better word) fruitiness. For a variety of reasons, this connotation has gotten bound up with our stereotypes of homosexuals, which makes this whole thing a linguistic minefield.

I think that perhaps we need a new word to describe the traits listed above that dosen't tie them inextricably to homosexuality. I also think that maybe "gay," has outlived it's usefulness as a term for homosexual people. "Queer," for instance does not have the same association in my mind, it sounds, solid, masculine, maybe even a little scary.

Just spitballing, don't mind me.
posted by jonmc at 9:45 AM on February 5, 2005


This is an interesting topic. As a pretty gay-positive straight chick, I've almost never used the word 'gay' to mean 'unmanly,' but I would agree that that sense of the word has picked up a lot of currency recently.

If you want to say "that's so gay" to describe something that's quintessentially stereotypically homosexual, then go ahead. I do the same thing, on occasion. Though on other occasions, it's just a compliment.

I had a bit of an epiphany last week when I saw the Scissor Sisters on SNL and loved them. The male lead singer was prancing around in sequins and high boots in this loose-limbed, hands-and-legs-flapping, carefree way -- exactly the way all my gay friends back in high school tried desperately to avoid dancing. It looked like the way straight boys dance when they're trying to make fun of the way they think gay guys would dance. But every motion this guy made said 'This is how I want to dance, and fuck you if you don't like it'. It was absolutely riveting to watch someone do this unselfconsciously. It was awesome. As I described it later to a friend, I stumbled around trying to explain the style of dancing, and finally just said 'his style was basically really, really ...gay.' It was a compliment, and the most apt one I could think of.

I can't help but wince when I hear people call things "retarded,"

I think that's just a Northeast thing (unless when it appears in the construction 'wicked retahded'). I've heard it all my life and always assiduously avoided it, because it was without a doubt taboo in polite company. But a strange phenomenon occurring now is that much of the sting and impropriety has left the word 'retarded.' THis is because people are no longer clinically labeled 'retarded'. The term, at least in education, is 'developmentally disabled.' Many DD people have never been described as retarded, and the word as an epithet seems to most often mean backward thinking or obliviousness. I predict that this will become another word that generically means 'dumb', losing all reference to a particular disability, as its sisters moron, idiot, imbecile, and cretin did before it. All those were once terms used to clinically describe someone whose mental development had been arrested; now they're just insults meant to describe someone as a dim bulb.
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on February 5, 2005


I discussed this same issue a while back on my blog. The comments are the best part of that post. People have a lot of feelings on the subject. The best comment came from Philo:
One of the most insidious ways to take away a communities power is to take their language and give it opposite meanings. My, won't gay pride day sound stupid when they are celebrating how lame and retarded they all are. The majority has the power to control language.

It's been particularly easy for the masses to do this these days when so many gay men and women are so busy being "atypical" or "straight acting", often reacting and creating distance in that "I'm not like them" manner, often unaware of oppressing others who are like them in the process. Oh wait, I'm sorry, who aren't like them at all. After all, minorities internalize these lame, stupid, lazy, references society throws at them. As for me, you can call me a fag, you can call me a cocksucker, you can call me a fudgepacker, but when you take the word that defines my community and use it in such a manner, I find that very offensive.
And please note: "that's so gay" as in "that's so stupid" is NOT something that's only being said by blue collar, red state guys. I have a couple 20-something progressive hipster type friends right here in liberal lefty Seattle who say it all the time. These are people who have gay friends -- and yet they still don't see anything wrong with describing negative things as "gay."

...and it bugs the shit out of me.

I usually try to check people when they say it. But it's started coming up so often that I have trouble keeping up.

