(Confirmed) Bachelor

Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Tue Jun 19 19:19:19 UTC 2001

The person who asked the question has provided the rest of his cites, and
another relevant post is appended below that. As before, I have deleted
their email addresses because I don't have their permission to post them.

   Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
          Mark_Mandel at dragonsys.com : Senior Linguist
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com

>>>>> [From Charlie Finlay] >>>>>
Hi Mark,

Thanks for copying me on this and for inquiring further with people more
likely to know.

Here are the self-identifying citations I found from gay sources, in case
helps (this is just a cut-and-paste from one of my earlier posts to the

It doesn't matter to me one way or the other except as a matter of
curiousity. If it was used this way, then when and how widespread was it?
And it wasn't common, why are their some citations for it?

Again, thanks so much!


     [Here follows Charlie's enclosure, which begins with a quote of
      another listie's post. That listie, Lesley, is also the author
      of the second post I quote, further below. -- MAM]

lesley k <DELETED> sez

> --- Peter Newman <DELETED> wrote:
>>> They might mean that to you however in 20th
>> century coded speech
>> 'confirmed bachelor' meant something very much
>> like 'flaming
>> homosexual'.
> I'm not disagreeing with you, but I would be very
> interested in some citations on this "code."

I did a Metacrawler search on the phrase and turned this up, dated 1996

"I'm gay. A queer. A homo. A fag. A Fruit, queen, sissy, poof, fairy,
sodomite, nellie, swish, maricon, deviant, confirmed bachelor, faggot,
flamer, invert, friend of Dorothy, 'that way,' switch hitter, homophile,
uranian and a hundred other euphemisms and terms of approbation you could
throw at me as a homosexual male."

And this, Wizard's Gay Slang Dictionary, which includes the Times' habit I
mentioned in a previous message <http://www.hurricane.net/~wizard/19b.html

1. In feudal times, a young knight in the service of another knight, Often
was the sexual partner of the older knight.
2. a man who remains unmarried.
3. early twentieth century, code word or euphemism for homosexual.
4. In Obituraries in The Times of London, they used the expressions 'he
never married' for heterosexual bachelors, and 'confirmed bachelor' as a
code for being gay."

Though one could argue how accurate def. 1 is, this seems like a fairly
reliable source for def. 3 and possibly def. 4.

On the other hand, I also found numerous uses of it as a term synonymous
with rake or womanizer, as in this movie description of "The Bachelor"
(1999) here <http://www.showbizdata.lycos.com/credits.cfm?mid=101334>:

"An arrogant, confirmed bachelor, who takes special pleasure in
loving-and-leaving, falls for a charming and beautiful woman but botches

I think it's an example of new words or meanings being introduced into the
language (in this case: homosexual, queer, faggot, and gay, all within
approx. the last hundred years) so that the old euphemisms continue but
evolve new meanings of their own.

(Or perhaps return to old meanings, in one thinks of Shakespeare's Benedick
in "Much Ado About Nothing." In Act II, Scene iii, he vows to die a
bachelor, but I don't recall the phrase "confirmed bachelor" being used.)

Then Mark A. Mandel wrote:

> IIRC, in "My Fair Lady", 20c musical based on GBShaw's 20c play
> "Pygmalion", Henry Higgins describes himself as "confirmed old bachelor
> and likely to remain so". If not, it's Col. Pickering. Neither of them is
> at all homosexual, from all the textev, and Higgins falls in love with
> Eliza.

But the musical (1956) is very different than the play (1914 or 1916). In
Shaw's play Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering are both described as
confirmed old bachelors.  From Act IV, Higgins says: "You see, Eliza, all
men are not confirmed old bachelors like me and the Colonel. Most men are
the marrying sort (poor devils!)"

Or this pun on the word 'straight' in act V, where Doolittle is Eliza's

 DOOLITTLE. And you'll come to the church, Colonel, and put me through
 PICKERING. With pleasure. As far as a bachelor can.

Or this exchange in the same scene:

  HIGGINS. Not a bit. I'll adopt you as my daughter and settle money on you
if you like. Or would you rather marry Pickering?
  LIZA [looking fiercely round at him] I wouldnt marry y o u if you asked
me; and youre nearer my age than what he is.
  HIGGINS [gently] Than he is: not "than what he is."
  LIZA [losing her temper and rising] I'll talk as I like. You're not my
teacher now.
  HIGGINS [reflectively] I don't suppose Pickering would, though. He's as
confirmed an old bachelor as I am.
  LIZA. That's not what I want; and don't you think it. I've always had
chaps enough wanting me that way.

I'd also point to Shaw's "Sequel:What Happened Afterwards," which is
available at Bartleby's. <http://www.bartleby.com/138/6.html>

"When Higgins excused his indifference to young women on the ground that
they had an irresistible rival in his mother, he gave the clue to his
inveterate old-bachelordom. The case is uncommon only to the extent that
remarkable mothers are uncommon. If an imaginative boy has a sufficiently
rich mother who has intelligence, personal grace, dignity of character
without harshness, and a cultivated sense of the best art of her time to
enable her to make her house beautiful, she sets a standard for him against
which very few women can struggle, besides effecting for him a
of his affections, his sense of beauty, and his idealism from his
specifically sexual impulses."

Others can answer better whether this coincides with the rise of the idea
that homosexuality in men was caused by a domineering mother.

Shaw goes on to tell us who Eliza married instead: "Freddy and Eliza, now
Mr. and Mrs. Eynsford Hill, would have spent a penniless honeymoon but for
wedding present of <sterling-symbol>500 from the Colonel to Eliza."
Shaw goes on to
describe their life together, and includes a reference to the writings of
H.G. Wells (which almost brings this back on-topic!).

Anyway, I think there's plenty of evidence that the word "bachelor" and
especially "confirmed bachelor" were euphemisms for homosexuality at some


>>>>> [from lesley knieriem] >>>>>
From: lesley k <DELETED>

For what it's worth, I've just spent an hour with
thirteen dictionaries of slang, euphemisms, etc.
(including Partridge's), both British and
American, publishing dates from 1828 to 1997; and
I have seen more interesting usages of
"bachelor", and more epithets for "homosexual",
than I could have imagined existed;  but I did
NOT see any reference to "confirmed bachelor", or
any reference to "bachelor" implying

-- lesley knieriem

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