laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jul 6 12:06:03 UTC 2001
>- - -
>MORE FROM MY DANISH GUIDE:
>BACKBOARD INDIAN--a homosexual. I asked him for any terms for gays,
>and he came up with this, but another Dane had never heard of it.
>The guide said that "Backboard" means "starboard," as on a ship.
>- - -
>Sorry, but Barry's Danish guide was wrong. "Backboard" is "port" on
>a ship. German has "Backbord", Swedish has shortened this to
>"babord", and Danish has "bagbord". I think that even English had
>the word once upon a time: it comes from the epoch when ships had a
>steering oar instead of a rudder. This oar was usually on the
>"steerboard" ("Steuerbord", "styrbord") side, and the steersman
>turned his back to the port side.
>jan.ivarsson at transedit.st
OK, that makes more sense. I was wondering to a colleague why the
term for 'gay' would allude to the right as opposed to the left side,
given the usual line-up of these metaphors. ('Portsider' is a
standard term, at least in baseball contexts, for a left-hander, and
sure enough, "left-handed" is listed in RHHDAS as 'homosexual'
(citations since 1929), as well as of course 'illicit', 'clumsy',
'sinister', 'inauspicious', 'strange', etc., many of these
overlapping with non-slang terms in the OED. So thanks to Jan, the
first puzzle is solved. Where the "Indian" of "backboard/portside
Indian" comes from is a whole nother puzzle.
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