Maybe it's contextual: when I lived in San Francisco with my lesbian aunt and spent 99.9% of my time with gay friends, "fag" and "dyke" entered my vocabulary as a pet names, i.e. "Oh please, fag, the outfit looks fine! Let's go, already!" My gay friends used these terms all the time with me, and so I naturally picked it up. When I moved back up to Seattle, I shocked some well-meaning PC straight friends by using the terms a little too loosely. I learned to reign it in a bit.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:00 AM on February 5, 2005


The thing is, at least in Boston, calling something retarded (...er, wicked retahded) isn't taboo in polite company any longer. I hear it from my peers (I'm 30) in a wide variety of situations.

Unfortunately, people are still clinically labelled "retarded"--as I discovered to my dismay a few weeks ago at the beginning of my psych rotation, mental retardation is a DSM-IV diagnosis.
posted by jesourie at 10:06 AM on February 5, 2005


One of the most insidious ways to take away a communities power is to take their language and give it opposite meanings.

As well, (to repost an earlier comment I made during the "drama queen" incident)...

"Many gay men - like me - have co-opted numerous pejorative words (i.e. fag, queer) intended to demean us and have sought to turn them on their heads. For example, the chant "We're here, we're queer, get used to it" is an example of the co-opting of a vitriolic term. In this instance, gay men in the late 80's/early 90's drafted the term "queer" and used it as a vocal refrain during ACT-UP! (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and other demonstrations to shock society at large to pay attention and to address a rising/raging health crisis. Since then "queer" has become part of our popular lexicon (i.e. "Queer As Folk"' "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy", etc.). While this particular term has evolved to having additional nuance, it still can be used in contexts and settings as a demeaning, hurtful epithet ("Fucking queer."). The person who uses the term and the situation become extremely relevant in determining the intent of the word's use....Even so, if [a] term is used with malicious intent, it still carries the punch of an insult. [A similar] discussion...took place after Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy's book "Nigger - The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word" was published in 2002."
posted by ericb at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2005


In my 20s I had my mandatory "gay best friend" that all straight art school girls are required to acquire (kidding!). On more than a few occasions I was the only straight girl in a room of lesbians or gay men, but to this day if I see someone doing something that's particularly homosexual I will call it out as "gay." In my mind it's an insult if "gay" is supposed mean "lame" or "bad," but when you're just recognizing & acknowledging stereotypical behavior without placing judgment, I don't see the negativity. That said, I still use the word "retarded"... although usually I'm referring to myself. (I figure I can call myself any politically incorrect thing I want to... I won't offend me.)

On another note, many years ago a friend of a friend (a gay white man) adopted an orphaned black girl. When she was 3 or 4, I remember visiting his house to find her dressed up in odd outfits and being taught to recite lines from "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" for company. Like a parrot, she looked up and spouted on cue "But ya AHHHH Blanche, ya AHHHHHHH in that wheelchair!" Now that? Wasn't gay... that was just really wrong & freaked the living Hell out of me.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:50 AM on February 5, 2005


I like the term "There's nowt so queer as folk" [trans: there's nothing so odd as people], because it is so embracing, so accepting. It epitomises the latent English tolerance for diversity, and originally had nothing to do with sexuality whatsoever. I hated the epithet 'queer' as I grew up: now, I want it back.

Finally, at 45 - I'm an ex-gay!
posted by dash_slot- at 11:03 AM on February 5, 2005


I think Philo is right on, except that he equates "lame" to "gay" in his analysis of how the negative context is applied. He's right -- except that he doesn't seem to notice that "lame" is a word for people with disabilities. I've also worked to remove "lame" from my daily vocabulary -- in which it featured prominently at one time. I use "bogus" instead, now. Ableism, homophobia, sexism, racism -- all are reinforced by the way we talk about people. Ageism, as well -- when was the last time you heard someone refer to a teen or young adult as a kid?
posted by Embryo at 11:05 AM on February 5, 2005


I have a Down's uncle who I love dearly.

And that said, I've started using the word "retarded" to describe, well, retarded things. It has nothing to do with my uncle; a venn diagram of "retarded" and "my uncle" would not intersect. It's like saying "that's stupid"; it applies to whatever specific behaviour is under review, not to an entire class of society.

