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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
I guess I should call this a "Wank of the Day"...or something... 
13th-Oct-2005 07:50 pm
Candybar Doll
Consider the phrase (and variations thereof), "That's so GAY!"...where gay is used to mean stupid.

Now, I'm sure there are activists out there who take great offense to this transformation of a neutral term for homosexuality into a negative one for generally moronic behavior, but let us take the long view.

Back in the Middle Ages, sinister meant left. Since the left was associated with the Devil, the word sinister soon acquired a negative connotation of evil. Now, all sinister generally means is evil.

Likewise, the word jerk, when applied to a person, used to mean masturbator. Nowadays, though, when I call someone a jerk, I'm probably not accusing the guy of having hairy palms but rather of being an irritating, stupid person.

Starting to see a pattern here? Words with a neutral meaning permanently acquired a negative connotation because the objects of their original meanings were at one time stigmatized. However, the words gradually became generalized insults or negative descriptors as the original meaning of the word itself ceased to be a stigma.

So, perhaps we should take the "That's so GAY!" phrase as a sign of progress, not regression.
14th-Oct-2005 12:26 am (UTC)
That's an interesting way of looking at it.
14th-Oct-2005 12:46 am (UTC)
I think I like that idea... even more since I go bonkers each time I go on an IRC channel and see the morons there use this "it's so gay" all the friggin' time.
14th-Oct-2005 12:54 am (UTC)
I think it's most telling of all when you hear young people who are not particularly prejudiced against gay people use the word in this way that something is changing, and it might not NECESSARILY be for the worse.
14th-Oct-2005 01:00 am (UTC)
Maybe the same way they use "jap" without understanding how demeaning it is... but it still makes me go "wtf" when I hear stuff like that.
14th-Oct-2005 01:03 am (UTC)
There's a difference, though. "Jap" I assume still means Japanese (albeit coming from a generation that doesn't remember or care about WWII), whereas this new usage of "gay" has no direct connotation to homosexuality per se.
14th-Oct-2005 09:34 am (UTC)
mmm. i've been called jap by people who remember and care about wwii.

to say that the new usage of gay has no direct connotation to homosexuality per se is rather like (with only a restrained amount of hyperbole) saying that the new usage of "nigger" has no direct connotation to being black.
14th-Oct-2005 10:34 am (UTC)
My argument here is that the language is in transition. When's the last time you used to word "sinister" as slander against left-handed people, for example? :P
14th-Oct-2005 12:57 am (UTC)
Speaking of different meanings, I once told my brother that he was looking "particularly gay today". *smirks* Course I was referring to his very bright shirt but the look on his face was priceless XD
14th-Oct-2005 12:59 am (UTC)
It's quite funny how the original meaning of the word, "cheerful," gets completely reversed when used as a synonym for things moronic, as well.
14th-Oct-2005 01:04 am (UTC)
Maybe because cheerful people often look a bit stupid?^_^ It's hard to look intelligent when you're constantly smiling.
14th-Oct-2005 01:07 am (UTC)
*snickers* That's what I was thinking!

Did you know? Happy people are more likely to be prejudiced than depressed people...and religious faith is correlated with happiness. Therefore, religion is associated with prejudice. *heh heh heh*
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14th-Oct-2005 04:17 am (UTC)
Interesting...I will have to show this to a friend who gets super offended if anyone says "That's so gay" around her.
14th-Oct-2005 10:33 am (UTC)
It's generally insensitive to use it, but language is not a static thing, and self-righteousness should be tempered with a dose of reason.
14th-Oct-2005 01:40 pm (UTC)
Everything comes back around again (to paraphrase Carly Simon). As one of your mates pointed out, gay really means happy (or cheerful, if you prefer). While that meaning may never come back, I'm sure the term "gay" will be co-opted by the GLBT community again with a fervor at some point in the future much in the way queer seems to have done of late. [I mean, we don't bat an eye when someone says, "That's so queer," when they mean really socially unacceptable or corny or juvenile or whatever, do we? Queer originally meant peculiar, went on to mean homosexual, then corny and now...homosexual. So I wouldn't worry too much about it.
14th-Oct-2005 01:44 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think words like "queer" and "niggardly" are the opposite in effect--words that had totally non-racialized meanings originally but now cannot be used without implication about the respective human group. Words like these point to a continuing racial/ethnic/sexual consciousness in our society, whereas newer usages of words like "sinister" and I would argue "gay" point to a reduction of stigma surrounding older meanings.
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