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Meet the newspeak, same as the oldspeak
June 12, 2006 12:40 AM   Subscribe

When taking lessons in English from the BBC, be sure to follow up with remedial "playground-speak"
posted by Mr. Six (198 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
i thought "gay" meant "happy".
posted by tnai at 12:53 AM on June 12, 2006


I hear "gay" used in this context fairly often at my (iberal, Californian) school. It is so prevalent that the Gay Straight Alliance passes out buttons that say "that's so gay"

I don't think its fair to take the word, which was adopted in order to unify an outcasted segment of society, and twist it so that it is derogatory. It's almost an ethnic slur.
posted by anarcation at 12:56 AM on June 12, 2006


I hate that phrase in that usage as well, but in all fairness, when people say it they're almost never talking about another person, so I don't think it counts as a slur.
posted by nightchrome at 12:59 AM on June 12, 2006


Anacration, I guess one needs to look at what exactly one is attempting to unify and whether indeed people want some sort of "unification"; just because someone is gay isn't going to mean they're going to identify with the whole gay culture that goes along with it, or necessarily want to socialize with "gay" people, or even so much care.

"Gay"/"Ghey" bugs me, but you know, language changes. I'm just dealing with it. Strangely though, it could also irritate me if someone says in the right context/tone of voice about me, "You're so gay", because while I might be, I still feel offended by that even if the intent is that they mean I'm horrendously homosexual-seeming.
posted by taursir at 1:30 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm obviously reading the wrong blogs as I haven't come across "gay" meaning "boring".
posted by TheDonF at 1:39 AM on June 12, 2006


You say that like there's something wrong with being gay.
posted by loquacious at 1:41 AM on June 12, 2006


I don't say this about many things, but I really think each and every use of 'gay' as a generic negative deserves a quick, solid punch in the face. I'm hard-pressed to ever be civil again to someone I've heard use it that way. It's just so fucking hopelessly blatant - I honestly can't think of many other negative terms that're so obviously massively discriminatory and whose use generally goes so unremarked upon (apart from good old casual tranny jokes, of course).

The BBC's acceptance of one of their idiot DJs using it this way is just yet another reason I'm proud not to pay a license fee. I wouldn't spare the mealy-mouthed, lowest-common-denominator-pandering, 'yoof'-courting, Doctor Who-ruining fuckheads a single penny if their existence depended upon it.
posted by terpsichoria at 1:44 AM on June 12, 2006


This post = teh ghey.

I think most bloggers' use of gay/ghey is mocking its use as an insult rather than going along with it, but hey.

Gay-as-rubbish certainly is prevalent in everyday conversation, for me at least, although I try to avoid it and get a little awkward when I hear it.
posted by reklaw at 1:52 AM on June 12, 2006


I don't say this about many things, but I really think each and every use of 'gay' as a generic negative deserves a quick, solid punch in the face.

Because, of course, violence is most certainly the answer to words, much less the ignorance and weakness of mere mundane humans.

Speaking as a completely LBGT friendly pansexual weirdo: Chill. If that's your honest response, you probably need to work some shit out.
posted by loquacious at 1:53 AM on June 12, 2006


I think most bloggers' use of gay/ghey is mocking its use as an insult rather than going along with it, but hey.


Without reducing myself to fark-like image posting, it's not like it's odd to hear of the news completely missing the point on something internet/blog/trendy-related.
posted by taursir at 2:08 AM on June 12, 2006


Don't be absurd, loquacious. Unless I've suddenly become the head of an international squad of expert face-punchers - and last time I checked, I hadn't - it's clearly not something I think should be anyone's actual policy. I might as well have said 'deserves a cutting, incisive witticism drawing attention to their flaws' or 'quick and total censure' or 'vicious social ostracism'. I admit I should have put it more plainly - I made the mistake of assuming that nobody would seriously think I was suggesting actual violence as a solution, so much as implying that I think the use of 'gay' this way is seriously unacceptable - but now I think about it, people genuinely suggesting violent solutions to arguments isn't unknown around here. I didn't have my Internet Hat on, and I apologise for that.

On the other hand, I really wouldn't characterise it as 'ignorance and weakness' - if someone uses the word this way, they're making a choice to do so, and I'm not sure I'd give them the excuse that they don't realise it's offensive and belittling (in the same way that people often claim not to have known 'gypped' is offensive, for example) just because they apparently haven't bothered to think about the words they're using.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:13 AM on June 12, 2006


I think using the word "gay" like this is totally wicked.
posted by Jimbob at 2:17 AM on June 12, 2006


I admit I should have put it more plainly - I made the mistake of assuming that nobody would seriously think I was suggesting actual violence as a solution, so much as implying that I think the use of 'gay' this way is seriously unacceptable - but now I think about it, people genuinely suggesting violent solutions to arguments isn't unknown around here. I didn't have my Internet Hat on, and I apologise for that.

Since the topic of discussion is language, intent and meaning, I just thought I'd point that out.

Despite my previous post, sometimes language does influence (and cause) action.
posted by loquacious at 2:18 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm gay and this post is so gay.

Also. Gay. Gay gay gayity gay. Spelled backwards it's yag. Yag yag yaggity yag. Hey (rhymes with gay!) that rhymes with fag!
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:20 AM on June 12, 2006


I admit I should waffle waffle waffle I didn't have my Internet Hat on, and I apologise for that.

Dear god I talk a lot of crap sometimes, don't I? I'm probably overreacting (again), but I feel like I've semi-derailed a potentially interesting thread with a rant induced by that good old Internet excuse for talking bollocks, 'not really having had any sleep for two days'. So: oops. And sorry. And to be honest, I largely dissociate myself from what I said up there. I really do think people using it this way deserve a stern telling-off, and I really would have trouble being friendly with someone who did it repeatedly despite someone mentioning that it bothered them, but everything else is shite, quite frankly.

Since the topic of discussion is language, intent and meaning, I just thought I'd point that out.
Despite my previous post, sometimes language does influence (and cause) action.


Again, this could be the stomach-distress-induced lack of sleep talking, but I'm not sure I'm picking up on what you're getting at here and I'm honestly interested.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:31 AM on June 12, 2006


terpsichoria: Language is a virus.

Also - unrelated - WolfDaddy is one hell of a cocksucking faggot.
posted by loquacious at 2:47 AM on June 12, 2006


Gay is used for "rubbish" just as n***** was (technically, is) used for many derogatory purposes years ago. If you use "gay," you go along with the social idea that homosexuals are worthless and undesirable, to some degree. I hope we cringe at this twenty years from now.
posted by anotherbrick at 2:47 AM on June 12, 2006


anotherbrick: if that comparison of yours is any indication, twenty years from now it should be used as every second word in the latest music style.
posted by nightchrome at 2:57 AM on June 12, 2006


Growing up, all the kids used gay simply to mean "not cool." I've since learned to use the PC substitute lame but frankly lame is lamer than gay.

Whatever people mean in their hearts, gay as an insult has to go because there are too many assholes using it with hate. Too bad there isn't a substitute that's as punchy though... I'm open to suggestions.
posted by missbossy at 3:00 AM on June 12, 2006


missbossy: Too bad there isn't a substitute that's as punchy though... I'm open to suggestions

Rubbish, crap, cruddy, shit, shite, sad, meh... There aren't loads that come to mind. I've used "lame" recently to mean "a bit crap" and I wish I hadn't, because it's really disrespectful. "Lame" and "gay" in that context really mean, "I don't care enough about you or think you're important enough to select a different word for my expression of mild dislike."
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:07 AM on June 12, 2006


It's pretty much the same as five years ago, when the most popular insult on the playground was "gyppo" - calling someone a gypsy. Kids are cruel and like to insult each other. That doesn't mean that adults ought to imitate them. Adults are supposed to be teaching the little savages how to be civilised, not the other way around.
posted by talitha_kumi at 3:11 AM on June 12, 2006


I have heard lots of young kids use 'gay' as meaning rubbish.

Kids all over the UK use language like that but generally grow out of it as they become adults and are more aware of the effect that their words have on others. I would wager that a fair percentage of people growing up in the UK used to call each other extremely offensive names as young teenagers but wouldn't do so as adults. I remember it being very common at school for people to call each other poof or gyppo. Jokes about the Ethiopian famine were common currency for a time as well. I don't think it led to a generation of heartless bigots but was a phase where youngsters grasp onto the language that they think impresses their friends. The condemnation of it by well-meaning adults gives such language the illicit element that teenagers love and only serves to perpetuate it.

Chris Moyles - a grown man in his 30s- is just a boorish idiot.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 3:18 AM on June 12, 2006


Yeah, lame means crippled, obviously, so you're bound (no offense to bondage folk) to offend someone with it. But you could add a diacritic (no resemblance to the death of critics intended) to the e and make it lamé, which is gayer than a Liza Minnelli fan.

I think I'll start declaring that things are totally lamé. With gradations of silver and gold. This thread is gold lamé.
posted by pracowity at 3:22 AM on June 12, 2006


What about purple lamé? It comes in purple too, y'know.
posted by loquacious at 3:24 AM on June 12, 2006


Gay sucks.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:45 AM on June 12, 2006


If you use "gay," you go along with the social idea that homosexuals are worthless and undesirable, to some degree.

That's pretty much my take on it, too. If 'gay' means 'bad' the implication is that to be gay is to be bad, and I'm pretty sure kids using the word in this way are aware of that, too. If kids started saying, I dunno, 'Ugh, that's so jewish', I bet the BBC wouldn't be happy for Chris Moyles to adopt their terminology.
posted by jack_mo at 3:53 AM on June 12, 2006


Is there a difference because the term gay is fluid, in that it's usage has already changed once in my lifetime? To me, brought up with gay=happy, then to find gay=homosexual, to see it change again doesn't seem like the biggest thing in the world, and certainly not a comment on homosexuality. That would be really gay.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:13 AM on June 12, 2006


If kids started saying, I dunno, 'Ugh, that's so jewish', I bet the BBC wouldn't be happy for Chris Moyles to adopt their terminology.