I guess the idea is that one shouldn't overgeneralize. Just because I say "A" about A doesn't mean I'm saying "A" about B.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 AM on February 5, 2005


I use "bogus" instead, now.

There's some counterfiet bills that would like a word with you, sir.

Ageism, as well -- when was the last time you heard someone refer to a teen or young adult as a kid?

All the time. When some old guy on the barstool next to me refers to my 34-year old self as "kid," I kinda take it as backhanded affection or casual frankness.
posted by jonmc at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2005


As for "gay," I hear kids using it all the time without, I think, meaning it to imply negative emotions/thoughts about homosexuals. However, I don't use "gay" in any expressions.

The only "gay" behaviours I've seen are of the flamboyant, over-the-top, attention-seeking sorts of homosexual behaviour. I'm never sure whether these flaming-gay guys are behaving that way because it's their natural behaviour, or (and I suspect this is the case) it's some sort of act, a sort of male peacock "look at me, I'm soooo gay!" behaviour.

Depending on my mood, it can be very entertaining or very annoying.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 AM on February 5, 2005


Gah. The language rules in the (gay/queer/glbt/asdfhasdf) community are really starting to annoy me. So, my bisexual friends refer to the larger group as "queer" and so do I in their presence. But then I used the term around my male gay friends, and they started getting offended. So then I started using gay. And then my lesbian friends got offended. Damnit. The transgendered friends I have don't feel part of any larger community, so that at least solves that. They object to the basic concept of there being some sort of GLBT community.

Here's the danger in coopting hurtful terms: it makes it ridiculously confusing to figure out which term to use in which situation. Also, I refuse to use acronyms to refer to natural groups of people, it imbues a sense of organzation and agenda that isnt there. The basic two splits I think I've identified are those people who identify themselves as "gay", which tend to be your basic stereotypical gay male. They tend to be fairly obviously gay, and have an annoying tendency to ignore the existence of lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered. I believe "gay" is the appropriate term in this group. The members of the community outside of the dominant male gay group tend to be fine with queer and other terms, but don't prefer "gay" be used to describe them in any way.

So, does this sound basically right? I'm horrible at not offending people, as it is totally impossible to offend me. Also, what's the status on "flamer", used in the context as gay is used by many others in this conversation? Anyway, much of this comes from my (fairly bitter) bisexual friends.

Feel free to flame me for my misuse (oh, shit, can we use that now?)
posted by JZig at 11:21 AM on February 5, 2005


I guess the ageism thing goes both ways, though. Now in my 30s, my niece has taken to calling me "old lady" out of affection. Yeah... thanks KID.

BTW, a little addendum to my above post. I should have chosen a word other than "wrong"... a far more fitting description of the scene I described would be more along the lines of "surreal," "bizarre," or "totally disturbing."
posted by miss lynnster at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2005


I inevitably make a comment about it, like "oh so if being a "pussy" means you are weak or cowardly, then aren't you saying that by nature women are weak and cowardly?"

Although you're correct and I admire your intent, I'm not sure how this helps. Tha's exactly what they mean, and telling them so isn't taking the wool from their eyes. Go to a football practice and you'll hear "don't be a pussy" right along with "you hit like a woman".

And please note: "that's so gay" as in "that's so stupid" is NOT something that's only being said by blue collar, red state guys.

Thank you. I was waiting for the first comment that snidely relegated this to another 'class' or 'section' of the country, and it didn't take long. I've also heard the term in all four corners of the states and among rich and poor.
posted by justgary at 11:38 AM on February 5, 2005


The largest concentration I've seen of using gay truly pejoratively is in the computer gaming segment. Play any game of Counterstrike or Warcraft 3, and count the number of "gay"s. It's probably something like 10 per minute. Interestingly, as the community ages, the terms has acquired a self-parodying meaning. Now, the use of "gay" in that context is more likely trying to make fun of people who use "gay" as a non-ironic pejorative. Again, my head hurts from all the repurposing.
posted by JZig at 11:41 AM on February 5, 2005


a venn diagram of "retarded" and "my uncle" would not intersect.

