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March 23rd, 2008


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01:24 pm - gay
so this is something i have debated a lot, with myself and others. what do words mean? specifically, a word like 'gay', with meanings that don't have anything to do with each other but do seem to be linked somehow. a quote:

One reason for this increase in use could be because "gay" has partly lost its sexual connotations among young people, he says. While still pejorative, for the majority of youngsters it has replaced words such as "lame".

"I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals," says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. "It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7289390.stm]


i can't really make up my mind on this. on the one hand, words gain and lose meanings all the time and there's no particular reason to doubt it. but sometimes the meanings are muddled, especially when one is derogatory. i mean, look at the other words on the list. there's definitely some homophobia in there. but is it directed; does it actually mean anything? thoughts?
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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:amyawesome
Date:March 23rd, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
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I try to avoid using words like that because I feel that the negative connotation carries over. If a young child hears a word in one context (such as hearing "gay" used to mean "uncool" or something of that effect) and then hears it another context (such as someone identifying as gay) then they tend to carry that connotation over, in my opinion.
[User Picture]
From:purplehippos
Date:March 23rd, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
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i think that it's taken on meanings such as "lame" because of the homosexual meaning. even if someone saying "gay" doesn't mean it in that context, it's still derivative of it. as such, i avoid using the phrase "that's gay..." and have gotten daniel to stop using it as well.

i think it's similar to "gypped" which people use to mean "cheated", but which is derived from "gypsy". just because someone doesn't mean it in an ethnically derogatory way doesn't mean they should keep saying it after they do know the origins.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 24th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
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oh undoubtedly that's how it first started meaning lame, but that doesn't mean it is now derivative of it, i don't think. word origins can be interesting, but rarely enlightening. there's nothing gained from knowing that family comes from the latin for slave, and it hardly tarnishes the word. or barbarian, which came from an ancient greek slur for pretty much anyone who wasn't an ancient greek.
[User Picture]
From:melley
Date:March 23rd, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
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if we've ingrained homophobia into our culture so much that "gay" is a legitimate synonym for "things that suck1", i don't see how that's better.

1 although, technically, i suspect "suck" came from homophobia/misogyny as a way of saying that the receiving partner in a blowjob is somehow inferior to the other. i've been trying to look for a better verb and can't seem to find one, though i might not be looking hard enough. it's fairly easy, though, to say "that's lame" instead of "that's gay". i am also not twelve and most twelve-year-olds are assholes.
[User Picture]
From:ardentdelirium
Date:March 24th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
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well saying something is lame can be seen as being insulting to the physically disabled. It makes me wonder if there are any negative words that don't have origins in mocking a group of people....
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 24th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
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this was going to be pretty much my response. and lame illustrates the point perfectly - i don't think anyone is calling something lame out of latent hatred for disabled folks. lame now has an entirely seperate alternate meaning of general ungoodness.
[User Picture]
From:melley
Date:March 24th, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
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it's not so much that a twelve-year-old who is using the term "gay" without thinking about it is clearly internally homophobic...but they're definitely not thinking about how their words might make an actual gay person feel...not that a twelve-year-old is going to be that thoughtful anyway, but i think that level of thoughtfulness/empathy is something we as a society need to be encouraging instead of discouraging.

does anyone actually call disabled folks lame anymore? i usually hear "challenged" or "retarded", which is probably about as popular as "gay" in some circles.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 24th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC)
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lame refers to physical problems, not mental problems. according to wiki "Lame means moving with pain or difficulty, or colloquially, an unconvincing argument, or failing to be cool". i don't think it gets much use anymore in the first meaning, except for horses, which are called lame all the time for some reason.
[User Picture]
From:melley
Date:March 24th, 2008 04:45 am (UTC)
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yeah, but "retarded" means both.

i always found that double-entrendre kind of amusing. dude, your horse is lame.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 30th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
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retarded means both? i don't think i've ever heard retarded used for physical problems, outside of technical medical-type speak of retarded development of the hoozawhatsit or etc
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 24th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC)
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the point is that if gay now has an alternate meaning of general crappiness, that meaning doesn't neccesarily impinge on the meaning of homosexuality. just like someone can be a straight talker who sets people straight and likes their whiskey straight, but this all is no implication of or encouragement of heterosexuality. (in my opinion).
[User Picture]
From:melley
Date:March 24th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
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well, 'gay' has an alternate meaning of general crappiness because of homophobia. it's not like the two meanings came from totally different directions. similarly there are plenty of words that imply femininity is a negative thing (i'm tired and i can't really think of anything except "you're a pussy" at the moment - which is my favorite/least favorite because you would think straight men would revere pussy, but they sure as hell don't talk that way), and a society that valued women would never have considered them negative in the first place. and every time i hear them i'm thinking "well it's nice to know they think i'm not a valued member of this society" instead of "clearly they're using the 'other' meaning of that word that has nothing to do with women now because they've reclaimed it to just mean something offensive."

older words are another thing...i don't think the people once referred to as "barbarians" are still as marginalized as they were at the time.

it's not like humanity is really that great at being inclusive and supportive, anyway. we've mostly stopped killing each other over it (with many notable exceptions), but that's pretty new in the grand scheme of things.

[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 24th, 2008 04:21 am (UTC)
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i won't give a thorough rebuttal, because i'm not sure enough of my position to bother typing it all out, but i'll note that 'dick' is also an insult. (as is 'ass'. dirty/taboo words tend to become swears of various sorts).
[User Picture]
From:plotsthicken
Date:March 24th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
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you suck, queer gaymo. this post is gay.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 30th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
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get out of here with your hate, and take your creepy vaginal walrus thing userpic with you
[User Picture]
From:shesgotthelook
Date:March 27th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
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What I don't understand is why it became a word that children use for 'lame.' WHen i was in elementary school, we said people were 'gay,' but i had no idea what a homosexual was. So, are kids picking up words that adults use, that they infer has negative connotations, OR is it just a word that means lame that only exists in elementary students. Kind like it just gets passed down from older kids to younger kids, and no one really knows who started it.

I remember we also used to say ' you got the shaft.' I have no idea where that comes from either.

In my opinion, the word 'gay' is not soley a noun descrbiing homosexuals, it has many meanings. It originally meant 'carefree,' So i don't think its a bad word. I think what happened is that 'carefree' kind of extended itself to have sexual connotations and somehow described homosexuals, because we all know they are loose people without morals! I think its kind of dumb that the word 'gay' changed from an adjective to a noun. The correct term should be homosexual. Or 'queer' as my grandmother would say....
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:March 30th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
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apparently before gay meant homosexual, it also was slang for a slutty lady.
if gay changing meanings is okay, why is it changing parts of speech not okay?

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