That's the really insulting thing here. The BBC come down like a tonne of bricks on racial slurs, and are pretty careful around religious stuff. But us queers can take another one for the team. After all, Chris Moyles is a popular DJ, and we wouldn't want him censored; think of the loss to the nation's funny bone!

A shame. Another point of respect for the BBC lost. I'd write to them, but I've done that over a couple of other issues and I only ever get, "That's lovely, but we don't care, so shut up," responses. If they're going to authorise the use of "gay" for "rubbish", though, they should probably remove a sentence or two from their statement of values, and ask the government to edit their charter a bit.

pracowity, disabled and gay people are in sort of a different category to critics and bondage people, and "diacritic" and "bound to" do not have the negative meanings associated with "gay" and "lame", which is why people aren't insulted by them.

ciderwoman, I think it really is a comment on homosexuality. Kids (and adults) say things they don't like are "gay" because they think gays are bad, or at the very least a little bit "you know what". That was the way my former friends used it, in any case.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:22 AM on June 12, 2006


If 'gay' means 'bad' the implication is that to be gay is to be bad

Yeah, you're an idiot.

Kids (and adults) say things they don't like are "gay" because they think gays are bad

You too.
posted by cillit bang at 4:28 AM on June 12, 2006


armyofkittens, my office is predominantly gay (they are the majority), and outside work I have a number of gay friends, and you can be sure that when I use gay to be mean stupid it's certainly not a comment on homosexuality. It's down to watching too mucgh south park is all.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:29 AM on June 12, 2006


You guys are so straight.

Gay can mean bad, straight can mean bad. So everyone sucks, doesn't that make it fair? There is obviously more to communication than words.
posted by public at 4:30 AM on June 12, 2006


I frequent many messages boards, and MMORPGs and have seen the rapid rise and slow slow decline of the use of the word 'gay' as a general derogative. Only to find it replaced, in Warcraft especially, with the rather unweildy 'horrendously homosexual-seeming'. For example: 'human priests are so horrendously homosexual-seeming.. dude'. Things are getting worse not better.
posted by econous at 4:34 AM on June 12, 2006


If kids started saying, I dunno, 'Ugh, that's so jewish...

People do say that – I've used it before in a jokingly Cartmanesque "Give me your Jew gold, Kyle" kind of context.

Identity is a joke.
posted by blasdelf at 4:36 AM on June 12, 2006


cillit bang, how is that helpful, exactly?

ciderwoman, I didn't mean that that's how you mean it, and I apolose if I implied that, but that's how most people in my experience who use it think of the word. And even if you don't mean it as a comment on homosexuality, isn't it a little bit thoughtless? Would it be so hard to use a different word?

Regardless, people can say what they like, and I will form my own opinions of them. What's disgusting is that the BBC has officially endorsed that use of "gay". A random sampling of BBC governers' opinions on what the BBC is actually for would probably include the words "integrity" and "responsibility" several times, but this pronouncement seems to rather contradict a lot of the things the BBC thinks it stands for.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:40 AM on June 12, 2006


armyofkittens, no apologies needed, didn't think you meant me.

But to defend the BBC, they've already redefined it's usage once to reflect popular culture (from happy to homosexual), so what's so strange about redefining it again as its meaning changes still further?
posted by ciderwoman at 4:45 AM on June 12, 2006


ciderwoman, it's strange, apart from anything else. The corp can be paranoid about insulting people. It schools its newscasters on funny surnames and hard-to-pronounce foreign cities, and it certainly would not allow a racial or religious epithet to pass the lips of anyone on its screens without a bloody good reason, in writing, to show to the legions who will inevitably write in afterwards. The BBC try to keep up with the evolution of language -- these days it's one of their proud "me too" bullet points -- but they rarely try to keep up with the evolution of insulting slang.

The BBC are aware of the weight they represent on the rubber sheet of British English. For them to approve a word that describes a much-maligned minority for use as a derogatory term is very different to their instructing their newscasters to stop saying "left-tenant" and start saying "lieutenant".

And my lunch break is officially over! Bye, mefi!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:55 AM on June 12, 2006


I really am surprised at how many people are apathetic or actively supportive of this. It's a gigantic media corporation - a government-supported one, at that - okaying the redefinition of a term that almost universally identifies a legally and socially oppressed minority group as 'bad'.

I feel like it's almost a clichéd comparison to make, but that doesn't necessarily dilute its accuracy: would this be okay if 'black', 'muslim' or 'coon' had become pop-culture slang for 'bad, boring, embarrassing', and Fox News had made an official statement that it was okay for its presenters to use it as such?

Are you seriously saying this is fine, or irrelevant? This is the same community that went apeshit over an exam question mentioning a black woman and a watermelon, isn't it?
posted by terpsichoria at 4:59 AM on June 12, 2006


Bollocks, that link went wrong. The thread's here, for what it's worth.
posted by terpsichoria at 5:00 AM on June 12, 2006


In my group of friends, if one of us were to say "I don't want that ringtone, that's gay," the rest of us would take it literally to mean: "If I were to have that ringtone on my phone, people would assume that I was a gay man, even though I'm straight."

Which would not imply anything about whether being gay is a negative or a positive.

I'm not sure the reverse would be said, but something like "I don't want that ring tone, it's too butch" might.
posted by empath at 5:04 AM on June 12, 2006


econous -- pretty much any new messageboard with a large contingent of 18 year olds or younger will go through crap like that. I admin'd a really large nightclub's messageboard for a while and the fight over that kind of language was neverending.
posted by empath at 5:05 AM on June 12, 2006


All broadcasters are constantly updating their lists of insult and slang. It's not a rare occurance at all.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:08 AM on June 12, 2006


As a "gay", whenever I overhear the word used in this context casually, I bristle. Necause society taught me when I was growing up that this was what I was to be called, and it also told me that it was bad, and it also told me that this badness could be invoked to describe other things. People who think it is innocent and carries no weight are not the people who typically run the risk of having it turned on them. When I see a pretty girl laugh and tell her friend that the movie she just saw was so gay, all I can think is how ugly she suddenly seems to me. People who pick up this slang are just like the ones who use "retarded" the same way. On a public bus or in a public forum, you are bound to hurt someone.

Face it. I live in New York City, the gayest gay that ever gayed, and it's still a place where a gay man had his jaw broken this week by four thugs this weekend, and where I still was called "faggot" and pelted with garbage yesterday just for making the mistake of traveling too close to the periphery of the Puerto Rico Day parade. Am I sensitive and do I over-personalize the issue? As someone who has to watch my back, I can't help it.
posted by hermitosis at 5:18 AM on June 12, 2006


ciderwoman: Show me a comparable example, then. Something which was once a term describing a minority group and which has been redefined, and accepted by the media, as meaning something universally negative. If they do this all the time - if they use the current slang term regardless of whether or not people are insulted by it, and this instance is normal practice rather than an example of institutionalised homophobia - why does the BBC not allow its presenters to call things retarded, or say they've been gypped?

There's an incredible amount of slang in use all the time, much of it insulting to one group or another. Very, very little of it is used and justified by the BBC.
posted by terpsichoria at 5:19 AM on June 12, 2006


What happened to "gaylord?" That was the insult of choice in my 5th grade class. I said it once on the kickball field and felt really, really crappy about it.

That said, most people don't need the permission of the media to use an expression or phrase, but the acceptance by the media does go a long way to desensitizing the culture.
posted by Biblio at 5:24 AM on June 12, 2006


Really sad that the BBC have ruled this way, for the reasons outlined by terpsichoria. In fact, that talentless hack Chris Moyles is given any air time at all is not something I agree with and the fact that he is so popular is a damning indictment of the standards of the British public.
Of course though, the BBC are in a lose lose situation with this one, for all the people upset with the decision, there would be an equal number of people blustering about the BBC "pandering to political correctness gone mad" if it had gone the other way.
posted by chill at 5:40 AM on June 12, 2006


pracowity, disabled and gay people are in sort of a different category to critics and bondage people...

Just a joke, of course. But I still think lamé is the way to go. Unless Liza Minnelli and/or someone in the gaudy fabrics industry objects.
posted by pracowity at 5:48 AM on June 12, 2006


This thread is so niggardly.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:48 AM on June 12, 2006


"Gay" didn't originally mean "homosexual," I don't really see any reason for the language to stop evolving now.

I use gay to mean lame all the time, always in a light-hearted fashion. If I said lame, would that be okay even though it's derogatory against cripples? What about dumb? Jerk, spazz, idiot? Rarely are those words meant to be slurs against their original representatives.

This does seem to be a generational thing, the under-30 crowd being much less likely to remember a time when gay slurs were so widely acceptable. Given enough time, the word might cease to be associated with homosexuality altogether. (I personally prefer to identify as queer.)

I do respect other people's right to not want to hear it or be around it if it does offend them though. There's a word that offends me that's even more acceptable and widely used.
posted by ryokoblue at 5:50 AM on June 12, 2006


Usin gay as rubbish is very lame. And it's not very taboo breaking or rebellious either, because you can be sure that the majority will sympathize. (Disclosure: I'm maybe rubbish sometimes but not homo)
posted by vertriebskonzept at 5:51 AM on June 12, 2006


terpsichoria, I don't have any other examples. I was just wondering if the fact the word had already changed usage once in my life time had any relevance.

And FWIW hermitosis, my Mother, who has no problem with people being homosexual (she works in publishing and so has come across a fair few), but she bristles everytime someone uses the word gay to describe homosexuality. She was brought up with one definition of it and loathes its change.

Violence against minorites is just plain wrong and stupid, but I think it's a slippery slope to pin too much blame on words alone.