Which is fine. But (all IMHO, of course) you shouldn't be surprised if people hear you say, "Wow, x is really retarded," and think you're being disparaging.

I don't think it's an unreasonable assumption to make (though like all assumptions one is bound to be wrong sometimes) given that the connotation of the word comes from looking negatively upon people with mental retardation.

I don't think the word is far enough dissociated from its disrespectful origins yet to be used freely as a synonym for "redolent with stupidity."
posted by jesourie at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2005


Well, what have we learned here, brothers and sisters?

Mainly that we need some new words for certain things. Does someone have a good, punchy pejorative for flayboyant yo-yo's (not that being a flamboyant yo-yo is neccessarily a bad thing, it's all in how you carry yourself)? a good word for a redolently stupid person? a good word for a difficult woman? a weakling?

Note: all the above words must not insult anyone's gender, sexuality, race etc.

I'm only half kidding around here. How do we remove racism/sexism/homophobia/ableism from our vocabulary without neutering our tools for invective? Tough proposition.
posted by jonmc at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2005


lynn, i agree -- but i don't know if it goes 'both' ways, i just think that there is a period of time in which people hold more age privilege than before or after that time. maybe age 30-50. it probably hurts your over-age-30 neice a lot less to be called kids than it hurts you to be called old lady...but maybe not so for someone who is 5 years younger (and therefore recieves less societal affirmation of their age identity).
posted by Embryo at 12:11 PM on February 5, 2005


There are plenty of good alternatives to "gay" to describe something that's stereotypically gay but not especially apposite to today's diverse gay population. Any of the following, depending on context:

effeminate
overstated
swishy
flamboyant
fabulous

Use the last (which I always refer to as "the f-word") at your own risk, however. The general idea is that if you see a behavior that bugs you, or is merely worth noting, then you figure out what it is about the behavior that bugs you and describe that. If it's not the gayness that bothers you, come up with a better word. We got lots.
posted by anapestic at 12:27 PM on February 5, 2005


anapestic: "fabulous," is a good word for those guys who are flamboyant in an almost macho way. and "swishy," is a good word for the type of person who would dress a chihuahua in a sailor suit.

The most problematic politically incorrect word for me is "bitch," when used to describe a difficult or infuriating female. I realize that it's, on a certain level, sexist, although most women I know use it often in the same fashion. If I was describing a similar male, I'd use the word "asshole," but for some reason that word sounds strange when applied to a woman. This is probably all cultural programming, I'm sure, but it's still a quandary.
posted by jonmc at 12:34 PM on February 5, 2005


I just want to thank dhoyt for providing me with:
a) A fine link
and
b) Lots of new blogs to check out in the process.
So thank you, dhoyt.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 12:56 PM on February 5, 2005


You should reserve "bitch" for gay men. It can almost be considered a compliment, though perhaps more so when uttered by another gay man. Also, the connotations vary wildly depending on context and tone, but I reckon you're aware of that. I don't have a good substitute for "bitch" to describe a difficult woman. With difficult people of either gender, I try very hard rely on understatement ("yes, I would have to say that (s)he can be difficult") or downright irony ("my, how charming!"). I understand the expediency of a one-word description for the vexing, but it's better to be backhanded and change the topic: "Oh, let's talk about something more pleasant: how's that rash?"
posted by anapestic at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2005


From the late 1930's jive tune "Viper Mad," a refrain that explains precisely how one gets "gay":

Wrap your chops
'Round this stick of tea
Come blow this gage
And get high with me
Good tea is my weakness
I know it's bad
It sends me gay
But I can't quit
I'm viper mad

posted by rdone at 1:04 PM on February 5, 2005


So thank you, dhoyt.

No prob ;)
It seemed to engender a good, troll-free discussion, too. Never lose faith in MeFi.

