Query: Gay Self-Appellations in 20s, 30s? (Modified by Grant Barrett)

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Mon Feb 23 20:29:37 UTC 2004

Below is one of the more interesting questions sent to the ADS web
site. Please respond to the original sender, and to the list.

Note that I already forwarded her the OED's earliest cite for
"straight=not gay," although perhaps someone can do better (and with
the whole history of "homosexual" and "lesbian" mess).

Also, the citations in HDAS for fag, etc., seem mostly to be from
outsiders. The request below is looking for insider terms. They may
very well be the same, but I don't have anything here which convinces
me. Sally, sissy, girl, nanny, nance, nancy, nancy-boy, sill, gunsel,
brownie, fag, faggot, sissy, fairy, pansy, lily?



Dear Sirs and Madams,

I found your site via a link at the site of Oxfor University press and I
hope someone of you might be able to help me with a somewhat weird
etymological question (or at least tell me where I could get some help
with respect to it).

Currently, I am working on a translation of a story settled in 1930ies
USA (Cleveland, to be precise), which was originally written in German,
from German to English.
One problem with this rather obcure task is that I am no native
speaker, but of German origin, but the main problem is that all 'slang'
and colloquial terms that supposedly should be used are not only
'slang' but also dated.

The second problem is that bilingual dictionaries normally only give
very tame translations for colourful expressions.

Anyway: What I desperately need to know is, and I hope that this does
not ask too much of you in terms of what is appropriate, is what, in the
1920ies or 1930ies a male and a female homosexual, respectively,
would have called themselves.

I learned that the word 'homosexual' was introduced to the English
language in then 1910, while 'lesbian' and 'heterosexual' came up in
the 1920ies, but all these terms strike me as sounding rather abstract
and artificial.

Was there any word of that time that was used like 'gay' is used today,
any euphemistic phrase (of which I know quite a lot in Germany but
that does not help me an inch, unfotunately), or any informal phrase
homsexuals of either gender would have called themselves in the US?

Second: Is there any hint when the word 'straight' as synonym for
'heterosexual' was introduced?

I'd be absolutely grateful for any help with this dilemma, and sincerely
ask your apologies if you are not the correct adress for requests like
this one.

Thank you for your efforts,

Yours gratefully

Margit Ritzka

Margit Ritzka
Schwertgesweg 16
40670 Meerbusch-Osterath
Tel. 0049 2159 678 633
e mail: margit at blotter.de

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