Remember the time the DETI decided that the term brainstorming could be offensive to epileptics? Personally I'd rather see psoitive education on the rights of homosexuals than negative censoring of words.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:54 AM on June 12, 2006


in the same way that people often claim not to have known 'gypped' is offensive, for example

If you're seriously suggesting that everyone who uses the term gypped is 1) aware of its etymology and 2) deliberately being offensive to Roma, then... well, you're welcome to your beliefs, as are the flat-earthers, but from now on I'll take what you say as seriously as what they say. (And I trust you know that Roma is pronounced with the accent on the -a, and that the singular is Rom; if not, you're clearly prejudiced. I'll quiz you on the etymology later.)
posted by languagehat at 5:55 AM on June 12, 2006


Oh, and was it really necessary to include links to the BBC Languages site and an irrelevant Wikipedia article just to appease the "single-link = EVIL" crew of idiots? How sad.
posted by languagehat at 5:57 AM on June 12, 2006


"That's so gay."
"Don't say that. My brother's gay."
"I mean... it's lame."
"Don't say that. My sister's lame"
"I mean... it's dumb"
"Don't say that. My cousin's dumb"
"I mean it's stupid"
"Don't say that. I am stupid"
posted by bunglin jones at 6:00 AM on June 12, 2006


languagehat, I'd politely point you in the direction of my but everything else is shite, quite frankly, and the rest of my comment here. I'll hold my hand up and say that severe sleep deprivation is not a state in which it's a good idea to make daft, inflammatory comments on Mefi - hence my apology - but perhaps you could do the same re: apparently not reading the thread properly before getting snippy.
posted by terpsichoria at 6:03 AM on June 12, 2006


(addendum: those who have a tattoo on their forehead saying "I have nothing against gays" may use it in an ironic way)
posted by vertriebskonzept at 6:04 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm open to suggestions.

erm.. i suggest 'dubbya'
posted by borq at 6:06 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is incredibly old. People have been using gay to mean rubbish since the late-1990s at least. You can see why, too. Gay culture is typically seen as uncool, particularly by over-compensating teenagers. So plain description becomes opprobrium:
"That shirt makes you look so gay" becomes "that shirt is gay".

How do you stop this? It's not that this is an irrational prejudice as it is for race: Gay culture isn't cool enough for school.
posted by bonaldi at 6:10 AM on June 12, 2006


"Woah, man, that's pretty beat, man-"
"-That's not beat, that's kinda boss!"
"Get outta town!"
"Word-"
"-You meant to say 'snake', didn't ya?"
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:12 AM on June 12, 2006


Also, when did it become the norm for the children to teach the grownups what's acceptable? The BBC: "Also, we learned that calling someone Zit-Face really just means we don't want to sit by them at lunch today, and really has no bearing on their historically noted tendency to have zits".

Younger people have divorced some words from their original meaning, which is exactly why they need to be reminded and instructed. When I am teaching, I do not allow a kid to use the word pimp or nigga "because he's using it in a way that doesn't necessarily connote its previous use". I silence him because he isn't and because he needs to be reminded that the words have great power-- greater power than the fools that wield them-- and he needs to know what others will hear when he uses them.

I am part of that under-30 crowd, but grew up in a small town where gay slurs were widely acceptable, and still are. And the people who freely use "gay" and "retarded" in the way we're talking about are not part of some huge altruistic movement to free the words from their hurtful previous meanings. They are simply thoughtless and perhaps over-confident in their estimation of how far those around them have moved beyond those hurtful meanings.
posted by hermitosis at 6:24 AM on June 12, 2006


What about the terms "fish," "breeder," "cracker," "WASP," "gringo," and the seventy eleven other derogatory terms people in the minority have come up with to call people like me?

I'm not supposed to be offended of course, because I'm on the top of the oppression ladder and therefore it is impossible to oppress me. I think however, that the fact that such names even exist basically just goes to show that some part of all groups of people are dicks, and if the words weren't offensive in some way, they wouldn't be used.

That being said, I completely disagree with hermitosis and I'm sad to see that a teacher is attempting to constrain the minds of young people. I think "gay" is eventually going to lose it's connotation as a term for homosexuality and just mean lame. In fact, I think the more kids use it, the better off we are. Kids use words without really knowing their meaning and sometimes that alone changes their meaning. That's part of how language evolves. If you really want to affect language, help it evolve faster. One word I love to watch along these lines is "the n-word."

As a white American, I feel that I can never really say that word in it's entirety and that's OK. I don't listen to rap. so I really have no use for the word. Other people, including many of my 30-something brethren, do enjoy the rap music and so find themselves in a dilemma. It's used in the song. If you want to sing along, what do you do with that word? It seems unfair to prevent appreciative fans from singing along to their favorite ditty, not as unfair as, say, slavery or Jim Crow laws but you get my point. So how do you work around that? Especially if you're a teenager who doesn't really get all of the charged sociopolitcal history of the term and just sees a bunch of cool people casually referring to other people that way. I'm actually sort of curious to see how that one works out and for my money it is a much better topic for debate than use of the term "gay."

Although just as far as that goes, I resent "gay" being used in this way, because I think it's a nifty sort of word to use for happy. I also like "fag" for cigarette, and "queer" for something that is odd. These days I can't use any of those terms without a lot of explanation. And I know it sounds "gay," but I've always used "pursuing an alternative lifestyle" as my term for homosexuality. I just like the way it sounds.

Regardless of my personal theories though, I do support freedom of speech and so I think people should be allowed to use whatever foul and offensive language they choose. Just so long as it's not "fire in a crowded theater" language and they realize that some day, someone may actually punch them in the face for it or call them "cracker."
posted by BeReasonable at 6:29 AM on June 12, 2006


No but what happened was was this whole fing happened what I don’t even know nuffin’ about because Ashley Cramer has been going around saying that Samantha’s
brother smells of mud but anyway shut up ’cause I ain’t never even not even stole no car
so shut up.

What? Don’t go givin’ me evils!
posted by mds35 at 6:32 AM on June 12, 2006


perhaps you could do the same re: apparently not reading the thread properly before getting snippy

I appreciate your retracting virtually everything you said in your earlier comments, but 1) you can't really expect everyone to memorize all your comments before responding (part of the penalty of saying shite is that you're going to get called on it), and 2) if you agree with me that most people who use the word gypped have no idea that some (easily offended) people consider it a slur on Gypsies/Roma, why would you have written that in the first place, sleep deprivation or not? I'm not trying to be difficult, and I really do appreciate your willingness to retract (I wish more people around here were like that), but you seem to be claiming alien invaders took over your keyboard.
posted by languagehat at 6:34 AM on June 12, 2006


I think "gay" is eventually going to lose it's connotation as a term for homosexuality and just mean lame. In fact, I think the more kids use it, the better off we are. Kids use words without really knowing their meaning and sometimes that alone changes their meaning.

What he said.
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on June 12, 2006


I wasn't implying the existence of any sort of movement, altruistic or otherwise. This is simply a matter of linguistic evolution. No word's meaning is forever static. I agree with BeReasonable that the faster this particular word evolves, the better it is for everyone. Take the intensity out of a word and it loses its power.

The most important step in teaching new generations to respect differences in other people is by affording those people equal rights, not by protecting their feelings. Chastising a child for using a controversial word doesn't teach him not to use that word, it teaches him not to use that word around you.
posted by ryokoblue at 6:46 AM on June 12, 2006


BeReasonable, I stand by my decision as a teacher. If someone knows the history and baggage of a particular word and uses it anyway, that's a decision. If a person simply ignorantly mimics others around them, not cool. I don't want a single kid to be able to plead ignorance if someone knocks them down for their blithe use of a word (and don't think I'm not tempted to be the knocker-downer).

Also, like most oaths and swears, using "gay" in this way is neither a creative or expressive use of the language. Use a real adjective; there are thousands. Instead of allowing a kid to "constrain" his own thoughts to an oft-repeated, questionably offensive word, how about I present him with a whole palette, and teach him to say what he really means? I don't think you understand exactly the kind of approaches teachers are capable of taking.

My teaching mentor constantly attacked the use of "sucks" in her classroom, teaching her kids to say "abomination" instead, so that they could protest eruditely. I've always thought this was brilliant. Witnessing an 11-year-old raise their hand and say, "This book is an abomination," is priceless.
posted by hermitosis at 6:47 AM on June 12, 2006


I think "gay" is eventually going to lose it's connotation as a term for homosexuality and just mean lame. In fact, I think the more kids use it, the better off we are. Kids use words without really knowing their meaning and sometimes that alone changes their meaning.

And then the new word for homosexuality will start being used by children in a derogatory fashion, and then adults will use it, and then the BBC will endorse it, and so on...

To be honest, I don't think "gay" for homosexual is going down without a fight. Considering how homosexual people reclaimed "queer" for themselves I'd be amazed if they/we just gave up using "gay" just because children and thoughtless adults use it to mean something else.

On gypped, considering that "gyppo" is a fairly common UK insult to mean someone who steals, or cheats, or is generally "a little bit pikey", I'd be surprised if a Briton who used the word "gypped", which has very similar meanings attached, didn't realise the association. If I may pull out the Ultimate MeFi Weapon (tm), the Informal Office Poll, two out of the three people currently sat within nagging distance of my desk identified gypsies as a possible source of the word "gypped".

and now I really should get back to work...
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:52 AM on June 12, 2006


It reminds me of playtime at school when I was five years old. The teacher overheard us singing a clapping rhyme and told us that we weren't allowed to use the word "sexy" unless we knew what it meant. Not one of us could explain what the word meant, so that particular rhyme got banned.