JoeMyGod is the only blog that is, to me, as consistently hilarious as Tremble, Bad News Hughes, or IzzlePfaff. I'm sure there are tons of others I haven't discovered yet, though... (hint, hint)
posted by dhoyt at 1:11 PM on February 5, 2005


With difficult people of either gender, I try very hard rely on understatement ("yes, I would have to say that (s)he can be difficult") or downright irony ("my, how charming!").

I can definitely grok that, man. Some people's delivery of "she's a mite difficult," can me more cutting than other people's "motherfucking cocksucking bitch from hell, aauuuugh!" But, I've never been able to to deadpan well, my coversational style is more like Denis Leary on a caffeine and Bud bender, so I'll have to keep looking.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on February 5, 2005


"Swish" is perfect for the sort of exaggerated gay male that simultaneously amuses and vexes me.

Being In Total Control of Herself. Badge of honour, embrace it fully, wear it with pride.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:55 PM on February 5, 2005


Being In Total Control of Herself. Badge of honour, embrace it fully, wear it with pride.

When the word is applied to a proud self-assertive woman, I agree with you,fff. In the case of a woman who's merely being a pain in the ass,....well, I guess we need a new word.
posted by jonmc at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2005


I wrote a thing on the history of the word gay and the kids who use it as a synonym for lame.
posted by Tlogmer at 2:37 PM on February 5, 2005


"Nelly" is the term I use to note flamboyance, an interest in theater (particularly show tunes), or the ability to quote Baby Jane at length. Having all three of those characteristics myself, I use it a lot. Though it is traditionally applied mostly to gay men, there are nellies of all genders and orientations.

For more on the use of 'gay' as 'lame,' see Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For cartoon titled Notes on Camp.
posted by expialidocious at 3:23 PM on February 5, 2005


A lot of the use of the word "gay," has to do with...it's original meaning of cheerful.

I agree that echoes remain, and I still hate the bastards who coopted "gay" and "queer," two once-excellent words which are now impossible to use with their "straight" meanings. Make up your own freaking words, dammit!
posted by rushmc at 3:41 PM on February 5, 2005


I agree that echoes remain, and I still hate the bastards who coopted "gay" and "queer," two once-excellent words which are now impossible to use with their "straight" meanings.

I blame Fred Flintstone, the gay ol' time having bastard.

But it was the wrong word to use to begin with, since the connotations (effeminacy, flamboyance) really don't accurately fit a lot of homosexuals. The problematic part is that the word does (euphoniously [I may be choosing the wrong word, here, help me out] speaking) fit the alternate meaning-goofy, effeminate, flamboyant. I just wish that I didn't wind up smearing homosexual people in the process by using it.
posted by jonmc at 4:05 PM on February 5, 2005


I've actually heard kids in online games chanting "gay rights now!"... But only if they are playing especially poorly.

I really don't understand it. It is bizarre. I have more gay friends than I have fingers. But I still use gay pejoratively in a non-homosexual sense.

It's OK, in ten years we'll be calling everything "developmentally delayed" anyway...
posted by bugmuncher at 4:05 PM on February 5, 2005


Seems like many folks just need to call other folks names. I have no idea why. Is that an American thing?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:10 PM on February 5, 2005


yes, Mary, it is. ; >
posted by amberglow at 5:50 PM on February 5, 2005


amber, dash, you're both pretty. ;>
posted by jonmc at 5:53 PM on February 5, 2005


Let us not forget to don our gay apparel!
posted by ericb at 5:59 PM on February 5, 2005


Ah. So the kids saying "that's so gay" are actually saying "that's so campy, flamboyant, over-the-top"?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:03 PM on February 5, 2005


i wish they would find a new word already--all us older folks (including their parents) know what it means, and are going to start using it just so you kids can't anymore. : P
posted by amberglow at 6:06 PM on February 5, 2005


well, dash, truth be told, good natured ball-busting is an American way of saying "welcome to the crowd," if that makes any sense. And isn't England the country where "taking the piss out of" somebody is the national pastime?


