Gay: A Linguistic Love Story

October 13, 2009 at 8:38 pm 7 comments

English, like all languages, experiences vernacular fads. Remember when the word “radical” suggested something “awesome? Or how “trip” suggests drug consumption, or “Mexican” suggests something of low value and/or poor socioeconomic standing? What I’m trying to say is that language changes, for better or for worse, and that English, with its hodgepodge of irregular syntax and borrwed adjective use, is custom-made to embrace these changes.

I guess that’s why I get so mad when I see commercials like this. Knock it off, people. The word “gay” has changed! What used to mean happy, care-free, and emotionally sunny,  is now a catch-all phrase for homosexuality. Same with the word “queer”, which used to mean peculiar, odd, and out of the ordinary. I am okay with this. English is designed to be okay with this. We absorb and reject words with the times, phrases become fads, and insults change by the week (remember “butthead”?)


Thank you, Microsoft Paint.













Now, with increased anti-homosexual sentiment, the word “gay” has been transformed to mean a form of “stupid” (see chart). And you know what? I’m okay with this, too. I have nothing against gay people. I have gay friends, have lived with gays, and even started my high school’s first Gay Straight Alliance (using the same organization that helped fund these PSAs). But you know what, homosexuals? Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say. Just because this blip of a social cause collides with the advent of PSA’s in the wide maw of linguistic history doesn’t mean you get to dictate the economy of language.

Remember the N-word? Yeah, I’m not comfortable saying it. And that’s OKAY. YOU can say it. I’m not going to take that first amendment right away from you. It used to be a racial slur, but it’s now  used as a term of recognition between Blacks. Same with Fag between male homosexuals. That’s how the ebb and flow of English works. Honestly, I’m just glad we don’t say cankerblossom anymore. 

But, when all is said and done, the most important thing to remember when using these terms is how you say them. If I was told I had to get braces again, I would say that is pretty gay. If I told an insecure fifth grader that his dinosaur diorama was straight-up “gay”, that would be mean. If I looked closer inside the diorama and saw two cavemen humping, then I would actually be stating a fact. Just like when I say my printer is being stupid, as opposed to telling my supervisor that he/she is being stupid. So many things can affect how you insult someone, from your tone of voice to the degree of slant in your eyebrow.

Therefore, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

So next time you see one of these advertisements, don’t give it a cursory (aka: thorough, circa 1700s) glance. If you see someone staring at you amusedly (latin: stupidly), bite your thumb in their general direction. And, finally, if you see someone acting really happy, tell them to stop being so fucking gay. Words change. Get over it. And if you have a problem with it, suck my big fat Noam Chomski.


Entry filed under: Olivia, You Know What Really G's My G?.

Photos par Katia How Great is This Video

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alisaurus  |  October 14, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    here here! in the PSA it almost seemed like she was calling the top “gay” as a compliment. like “fetch.” they were both smiling. it was really confusing.
    and i really don’t think two airheaded girls shopping even constitutes 1/10 of the purported issue with calling things “gay.” they were hardly about to go and commit a hate crime. and besides, i think even a gay guy would say that top was gay.

  • 2. parkrangerolivia  |  October 14, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Alison, is “here here” the new “hear hear”? Linguistic evolution, or grammatical mistake?!? Maybe you’re on to something!

    • 3. alisaurus  |  October 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

      yes, grammatical mistake. how embarrassing. i’m going to go sit in the corner…
      also their acronym “glsen” just reminds me of arrested development. “who left the cap off my fucking glisten?!”

  • 4. Emma  |  October 15, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Without knowing this post even existed, I stumbled upon these and many other disturbing PSA’s this evening. I’m so glad you wrote about them!

    …Have you seen the Canadian “Workplace Safety” PSA’s? They’re GRAPHIC, to say the least.

  • 5. aBailey  |  October 18, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Emma, THOSE ARE THE WORST! Oh man, the boiling water one really “M’s me A to B a H-P-W for F of E up like the BS in EH” (makes me afraid to boil a hot pot of water for fear of ending up like the burned spaceman in Event Horizon) That movie G’d my G (got to my gonads)

    Olivia, psh don’t be a grammar snob. It’s the internet, jeez. R U 2 GOOD 4 US? Hahaha.

  • 7. KTrain  |  October 19, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Ben and i like to say: ew, this top is totally attracted to tops of its own gender.


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