Oddly, thinking back on the rhyme itself, it's a sad reflection on the teacher and/or the school that she didn't object to the casual domestic violence and infidelity, but instead objected to the "sexy film"lyric.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:58 AM on June 12, 2006


Firstly, this is a bizarre decision. Secondly, when used as an insult, the word "gay" is intended to convey a kind of emasculated, effete ineffectualness - a pervasive stereotype of gay people that really should not be encouraged by the BBC. It's a bit careless to say that it's just a synonym for "rubbish".
posted by teleskiving at 6:58 AM on June 12, 2006


OTOH, "gyppo" would get a response of "huh?" in the US. As would "pikey" for that matter. (Actually "pikey" might get "like Brad Pitt in Snatch??")
posted by smackfu at 7:01 AM on June 12, 2006


I think we should just say "jew" instead of "gay" to mean "lame."

You know -- "That's so jew."

"Don't go all jew on me, Holmes."

"That's the jewest show on TV!"

"You're just jewin' me out here."

Just another word. Everyone knows we're not talking about real Jews. The more kids use it, the better off we are -- particularly Jews, right? Now don't go all hyperjew about this. Chill. It's not like it's jewphobic or anything.
posted by digaman at 7:01 AM on June 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


First off, monsieur chapeau, I genuinely do not know what I was getting at earlier. I'm very aware of how hopelessly overused the whole 'oh God, I need my coffee, I am so wacky and zany without it!' excuse is in Internet arguments, but at one point I actually thought the bathroom door was shuffling toward me. I've honestly little idea what thought process led to me writing the things I wrote. Your mind may well not work that way, but such is the infinite variety of sentience, I suppose. So feel free to assume I'm panicking and trying to excuse an earlier fuck-up if you like.

With that said, here's an attempt to re-tread earlier ground. Not that I think this is particularly relevant to the discussion (which seems to be going at cross-purposes - I don't think anyone's trying to argue that 'gay' as a negative term should be banned, just that the BBC shouldn't have endorsed it when they don't endorse similar terms).

With regard to 'gypped', and bearing in mind that there are probably significant differences between the US and UK here (given that we're rather closer to Romania) I've very rarely heard it used without someone mentioning its potential ability to offend, in much the same way as if they'd said something was gay or retarded. I'd go as far as to say it's probably common knowledge in the UK, although I'm sure there are lots of people whose experience of it is completely different, and of course there will inevitably be hordes of users of the word who have no idea where it comes from. Just significantly fewer than in the US, I'd expect. Regardless, I think loquacious' characterisation of people who call things gay or use 'gypped' as driven by 'ignorance and weakness' is falling much too far in the opposite direction, and attributing too much innocence to a subset of people who just don't care whether or not they're causing offence, are well aware of the word's origin and rankle at the thought of having to find a new word.
posted by terpsichoria at 7:05 AM on June 12, 2006


Gah. The times is such a shitty fucking tabloid these days.
posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on June 12, 2006


What about the terms "fish," "breeder," "cracker," "WASP," "gringo," and the seventy eleven other derogatory terms people in the minority have come up with to call people like me?

Fish? That's a new one on me: does it have something to do with Abe Vigoda?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:18 AM on June 12, 2006


armyofkittens, homosexuals didn't "reclaim" queer, they claimed it and changed its meaning. Likewise "gay", and this is why digaman's "jew" analogy doesn't work. Both these words have already seen them divorced from their original meaning within our generation, therefore a further re-definition is much easier.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:20 AM on June 12, 2006


Fish? That's a new one on me: does it have something to do with Abe Vigoda?

Fish. I'd never heard of it either.
posted by teleskiving at 7:23 AM on June 12, 2006


Digaman, it's not about the people, it's about the culture. Teenage boys do not want to be associated with any of the usual hallmarks of gayness, particularly as it is presented to them by popular culture.

Gay means lame because gay (as they see it) is lame. That's why we don't just replace it with Jew, because that makes no sense.
posted by bonaldi at 7:26 AM on June 12, 2006


Gay means lame because gay (as they see it) is lame. That's why we don't just replace it with Jew, because that makes no sense.

Point is understood with the usage by children. I suppose the bigger question is why it is acceptable English for adults who (presumably) should know better?
posted by Mr. Six at 7:38 AM on June 12, 2006


People have been using gay to mean rubbish since the late-1990s at least

Well, I remember hearing it in elementary school in the early 80s. Had forgotten all about it until... maybe the late 90s?... when there was a similar kerfuffle about it. At the time I recall thinking, "Oh yeah, here's a word that was prevalent in my childhood which I had completely forgotten about." At which point I promptly resurrected it for its usefulness and have been using it since.

I also regularly use "queer" in the sense of "strange", just to be contrary, because people nowadays seem to think it only means "gay".
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:38 AM on June 12, 2006


(Completely off topic, but from teleskiving's urban dictionary link:

6. fish
A member of the opposite gender. See example for proper usage.
"Don't feel bad," said Person A to Person B,"there are many more fish in the sea."


I mean, come on.)
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:42 AM on June 12, 2006


i thought "gay" meant "happy".

So did I when I wore a pin saying "I'm gay" in junior high school. I never understood why the AP English teacher suddenly wanted to be my friend, until my older brother explained it to me.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2006


I suppose, Mr Six, because for a lot of, er, "adults" -- particularly Chris Moyles's listeners, those schoolyard lines of cool/uncool still pretty much hold.
posted by bonaldi at 7:53 AM on June 12, 2006


Gay means lame because gay (as they see it) is lame. That's why we don't just replace it with Jew, because that makes no sense.

You're so right. If only the media were flooded with subtle anti-Semitic imagery, kids would remember how miserly and physically repellent Jews actually are. Then they'd have something.
posted by digaman at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2006


As a severely anti person, I'm going to continue to refer to things that are "effete, and ineffectual" as ghey (pronouned ga-hey). Namely because if something is effete and ineffectual, it should be called such, and references as such, since it is such.

If you feel that being identified as "effete and ineffectual" is improper, then please stop being ghey. Your whining only proves the point.

If you are a catty, overly self-righteous, pompous little out and out fairy queer, please feel free to be so as long as you may live. Just don't get upset when your inability to fullfil a job position or a role in some situation is defined as "effete and ineffectual".

All my friends are "ghey". It's the new goth.
posted by daq at 7:57 AM on June 12, 2006


I am so careful about my word choice that I taught myself to stop using religious profanity as a teenager, on the grounds that it was rude to swear by a God I didn't believe in. So I may be a bit of an extremist.

Recently, one of my closest friends, without a homophobic bone in her body, revealed to me that she often found herself using "gay" in conversation in a derogatory sense. When everyone else in your peer group does it--it's really hard not to pick it up, no matter how lame you know it is. And self-censorship is hard. But I still feel like, there are enough real homophobes around, and I wouldn't want to send them the message that I approve of "gay=bad."

(Yet, I still end up using "lame" a lot of the time when probably I shouldn't...)
posted by Jeanne at 8:00 AM on June 12, 2006


For what it's worth, by the way, I'm no tight-ass (jew) prissy (fag) Grammar Queen, bitching and whining about language being repurposed by those nasty bullies in the schoolyard. Language is alive and flows where it will. Small-j jew, by the way, used to be a very common putdown -- even in polite (goy) circles. The Holocaust (jews, gypsies, and fags, mostly) made "jew" seem more disreputable, and it was phased out of common usage -- though it was still widely used when I was a kid.

I'm just trying to accelerate the process of phasing out "gay" as "lame" by pointing out that every time some kid yells "that's so gay!" in the schoolyard, he sends invisible daggers into the hearts of ten percent of his schoolmates. But gays are sensitive like that.
posted by digaman at 8:04 AM on June 12, 2006


I taught myself to stop using religious profanity as a teenager, on the grounds that it was rude to swear by a God I didn't believe in.

This is the gayest thing I've ever read.
posted by ninebelow at 8:07 AM on June 12, 2006


"Teh gay" or "teh ghey" is a completely different thing from gay=lame. As different as "goddamned nigger!" is from "what up nigga?" "Teh gay" mocks prejudice. "That's just so gay!" reinforces it.
posted by digaman at 8:07 AM on June 12, 2006


I started substituting 'Weak' in for gay. It may be insulting to people who are not powerfully built, but really, what can they do about it?

Apart from slash my credit rating.
posted by Swandive at 8:07 AM on June 12, 2006


I suppose, Mr Six, because for a lot of, er, "adults" -- particularly Chris Moyles's listeners, those schoolyard lines of cool/uncool still pretty much hold.

"Gay" is not just "rubbish", "stupid", or "lame" in this case: in the minds of adults, who again should know better, the new term joins "rubbish" etc. and "homosexual" together, or at least blurs the conceptual lines between these terms for those who happily use that kind of language.

Words (especially those used in popular speech) are powerful things, and I wonder if growth or maintenance of hate towards certain minority segments of society can be explained partially by these overlapping definitions, as anotherbrick points out with another popular "dual-use" term of contempt. I can't help but wonder if these kinds of usage of "gay" and "n*****" continue to dehumanize people. Certainly it is easier to discriminate against those who are not considered human beings.

As an aside, the irony is that BBC radio used to be the paragon of broadcasting of clear and correct English language to the world, and this decision to normalize (if not endorse) hateful speech seems, to me, at odds with their once historically significant and important educational function.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:09 AM on June 12, 2006


cillit bang, how is that helpful, exactly?

Because you're ascribing hateful motives to people that aren't there. When someone uses "gay" to mean "rubbish", they may mean it via homosexuals, but they equally might (and in my experience almost always do) mean it directly, with absolutely no implied connection to homosexuals. There's nothing hateful about it.
posted by cillit bang at 8:12 AM on June 12, 2006


PinkStainlessTail Fish, the way I've heard it, is a term used to by a homosexual man to refer to a woman. Presumably because women having vaginas and all are supposed to smell like tunafish. Least that's the way it was explained to me.

digaman My point exactly. It's like on that 70s Show when the parents get stoned and Red starts saying "hip" over and over. After a while the word loses it's meaning. Ooh, and what ciderwoman said.

hermitosis I also stand by your decision as a teacher and continue to lament said decision. As the product of a fine public school education, top of my class in high school thank you, I have a large and expansive vocabulary that I do nothing with. The business world does not reward erudition as much as it rewards plain communication and like it or not, if everyone else is saying "gay" then "gay" is the term to use.