Ah. So the kids saying "that's so gay" are actually saying "that's so campy, flamboyant, over-the-top"?

Sometimes. Othertimes it's plain old homophobia, I'll grant you. Which is probably why we need a new word for over-the-top flamboyance, as I was saying.
posted by jonmc at 6:09 PM on February 5, 2005


Which is probably why we need a new word for over-the-top flamboyance

How about: "That's so Cheney"?
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2005


How about: "That's so Cheney"?

No that's the new word for "evil," just like "That's so Bush," is the new word for "retarded." Try to keep up.
posted by jonmc at 6:20 PM on February 5, 2005


And isn't England the country where "taking the piss out of" somebody is the national pastime?

Well, yeah, of course jonmc. But taking the piss, sarcasm, satire - if it's to be done well, has to involve more than straightforward name-calling.
Brian: I'm not a roman mum, I'm a kike, a yid, a heebie, a hook-nose, I'm kosher mum, I'm a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it!
Now that's subverting the practice of abuse, and reclaiming it. And it's the funniest name calling ever. British, of course...

You big ole wussy mongrel, you.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:32 PM on February 5, 2005


"That's so Cheney"

Oh, the irony!
posted by ericb at 6:33 PM on February 5, 2005


Yes, Brian-Jesus-Chapman is referring to himself, choosing modern and invented terms of abuse which could otherwise be antisemitic. That's the whole point. Red Sea pedestrian almost makes me want to be jewish, actually. Badge of honour, like.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:38 PM on February 5, 2005


i can't believe she's writing a book!

and i can believe that whatshername Keyes was thrown out of the house, unfortunately...
posted by amberglow at 6:39 PM on February 5, 2005


Re: "fabulous" - President Bush uses that word a lot.
posted by mlis at 6:41 PM on February 5, 2005


You big ole wussy mongrel, you.

"Have you ever slept with a woman?"

"Yes, Yes I have."

"What's it like?"


(I kid. Apologies to the boys in Python)

Agreed, if you're gonna bust balls, you better at least be funny. And it also depends of the familiarity of the people involved, which inversley is often that the beginning of the ball-busting signals your acceptance into the group. My cube at work covers a broad swath of races, genders, and sexualities and when we start riffing on eachother, nothing off limits, but that's mainly because we know eachother well enough to know that no real harm is meant. But to an outsider listening it'd probably sound scandalous. The situation is way more complex than people want to admit.
posted by jonmc at 6:42 PM on February 5, 2005


Bush uses that word, has mandates, and kisses other guys....hmmm
posted by amberglow at 6:42 PM on February 5, 2005


I had missed the Keyes daughter article - ugh!
posted by mlis at 6:47 PM on February 5, 2005


Man dates! Yes!
posted by ericb at 6:47 PM on February 5, 2005


I think we basically agree jonmc: name calling is subpar. It's to be avoided, unless one wants to be fingered as an over grown playground wit. Ball busting - ooerr, missus - which sounds more like our 'taking the piss' is also a group acceptance thing. The whole 'thats so gay' meme which is prevalent over here in the UK too, is peurile, unfunny and all about exclusion from the group - thus has a diametrically opposite intent and effect that banter has.

I guess that 10 years of being called a poof by my brothers has sensitised me to that kind of abuse.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:13 PM on February 5, 2005


How about: "That's so Cheney"?

On a hilarious/pretty-gross sidenote: My gay friends refer to the semen/fecal matter combination left over after anal sex as 'Santorum' (becuase of his marriage amendment gay bashing).

Sorry if that offended anyone
posted by menace303 at 10:37 PM on February 5, 2005


that comes from Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist (scroll down)--it's spread like, um, Santorum. ; >
posted by amberglow at 10:45 PM on February 5, 2005


As a straight young liberal male, I guess I have no real right to say much on this whole thing.

