08 October 2008

Something I noticed recently


Once upon a time, it was the thing that if you wanted to describe something as "gay" meaning lame, stupid or ludicrously ridiculous, you could. Provided that you added the phrase afterwards, sotto voce, "...in the primary school meaning of the word."

If you didn't remember to do this, you were labelled an obnoxious homophobe, and pilloried for it.

I came across something on YouTube the other day (I don't have the link and I'm not looking for it) where someone - presumably not heterosexual - was complaining about people who are prone to describing things as "gay" under this definition.

It was about at this point that I noticed that the primary school definition disclaimer seems to have all but disappeared. I worked, up to last week, in an office where a couple of the team routinely described things as "gay" without the disclaimer, and no one seemed to bat an eyelid.

In fact, so entrenched was this practice that it never occurred to me to see what the reaction might have been from a particular member of the team. A member for whom, as it happens, the disclaimer was invented in order to avoid causing offence.

This got me thinking: Is the meaning of the word "gay" changing yet again? Or has it already done so?

After all, no one really bats an eyelid at someone's sexual orientation anymore. Just look at the fuss that Lindsay Lohan's coming out caused: That's right, folks. No one could give a rat's arse.

What's caused all this then? Is it the rise of Generation Y? After all, this is the generation for whom, if you believe our media stereotypes, still behave as if they were in primary school. It really goes without say that they might have brought a few words of primary school slang with them, if that was the case.

Discuss.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've never heard that disclaimer being used explicitly. But then, these days, I don't often hear the word used in that sense anymore.
I would have thought that anyone sensitive enough to recognize a need for the disclaimer would also be smart enough to just use a different expression that did not need to be defended.

Dikkii said...

That's the thing, Anon. I'm not even sure if the expression needs to be defended anymore.

MichaelBains said...

Heh! The last person to call one of my posts gay was a Flaming, L4m3 homosexual. Actually, he was specifically referring to the video I had posted.

Thing is, he was right. So I just took it to mean it's original intent; Happy. :)

Meh! I just try not being too offensive in general. It saves time explaining m'self later.

Dikkii said...

Happy.

How ironic would it be if the word went full circle and came back to what it originally meant?

I'm not sure if it'll ever happen, but it's nice to wish. More words that mean "happy" in this world are always welcome.

Akusai said...

One of my gay friends routinely describes things as "gay," in the primary school sense, but without the disclaimer.

I'm really not sure where that word is going. Some people are still offended by it, some don't care at all. It's in a weird state of linguistic limbo.

Dikkii said...

Not sure if you remember the Simpsons episode, Akusai, where Homer starts off bemoaning the fact that "gay" no longer means "happy" and finishes with "that was our word for you guys".

I think that in a weird case of life imitating life, by the time the dictionaries get around to reflecting the "new meaning" (also not sure if this is where the word is going) all those who might have been offended might already be over it.

The fact that your friend and MB's commenter (above) are actually gay (in the sexuality sense meaning of the word) leads me to believe that this definition might be over most of the initial hurdles required in a linguistic makeover.

What's even more interesting is that I just used "(in the sexuality sense meaning of the word)" as a disclaimer before noticing.

Should I make the call? Is this THE MOMENT where one definition has surpassed another?