Based on that one person's suggestion, every time a student uses a word that is unpleasant, why not make them write a report on it? Have them examine the etymology of the word and it's various positive and negative uses. Extra work would probably train fresh young minds quicker than forbidding a word.

daq, I am so using "ghey" from now on. I like the sound of that, especially if I can say "No, g-h-e-y, not g-a-y. Entirely different word."

Jeanne, I respect your right to self-censorship, but I have to say, I don't think it's a real good idea.

I just left a job with a large corporation and one of the main things that bugged me about the place was that they had these ridiculous e-mails going out about acceptable language in the workplace. I couldn't say "gypped" because of Gypsies and I couldn't say "guru" because of Indians. I've never heard of "guru" being used negatively, but because it was being used in a context that it was not intended for and dealt with a religious issue, on the list it went. Stupid shit like that really frustrates me. Words get assigned new meanings all the time or their various meanings fade and rise in the public conscious.

Maybe if you used all the words you don't say, it would combat the people out there who use them in a negative stereotypical way. Not the n-word though. You will get your ass kicked. I'm just saying.
posted by BeReasonable at 8:15 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Terpsichoria, I don't know if this next bit was included in your coffee-depriv-haze or not, but:

terpsichoria : "On the other hand, I really wouldn't characterise it as 'ignorance and weakness' - if someone uses the word this way, they're making a choice to do so, and I'm not sure I'd give them the excuse that they don't realise it's offensive and belittling...just because they apparently haven't bothered to think about the words they're using."

Er, isn't that basically saying that it is, in fact, due to ignorance?

ryokoblue : "'Gay' didn't originally mean 'homosexual,' I don't really see any reason for the language to stop evolving now."

I think the problem is not that the word gay has changed meaning, but that it has gained new meaning (and by new, I mean old, since "gay" to mean "dumb" is something that was popular when I was a kid in the early 80's). If "gay" no longer meant "homosexual", but only "rubbish", I don't think there would be a problem.

Either way, I suspect the slang for homosexual will change eventually, and in another 100 years, "gay" will stand right up there with "moron", "lame", "dumb", and other words which went from value neutral term to generic insult, while a different word is used as the value neutral term.

ciderwoman : "armyofkittens, homosexuals didn't 'reclaim' queer, they claimed it and changed its meaning."

I don't know about the original switch in meaning from "odd" to "homosexual", nor about when the switch from a viewpoint neutral use of "queer" to an insulting use of "queer" happened, but I do remember that "queer" for quite a while was used, not like "gay", but more along the lines of "wetback" or "nigger". Its meaning remained "homosexual", but its usage was definitely for purely insulting and homophobic purposes. Homosexuals (at least publicly) did not refer to themselves as "queers". I remember when the movement to restore "queer" to no longer be descriminatory started, and I remember thinking that it was really bizarre to hear homosexuals calling themselves "queer", and that "no way is it going to work. They're never going to restore 'queer' to conventional usage status". I was totally wrong. They reclaimed queer, and reclaimed it well.
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 AM on June 12, 2006


Not the n-word though. You will get your ass kicked. I'm just saying.

That's right, BR. If only gay people were more butch, maybe they could defend themselves. But they're too busy arranging flowers, giving schlubby straight guys extreme makeovers on TV, and doing hair.

Maybe gays could hire crews of niggers to act as bodyguards. Those dudes are tough!
posted by digaman at 8:21 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm still after several years shocked every time I hear "gay" used to mean "boring, inferior" -- even by supposedly-hip New York City artists.

It wouldn't be OK to "jew" someone out of money; it wouldn't be OK to call someone dumb "a Polack"; it's not OK to call boring things "gay" -- particularly since the word "gay" is still the most common polite word used to identify male homosexuals.

No amount of sophistry about the evolution of language is going to conceal the fact that this is an offensive slur.

(On a tangent, the Simpsons has a great joke where one young male character says to another: "Kissing a girl! That's *so* gay!")
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:22 AM on June 12, 2006


I say that we take "gay" back from the homosexuals, then we can ALL be gay. And we should always use the definate article. As in "We are all the gay!"
posted by blue_beetle at 8:25 AM on June 12, 2006


First off, monsieur chapeau, I genuinely do not know what I was getting at earlier. I'm very aware of how hopelessly overused the whole 'oh God, I need my coffee, I am so wacky and zany without it!' excuse is in Internet arguments, but at one point I actually thought the bathroom door was shuffling toward me.

Yikes! OK, you get a free pass, and if the door gets any closer give it a good kick and run like hell. I appreciate your further comments, and it seems as if gypped = gypsy is probably more commonly known in the UK than here (probably because gypsies/Roma are more in the public consciousness there). Thanks for being a good sport, and get some sleep!
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on June 12, 2006


so am i to assume the people who have no problem with "gay" being used to negatively describe something also have no problem with calling someone who is weak and/or cowardly a pussy, right?

i mean, it's not like people who use that word in that way are actually referring to a woman's vagina, they're just using it to refer to someone who's, in a way, rubbish. certainly there's no association between using that word in that way and ascribing negative qualities to females.

(and don't even step to me with claims that it's actually referring to the housecat rather than a vagina. there are other phrases that reinforce the conneciton to genitalia: e.g., "if you act like a pussy, don't be surprised when you get fucked" and "i smell a pussy!" when the bullies are talking to the somewhat nerdy main character in "house party.")

i think the argument that repeating a word robs it of its power is very...optimistic. although mark twain used it, i think the argument could be made that "nigger" really entered popular culture in the 70's through the works of richard pryor, curtis mayfield and sly and the family stone. i think that's when non-black people first started to understand that it wasn't just a term used by whites against blacks. yet, the word still has it's potency, to the point that people are self-censoring their use of it here on a web forum populated by intelligent, rational people.

maybe for this "repetition reduces power" thing to work we need to do something like transcendental meditation. okay, for the next hour, everyone chant "nigger pussy gay" over and over. by the end of the day, it'll be all good.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:28 AM on June 12, 2006


Its meaning remained "homosexual", but its usage was definitely for purely insulting and homophobic purposes. Homosexuals (at least publicly) did not refer to themselves as "queers".

For the historical record, Allen Ginsberg once told me that he and William Burroughs used to refer to themselves as "queer" to distinguish themselves from "gays," long before "queer" was repurposed in the 1980s by a new generation of indignant fags. "Gay," in Allen's mind, meant the guys whose subculture was visible in Greenwich Village and the Castro, whereas "queer," he said, meant people like him and Burroughs, who had little interest in joining the gay subculture (though, ironically, they were both considered founding fathers of the gay liberation movement) and preferred to sleep with straight guys.

Just sayin'.
posted by digaman at 8:29 AM on June 12, 2006


i think the argument that repeating a word robs it of its power is very...optimistic

The n-word has not lost its degoratory meaning since its use began with the slave trade. Perhaps in another 300-400 years "gay" will be where the n-word is now. Frankly, I'd prefer to deal with being treated as sub-human within my lifetime ;)
posted by Mr. Six at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2006


Queer was written by Burroughs in 1951, though not published until the mid-'80s. The title may have played a role in the reclaiming of the word.
posted by digaman at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2006


For the historical record, Allen Ginsberg once told me that he and William Burroughs used to refer to themselves as "queer"

...and then the three of us joined insomnia_lj in the hot tub.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2006


Is insomnia_lj rough trade or something?
posted by digaman at 8:40 AM on June 12, 2006


digaman : "For the historical record, Allen Ginsberg once told me that he and William Burroughs used to refer to themselves as 'queer' to distinguish themselves from 'gays,' long before 'queer' was repurposed in the 1980s by a new generation of indignant fags."

Sorry, digaman, I think I was unclear. As far as I know (which isn't much), the order went:
  1. Queer comes to mean homosexual (not insulting)
  2. Queer comes to be insulting
  3. Queer is reclaimed as a noninsulting word
So my understanding would be that Ginsberg and Burroughs were in step 1, and the 1980's were step 3. It's not that "queer" was repurposed, so much as that it was reclaimed.

And, as I say, I don't know all the details of the word. There may have been a step 0, where it was originally an insult, so it went "insult" -> "reclaimed" -> "insult" -> "reclaimed".
posted by Bugbread at 8:43 AM on June 12, 2006


Pink, no. As it happens "fish" is a term for a woman, generally by persons who are not attracted to women, in reference to the, er, alleged aroma of female genetalia.

And I don't believe I just typed that out.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:47 AM on June 12, 2006


BeReasonable, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that I should make a student write an essay on the word, and afterward allow them to use the word, considering them to be educated on the subject. That might be good advice for a straight teacher, but as a gay male in a position of authority, I have a right to not to tolerate language in my classroom that has been used to hurt me (or the ten percent of my students mentioned invoked by digaman).

And what's more, I need to have the option of enforcing said policy without referring to the fact that I myself am gay, as it has been my choice not to share this personal information with my students. I need to be able to let them know what is wrong with using this term that way without endangering myself (and in the neighborhood I teach in, it would be a danger).

So much of what was wrong with my own school years had to do with the kind of abuse that flew under teachers' radar but still found its target. Because of all the times I was abused in school that went unnoticed (or was too intimidated to report). Considering that they are required to be in my class, I owe it to all my students to provide a safe place where they can be criticized for their ideas, but not for what they are (or may someday be). Not on my watch.

If this teaches them not to say the word in my class instead of not to say the word at all, at least they've learned that there are situations in which it is inappropriate.
posted by hermitosis at 8:49 AM on June 12, 2006


Liberal hand-wringing is the new gay.
posted by Joeforking at 8:55 AM on June 12, 2006


Actually, "illegal immigrant" is the new gay. (TimesSelect link).
posted by digaman at 8:59 AM on June 12, 2006


lord_wolf: I have no problem using the word "pussy" in its slang context and I have one. I don't have a problem calling people a dick either. I appreciate the analogy you're making though, and if I know someone bothered by that (or any other) term, I respect that, and self-police my vocabulary accordingly. It's reasonable for a friend, say, or a colleague to tell me that a certain term offends them (without even needing to give me a reason) and expect me to avoid using it in their presence.