But, you know, as a person who is a fan of language, and uses English fairly often, I think I should point out that it's really nice to have a variety of words with a variety of interesting histories and connotations to be able to use in our communication. You know. I think our current usage of "gay" for "homosexual" will eventually be completely replaced by "queer". It's very distinctively homosexual, in North America, at least.

At the very least, I refuse to give up 'bitch'. It's too satisfying to say.

(Incidentally, I've always wondered -- if cigarettes are 'fags' in the UK, what are fags called?!?)
posted by blacklite at 4:09 AM on February 6, 2005


if cigarettes are 'fags' in the UK, what are fags called?!?

See my comment 3 before yours...also, queer cunt, shirtlifter, fudge packer, uphill gardener, self-confessed player of the pink oboe, iron hoof (rhyming slang), etc etc. Some people don't use personal abuse like fag - that's seen as a vulgar americanism, rather than an indigenous term, though its popularity is increasing of late.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:01 AM on February 6, 2005


I agree that echoes remain, and I still hate the bastards who coopted "gay" and "queer," two once-excellent words which are now impossible to use with their "straight" meanings. Make up your own freaking words, dammit!

The only people I ever hear bemoaning the co-opting of "gay" are people who dislike gay people. Words change their meanings all the time; live with it.
posted by anapestic at 10:19 AM on February 6, 2005


My girlfriend and I were having this discussion last night, on the usage of words which are gender and sexual preference related as derogatory terms. I don't, really, have an opinion on the matter, though I generally refrain from using such terms, anyway, out of the desire not to offend someone else.

I tend to be of the mindset that labelling a group of people is a problem, not the words themselves. We're all just people.

Granted, my viewpoint, in a practical sense, is utterly useless. But maybe, someday, it won't be.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:26 AM on February 6, 2005


I tend to be of the mindset that labelling a group of people is a problem, not the words themselves. We're all just people.

Seconded.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:44 PM on February 6, 2005


It is easy to advocate the non-labeling of others when one's own label is assumed or otherwise set as standardized. it goes without saying that i'm white, straight, and male. and it would so go regardless of whether i was really white, straight, and male -- even if i was white, gay, and transgendered. so as a white straight male, it is easy for me to say something like 'labelling people is bad' -- i'm being labelled in a way that suits me so well that i don't even have to think about it. it is for the protection of other peoples' identities, not the oppression of them, that i should strive to respect peoples' right to self-identify without that process being tampered with via slurs, ignorance, or assumptions without foundation.
posted by Embryo at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2005


Speaking of the multiple meanings of the word gay, the following is now a legitimate sentence: "There's nothing gay about a gay gay." Replacement words: lame, flamboyant, homosexual. That's weird.

I'm of the opinion that it's mostly about context, i.e. there's no reason to imply intent apart from what was indicated by the usage of the word. If you aren't sure what someone meant, ask them, and judge their message rather than their words. Of course, some people dilute their language to the point where you can hardly ever understand what their intent was, requiring constant questioning. A friend of mine increasingly uses fag=loser and gay=lame. I've been wondering where that came from; he plays lots of video games as well as participating in numerous car racing forums (on which I've seen them used frequently), so those seem likely sources. He has no personal qualms with homosexuals, in fact I remember him beating someone up for talking down to some gay kid (see, now is there any reason I shouldn't use that phrase? I'm certainly not intending disrespect.) once. It does get really annoying when he says something like "There was this fag on World of Warcraft, and he was being all gay, and I kicked his ass". Where do you even start with that? I mean, it contains essentially no information. In general I dislike any extremely ambiguous words, at least where alternatives are available (and they always are).

My mother still uses kinky=wild/strange (in reference to anything, she's called my colored socks kinky before). My brother and I have tried to explain the changed meaning, but she still uses it. I'll still use queer=odd occasionally if it's clear what I'm saying.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:45 AM on February 24, 2005


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