As for the words losing their power thing, it's difficult to compare "gay" to "nigger" right now, as "nigger" has been around in its current context for hundreds of years. I suspect it would take a lot longer than three decades to overcome that. Whereas, "gay" meaning "homosexual" has only been around itself for a few decades, so it wouldn't be as difficult to redefine.

I guess what I was intending to convey was that language is going to change whether we like it or not and this may be an example of that. I would just assume look at the potential positive in it and, in that sense, you're right that I'm being optimistic. Not a term I'd often apply to myself, so I'll take it.
posted by ryokoblue at 9:06 AM on June 12, 2006


It's all about the context, loq, you fabulous rug-munching breeder!
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:11 AM on June 12, 2006


ryoko, just FYI:

gay

"The word started to acquire sexual connotations in the late 17th century, being used with meaning 'addicted to pleasures and dissipations'. This was by extension from the primary meaning of 'carefree': implying 'uninhibited by moral constraints'. By the late nineteenth century the term 'gay life' was a well-established euphemism for prostitution and other forms of extramarital sexual behaviour that were perceived as immoral."
posted by digaman at 9:16 AM on June 12, 2006


Whereas, "gay" meaning "homosexual" has only been around itself for a few decades, so it wouldn't be as difficult to redefine.

The term has seen documented use since the 1920s, if not earlier.
posted by Mr. Six at 9:18 AM on June 12, 2006


hermitosis, my apologies, I should have spelled out my thought a little more. My assumption is that having thus educated themselves on the true meaning of the word, they wouldn't use it any more.

Although as far as it goes, you're fighting a losing battle. Kids make fun of kids. There isn't really a lot you can do to stop them. If you take away "gay," they'll just switch to some other word and/or use the words behind your back and perhaps even come to question why it is you have such a problem with the words yourself.

I respect that you've got a position you feel strongly about and you're doing your best to make a difference, but if it were me, I'd be doing my damnedest to teach children that words only have power if you let them, to understand why people say mean things and because I'm something of a prick, how to defend themselves against such aggression. I passionately believe in more knowledge, not less.
posted by BeReasonable at 9:20 AM on June 12, 2006


Weirdly the terms use goes completly un-noticed on South Park.
posted by Artw at 9:20 AM on June 12, 2006


Digaman,

Thanks for the wikipedia article (it wouldn't have occurred to me to look it up otherwise). I was both surprised by how long ago "gay" stopped meaning just "happy" (as you mention, 17th century), but also by just how recently it came to mean "homosexual" in general society (hard to judge on the sliding scale, but it looks like the 1950's or 1960's). I had assumed that the change from "happy" to "homosexual" was far shorter.
posted by Bugbread at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2006


digaman, Mr. Six: Cheers. Learn something new every day.

I always thought "The Gay Nineties" sounded so awkward in the modern context, but it looks like people a hundred years ago weren't too far off from what it means today.
posted by ryokoblue at 9:33 AM on June 12, 2006


far off from what it means today

What, so people were really lame a hundred years ago?
[/ducks]
posted by bonaldi at 10:16 AM on June 12, 2006


I think 'gay' has outlived it's usefulness as a word to describe homosexuals. Mainly because it sounds, well, gay. This may be due to the original meaning of the word which imbues it with all kinds of effete, la-de-da connotations. Which is the exact stereotype modern queerfolk are fighting against. 'Queer' is actually a better word, it sounds solid, strong, even a little menacing.

Just a thought.
posted by jonmc at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2006


If we're going to call out a language issue, can we please investigate the british use of "rubbish" as an adjective?
posted by hoborg at 10:57 AM on June 12, 2006


It sounds much better in a mock-Hungarian accent:

"I will not buy this ringtone, it is gay."
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:58 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm just glad for the phrase "playground-speak," though I prefer to pronounce it like "shitty kids insulting each other. In my playground days, one of my friends used to call everyone "contipated sweat on a pig's penis-wrinkle." As long as this is the group we're taking our cultural cues from, I should at least get to hear Moyles say that on the air.

Hermitosis: My assumption is that having thus educated themselves on the true meaning of the word, they wouldn't use it any more.

Maybe they wouldn't use it to you, but kids aren't saying "gay" because they're blissfully unnaware of it's meaning. They're saying it precisely because of it's meaning. Kids can be awesome, but they're also assholes, almost down to a one, and adolescent boys especially will clamp down like a terrier on whatever they think will hurt the most, and "gay" is great for that purpose. At the time when kids are figuring out their sexual identity, it cuts both ways. For the gay kids, it attacks their identy, and for te straight kids, it negates it. Kick-ass. The fact that the word then gets applied to everything that sucks doesn't mean that it's losing it's old meaning. It means that kids are assholes and this attack is at the tip of their tongue.

That said, for some reason it doesn't bug me when adults say it, maybe because you can easily tell when it's hurtfully motivated vs ironically-using-sixth-grade-vernacular. It's usually the latter, as far as can tell.

As a side note, my old roommate (straight) hated the word "homosexual" because it was originally used to denote the condition as a mental defect (according to him.) So I guess you never know who you'll offend. Unless you're a kid. And then the answer is: as many people as I can.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:01 AM on June 12, 2006


It's all about the context, loq, you fabulous rug-munching breeder!

Hey, I might munch rugs, but I aint planting any seeds, you incorrigable pirate of swish!
posted by loquacious at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm sick of Gay too, but while "Cranky" or "Curmudgeonly" might aptly describe my sexual orientation, I'm not sure my brothers and sisters will all be so eager to adopt it.
posted by slatternus at 11:26 AM on June 12, 2006


you incorrigable pirate of swish!

The preferred term is 'swishbuckler.'

I'll see myself out, thanks...
posted by jonmc at 11:30 AM on June 12, 2006


hmmm. i've been chanting "nigger gay pussy" for the past several hours, and the only thing that's happened is that i caused the u.s. to get owned in world cup action. i guess his cosmic stuff is beyond me.

ryokoblue: glad i gave you an opportunity to describe yourself as optimistic! :-) i wasn't saying there's anything wrong with being optimistic about the changes people are hoping for, just trying to convey the idea -- more precisely expressed by others here -- that it might take a looong time.

well, back to chanting "nigger gay pussy". wait, the hr director is asking me to come to his office. wonder what that's about? brb.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:40 AM on June 12, 2006


maybe he wants to harmonize, dude.
posted by jonmc at 11:45 AM on June 12, 2006


*la-te-da connotations.*
posted by ericb at 12:08 PM on June 12, 2006


A couple of random thoughts:

1/ Why is "queer" the academic favorite? We keep hearing about "queering" literature and "queering" art and so forth. Somehow, "gaying" literature just doesn't hold the same promise.

2/ The argument that "that's so gay" is a kind of shorthand for "that's the sort of thing a gay person would do or like" seems weak to me. After all, we're talking about the "queer eye" generation here. Gay people are popularly imagined to have the best taste in fashion, the best taste in decor, the most buff bodies, the best personal hygiene etc. etc. It is, after all, an absolute cliche that if a woman finds a "perfect" man he will turn out to be gay. So to say "that shirt is really gay" hardly seems to be likely to mean "that's the sort of shirt a gay person would wear." If so, it would surely be meant as a compliment? (That's not meant to be an argument against being offended by that use of the word, but just to point out that there seems to be a more complex reorientation of the word's meaning going on than some of you are suggesting.)
posted by yoink at 12:25 PM on June 12, 2006


Why is "queer" the academic favorite? We keep hearing about "queering" literature and "queering" art and so forth.

*cough*

plus by embracing bisexuals, transfolk, etc. 'queer,' is more inclusive.
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on June 12, 2006


For the number of posts on language on MF, I'm disappointed in the turns of this conversation. Forget whether we should ban the word or not or its etymology, forget "reclaiming." Let's look at how the word is being used, why, and how it reflects on social norms. Remember: What we say and think, matters.

Lord_wolf: N***** may have entered pop culture, but it belongs to an older culture that has subsided, though not ended. It did not lose its connotation when slavery ended, nor did racism stop after the Civil Rights movement. As a white man, I could never bring myself to call a person of color a n*****, as it states overtly the old credo that blacks need to keep their place.

terpsichoria: Romania is not the country of the Roma--Bulgaria has a much higher population, if demographics can be trusted in this case.

yoink: On point number 2, do you think teenage boys are the ones who go ga-ga for gay culture? Really?

Navelgazer is spot on.

Bonaldi: The use of "gay" as a perjorative has nothing to do with gay culture. It has to do with the prescribed roles of penises and vaginas. "Gay" in school, amongst college peers, and other good ol' boy groups is a comparison of someone or something to the ridiculousness of the gay lifestyle and gay sex. It also can fill in for something that one hates (that's so fucking gay).

A prescription of words is a striving after the wind. The problem is that non-heterosexuals (language is getting very dicey here) in the U.S. (from my perspective) are in a population that does not want them around. The general population feels very uncomfortable with non-hetero relationships, which becomes problematic because it is not a choice or a deranged behavior. As Navelgazer mentioned, schoolkids will use every tool they have to label and destroy those who are different.

I would argue that this behavior continues in adult communities.
posted by anotherbrick at 12:34 PM on June 12, 2006


The Queer Eye generation are totally ghey. All that hyper-obsessive attention to personal grooming? Learning what colours match? Please.

It's deeper than shirts, though, they're just an example of it. The first trait of coolness is "gets the girls". Can't be cool (to these 15 year olds) without it. In fact, the best you can be is hip.

The opposite of getting the girls is getting the guys, so the opposite of cool is ... gay.
posted by bonaldi at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2006


'Gay,' is often used pejoratively not necessarily as a slur on gays, but as shorthand for a collection of traits (effeteness, archness, etc) that have (unfairly, perhaps) become associated with homosexuality. Maybe we need a new and better word for those traits.
posted by jonmc at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2006


It's Chris Moyles, come on. It's not supposed to be some serious intellectual talk programme. Honestly, what should the BBC have done? Reprimand him? Fine him? Made a big stink about how he used the word 'gay' about a ringtone in a silly colloquial unreflexive connotation that's not sensitive enough to avoid threatening the welfare of the gay community? That would have worked soo well against stereotypes. And you'd have the usual suspects blabbing on about 'political correctness gone mad!', only this time they would have been right.

It's the UK, in 2006, same sex civil unions were just made legal, surely among the many areas of improvement that always remain there's got to be something more substantial than this?
posted by funambulist at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2006


On not-preview:

Another brick said: The use of "gay" as a perjorative has nothing to do with gay culture. It has to do ... with a comparison of someone or something to the ridiculousness of the gay lifestyle

Lifestyle, culture. Same thing.

Gay as a insult has very, very, very little to do with gay sex and everything to do with what gay people are imagined to prefer. "That car is gay" is exactly equivalent to "that's a girl's car" or "hairdresser car"
posted by bonaldi at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2006


jonmc OTM all over this thread
posted by bonaldi at 12:42 PM on June 12, 2006


jonmc OTM all over this thread

that sounds vaguely kinky, sir.
posted by jonmc at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2006


heh, sorry, wrong board shorthand: On the money.
posted by bonaldi at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2006


(I know. just couldn't resist)
posted by jonmc at 12:48 PM on June 12, 2006


Maybe we need a new and better word for those traits.

Deal. Let's all meet next Monday night to discuss which is the most correct word to use for the ringtone Moyles was talking about. Then we'll storm the BBC studios and teach them. And then a door to door campaign...

By the way, which ringtone was it?
posted by funambulist at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2006


yoink: On point number 2, do you think teenage boys are the ones who go ga-ga for gay culture? Really?


Yes, really. Maybe not out in the sticks, but in the urban areas--absolutely. Straight teenage boys obsess about getting the right look, the right smell, the right hairdo in a way that would have seemed extremely queer (in every sense of the word) to my generation. That whole "metrosexual" thing hits hard for a certain middle class teen demographic.
posted by yoink at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2006


By the way, Jonmc, I did see that you had stated that "queer" sounds cooler than "gay"; but that doesn't quite amount to an hypothesis about why that should be the case.
posted by yoink at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2006


...the gay one.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2006


Straight teenage boys obsess about getting the right look, the right smell, the right hairdo in a way that would have seemed extremely queer (in every sense of the word) to my generation.

Eh. It's nothing new. Mods decked themselves out in finery. Greasers spent hours combing their hear just right. Even hippies had to have just the right paisley cravat. The only difference is that the (somewhat spurious) gay association with such things is being acknowledged. (I say 'spurious' since all this reveals is that young men will go to just about any lengths to get laid).
posted by jonmc at 1:00 PM on June 12, 2006


yoink:I did see that you had stated that "queer" sounds cooler than "gay"; but that doesn't quite amount to an hypothesis about why that should be the case.

Again, 'gay,' because of it's sound and literal meaning conjures up a very la-de-da set of traits. 'Queer,' not so much. It's based on how the words sound to my ears, that's all.
posted by jonmc at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2006


Yeh, young men primp up, but they do it to pull teh chicks. Doing it as an end in itself is ghey.
posted by bonaldi at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2006


Yeh, young men primp up, but they do it to pull teh chicks.

Gay dudes primp to pull dudes as well. I'll bet that if it didn't help, many of them wouldn't bother, either.
posted by jonmc at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2006


Yeh, but primping up to pull dudes is gay, yo.
posted by bonaldi at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2006


Exactly, but it's all about the pulling in eather case is my point.

Now on to coming up with a new word for the set of traits I described (effeteness, etc) whether found in queer dudes or straight dudes. How about 'fluffy?'

(Also, I'm a happily coupled up guy, and extremely unfluffy (and so are many gay guys I know who are burlier and deiseler than many of my rock and roll buds (sometimes they are my rock and roll buds, and I've discovered the joys of body wash and hair wax. just saying. and James Bond for instance, was always impeccable, but nobody ever doubted his masculinity)
posted by jonmc at 1:18 PM on June 12, 2006


The thing about coming up with new words like that is they'll just become pejorative too.

Look at Scope (the rebranding of the spastics association). Suddenly what were spazzies are now scopers.
posted by bonaldi at 1:33 PM on June 12, 2006


(As for your examples, it just means that many things that used to be ghey are now not).
posted by bonaldi at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2006


James Bond for instance, was always impeccable, but nobody ever doubted his masculinity

Hmmm...what about Superman?
posted by ericb at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2006



The thing about coming up with new words like that is they'll just become pejorative too.


Well, 'fluffy,' would be a pejorative for those who don't much care for effeteness, archness etc, which wouldn't refer to queerfolk since they don't have a monopoly on such traits.
posted by jonmc at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2006


sort of like if "flaming" didn't exclusively refer to queers?
posted by Navelgazer at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2006


exactly, dude. We do need a word for such folk that manages to not insult queer people and that dosen't sound clunky. 'Fluffy,' works: "Look at that fluffy motherfucker.."
posted by jonmc at 1:48 PM on June 12, 2006


Why not just reappropriate "gay" for that and leave "queer" as the term for homosexuals? I mean, Huge Ackman is gay, but not queer.

The actual term you want is probably "swishy."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2006


I think in the long term that's actually what's going to happen anyway. It just needs queers to give up on gay.

And then kids will start calling lame stuff queer, I fear.
posted by bonaldi at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2006


You would all feel different if you were the only gay in the village.

- Daffyd Thomas
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:22 PM on June 12, 2006


We do need a word for such folk that manages to not insult queer people and that dosen't sound clunky. 'Fluffy,' works: "Look at that fluffy motherfucker.."

...and "fluffy" or it's equivalent would have the added use of being a gender-neutral word for the opposite-counterpoint of "butch". ("Femme" being completely gendered, as it's French for "woman")

And then "fluffy" could be both used insultingly, and claimed with pride by people like me. As in:

psychoticreaction: Hey, let's spend our vacation camping up north! There'll be mosquitos and bears and absolutely no bathrooms at all! It'll be awesome!

tomatillo: Honey, remember haw fluffy I am? Way too fucking fluffy for that shit, dude.
posted by Tomatillo at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2006


...queers need to give up on gay.

Um, generally speaking, we didn't pick it and we aren't, like, married to it (har har). I'd like to audition better ones, actually. How about "rich"?

"I like him... is he rich?"
"He's totally rich. You should go for him."

Sure that would cause confusion for the nation's wealthy, but surely if word appropriation is as harmless as folks here seem to think, then they won't mind much, will they?
posted by hermitosis at 2:29 PM on June 12, 2006


Sure that would cause confusion for the nation's wealthy, but surely if word appropriation is as harmless as folks here seem to think, then they won't mind much, will they?

They'd mind anyway. There's always an excuse.
posted by Mr. Six at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2006


Claiming rich would be brilliant.
posted by bonaldi at 3:00 PM on June 12, 2006


Ok, rich it is then. This is MetaFilter, one of the more popular sites on the web. We might be able to make this stick.
posted by Bugbread at 3:03 PM on June 12, 2006


When I was a kid (in the early 80's) we not only had "gay" as an epithet, we played a game called "Smear the Queer" where one person got the ball and had to last as long as possible while everyone else tried to tackle him.

I had no idea what the words meant -- in fact, I was thrilled when my mom told me about gay people, since it meant that me and my best friend in the first grade could someday live together -- but the culture behind them was deeply, unmistakably homophobic.

I recently met a young boy who described the same game, but had a different -- and completely innocuous -- name for it. This is progress. Descriptivism should not be an excuse for bigotry. Kids will find ways to hurt each other, but that doesn't mean we legitimize it.

Besides, "gay" as an epithet really describes itself. "That's so gay" is the cry of insecure adolescent boys. It just reeks of weakness and desperation. Any adult using it with a straight face deserves to be mocked and ridiculed, and any society considering legitimizing it should reconsider its value to the species.
posted by bjrubble at 3:18 PM on June 12, 2006


A collection of xkcd comics demonstrating the variety of connotations the epithet can have, however.

I'm totally with hermitosis on the "rich" tip.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2006


Ok, rich it is then. This is MetaFilter, one of the more popular sites on the web. We might be able to make this stick.

i can't wait to tell some of my friends that they're rich! :-)

plus, i can't think of anybody objecting to the idea of rich people getting married.
posted by lord_wolf at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2006


and if it goes to court, they'll automatically win!
posted by bonaldi at 3:52 PM on June 12, 2006


DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THE RICH ARE DOING TO THE SOIL?
posted by loquacious at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2006


I was thrilled when my mom told me about gay people, since it meant that me and my best friend in the first grade could someday live together. I find that rather lovely bjrubble though quite possibly rather gay. The rest of your comment while not quite so lovely or gay seemed eminently sensible. I feel I should award you a prize.
posted by econous at 4:17 PM on June 12, 2006


That's rich.
posted by languagehat at 4:45 PM on June 12, 2006


I'd like to audition better ones, actually.

Are you sly? 'cause I got my boys.....

[/Firefly]
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:42 PM on June 12, 2006


Tonight I went to a fundraiser for "In the Name of Allah", produced by the director of "Trembling before G-d."

I don't think I have to tell you that I have never seen so many rich people in all my life.
posted by hermitosis at 6:11 PM on June 12, 2006


I went to 'rich' pride this past weekend and it was packed with the richest people in Boston.
posted by ericb at 6:19 PM on June 12, 2006


I hear there are loads of rich people in hollywood too
posted by bonaldi at 6:19 PM on June 12, 2006


'gay rich'
"A dumbell-obsessed being (usually human) with homosexual tendancies, takes pride in cleaning mating partners' abodes rather than mating with them....

That lad could've got laid again last night, but he cleaned his/her room instead. What a gay rich!"
posted by ericb at 6:23 PM on June 12, 2006


Did you know you can buy porn where rich guys fuck poor guys?
posted by Mr. Six at 6:55 PM on June 12, 2006


Could you provide some references for that Mr. Six?
posted by econous at 7:17 PM on June 12, 2006


Claiming rich would be brilliant.

I dunno, I actually think 'brilliant' would be better.
posted by nightchrome at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2006


Nah, brilliant would be totally rich
posted by bonaldi at 7:30 PM on June 12, 2006


Mr. Six, google "broke straight guys" and you'll see worlds collide in the very first entry.
posted by hermitosis at 7:39 PM on June 12, 2006


Hah... Great find!
posted by Mr. Six at 7:58 PM on June 12, 2006


cillit bang said 'When someone uses "gay" to mean "rubbish", they may mean it via homosexuals, but they equally might (and in my experience almost always do) mean it directly, with absolutely no implied connection to homosexuals.'

Yeah, you're an idiot.
posted by jack_mo at 5:13 AM on June 13, 2006


By which I mean that in my experience there is always an implied connection to homosexuals. Maybe you hang around children and Chris Moyles more than I do, though.
posted by jack_mo at 5:15 AM on June 13, 2006


In the purely harm- and cost-free spirit of an ever-evolving English language, I propose we should redefine "DJ" to "pedophile" and "plays records" to "abuses children". For example, I heard that Chris Moyles is a pedophile and abuses children for money. I am absolutely not implying any connection with genuine pedophilia, even if Chris Moyles is a pedophile.
posted by Mr. Six at 5:33 AM on June 13, 2006


jack_mo : "By which I mean that in my experience there is always an implied connection to homosexuals."

Yeah, you're an idiot.
posted by Bugbread at 5:36 AM on June 13, 2006


By which I mean that in my experience there isn't always an implied connection to homosexuals. Maybe you hang around homophobes more than I do, though.

By which, in reality, I mean that saying someone is an idiot because they haven't had the same experiences as you do is abrasive and totally illogical. I mean, hell, I could call almost everyone here an idiot for not having experienced being born in Lakenheath, or for not having experienced the typhoon that hit Anoyo's party on Sado Island a few years back, or the like. People having different experiences ≠ idiocy.
posted by Bugbread at 5:40 AM on June 13, 2006


By which I mean that in my experience there isn't always an implied connection to homosexuals.

Do you often hang around the playground, around, say, second- or third-graders? Because that's usually where there isn't the "implied connection" to homosexuals. Everywhere else the dual meaning of the word pretty much understood by adults with IQs over the statistical mean. I suspect that is where the accusation is coming from.
posted by Mr. Six at 5:57 AM on June 13, 2006


Surprised nobody brought up 'sucks' and 'asshole' in the same context:
When I talk to my women's studies classes about the origin and meaning of these gender-based insults, many of them are stunned. (You'd be amazed how few understand that "suck" is derived from "cocksucker", and thus to say something or someone "sucks" is to use anti-gay/anti-woman language. They are also stunned that "asshole" is also anti-gay, misogynistic speak; "asshole" is invariably only used for men, despite the fact that women also possess this part of the anatomy -- it is used to refer to men who allow themselves to be penetrated like women.) What they want to know, of course, is when and how one can continue to use these words without perpetuating gender violence. Do we have to stop swearing altogether, they ask?. . . I tell my students that they will have to find their own way through this complex issue.
posted by dgaicun at 6:01 AM on June 13, 2006


Mr. Six : "Do you often hang around the playground, around, say, second- or third-graders? Because that's usually where there isn't the 'implied connection' to homosexuals. Everywhere else the dual meaning of the word pretty much understood by adults with IQs over the statistical mean"

No, but I live in a non-English speaking country, so I'm not talking about current experience. However, I suspect you're not reading carefully:

Me: "in my experience there isn't always an implied connection"

You: "that's usually where there isn't the 'implied connection' to homosexuals."

This is called "agreeing". I'm not saying that there isn't usually an implied connection, or that there isn't an implied connection among adults. Just that, in my experience, there are occassional exceptions to the rule, that in jack_mo's experience, there are no exceptions to the rule, but that for either one of us to call the other an idiot for having different experiences is incredibly silly.
posted by Bugbread at 6:06 AM on June 13, 2006


dgaicun : "'asshole' is invariably only used for men"

Huh. I don't disagree with the central contention, but I use "asshole" to refer to both. On reflection, it occurs to me that I can't recall many examples of other people calling women "assholes". I guess it's because "bitch" is used, and I had always assumed that it wasn't so much people not using the word "asshole" for women as much as the word "asshole" being overidden by "bitch" (which I don't think I could bring myself to use, and have no intention to try). So, thanks, you've made me realize something that has been staring me in the face but I never really noticed before.
posted by Bugbread at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2006


I suspect you're not reading carefully

No, I read you just fine.

[F]or either one of us to call the other an idiot for having different experiences is incredibly silly.

Maybe "incredibly sheltered" is a better term than "idiot".

It is not unreasonable or inappropriate to value different experiences, when those experiences are not only widely different in character but also in scope.
posted by Mr. Six at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2006


Incredibly sheltered, I can agree with. My contention was just that calling someone an idiot didn't make sense in this case. "Sheltered" works just fine.
posted by Bugbread at 6:24 AM on June 13, 2006


My contention was just that calling someone an idiot didn't make sense in this case.

Choosing to be sheltered is foolish. "Idiot" is a bit strong but not entirely off the mark.
posted by Mr. Six at 6:31 AM on June 13, 2006


you've made me realize something that has been staring me in the face but I never really noticed before.

Are you serious? I assumed that paragraph was parody, and over-the-top parody at that:

"asshole" is also anti-gay, misogynistic speak; "asshole" is invariably only used for men, despite the fact that women also possess this part of the anatomy -- it is used to refer to men who allow themselves to be penetrated like women.


I mean, that's completely nuts. I can't imagine anyone outside of a Cultural Studies Department even pretending to take it seriously.

Mr. Six, you seem determined to be grating and unpleasant. Bugbread is bending over backwards to be nice to you and all you can come up with is "'Idiot' is a bit strong but not entirely off the mark"? Whatever makes you happy, I guess.
posted by languagehat at 6:44 AM on June 13, 2006


Mr. Six, you seem determined to be grating and unpleasant.

I didn't call anyone an idiot: jack_mo and bugbread used that term. I don't entirely question its use where appropriate, however. If my honest and patient response to mild condescension makes me the one being "grating and unpleasant" that is an unfortunate misinterpretation of my comments, and his. I won't fret much over it, however.
posted by Mr. Six at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2006


Mr. Six : "Choosing to be sheltered is foolish. 'Idiot' is a bit strong but not entirely off the mark."

Yeah, but I don't know if he chose to be sheltered or just was. But I can see your argument, and don't entirely disagree. I guess if jack_mo had said something like that ("In my experience, it is always related to homosexuality. Perhaps you should try to lead a less sheltered life"), then I wouldn't have said a word.

lh:

Whether or not "asshole" relates to "taking it up the ass" (which, I agree, seems like a Cultural Studies Department thing) isn't the part that I was interested to have noticed. The part I found interesting was the idea that "asshole" is not used for women, not because it is superceded by "bitch", but because "asshole" is only used for men. That is, there is the possibility that even if the word "bitch" was no more, "asshole" might still only be used towards men. That is a possibility which seems like it might have merit, and I hadn't considered before.

Also, cut Mr. Six a bit of slack. His first response was quite civil to me ("'Idiot' is a bit strong but not entirely off the mark" was in relation to jack_mo's characterization of cillit bang, so if he was being uncivil to anyone, it would be cillit bang, not myself), and I'm the one who started in at him with mild condescension.
posted by Bugbread at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2006


Thanks, bugbread.
posted by Mr. Six at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2006


I've only ever heard "asshole" to refer to men, and when I've mentioned this, women always say, "What? It's totally gender neutral!" And then I continue to never hear it refer to women, ever. So I maintain that it's strictly male. The "taking it up the ass" interpretaion is absolutely Cultural Studies bullshit. If anything., it's meant to imply, "This person is shitty." At least that's how I always read it. Because the Cultural Studies version describes the opposite kind of person that the word generally speaks of.

As for the pussy/cunt/bitch thing, my friends and I were discussing this the other day. The women were discussing which slang term they preffered for their vulva, and universally settled on pussy, which didn't really bother any of them. But then one of the women complained that every slang term for vulva was insulting in one context or another, and so none of them really worked. Of course, this led to the men's resonse: As opposed to dick, cock, prick, etc? Why are the insult-contexts of the male ones acceptable, and the female ones not? I don't think it's an implied connotation of victimhood, because that doesn't fit, say, cunt or bitch (unless it's used for a man) and also tends to say more about the listener than the speaker (such as Des Femmes.) Maybe it's because all these words are more widely spoken by men, and so female degradation is assumed, even if it isn't intended? What do y'all think?
posted by Navelgazer at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2006


Mr. Six: I obviously went off half-cocked (oops, another expression to investigate...). My apologies.

Navelgazer: My wife is perfectly happy using cunt and bitch, so we can't overgeneralize. But all these insults are complicated and fascinating. Too bad it's so easy to fall back on "degrading to women/gays/other-whatevered" and leave it at that.
posted by languagehat at 10:07 AM on June 13, 2006


So, it's OK to be lose with language as long as you don't loose the message? That seems pretty gay to me.

You're all such pussies...

(Wallah!)
posted by Pinback at 9:13 PM on June 13, 2006


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