Query: Gay Self-Appellations in 20s, 30s?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Feb 24 04:34:30 UTC 2004

>The earliest documented use of the adjective "gay" in the "homosexual"
>sense, as reported in the OED, occurs in the word "geycat" (meaning "a
>homosexual boy"), and is taken from a 1935 collection of prison and
>underworld slang.

But "gayboy" = "homosexual man" appears (HDAS) to date from 1903 ... and
even without that early citation "gay boy" would be natural by analogy to
(apparently very prevalent) 19th century "gay girl" meaning "prostitute"
(still so used in South Asia). Given "gay boy" = "male prostitute" (the
narrowest analogy), extension to "homosexual man" in mainstream use would
be certain IMHO, and if "gay boy" = "homosexual man" then I think immediate
"gay" = "homosexual" is a cinch. Just a plausibility argument.

I suspect that "gaycat" assumed its homosexual implication (to the extent
that it had any) from "gay" rather than the other way around: "gaycat"
basically meant "amateur tramp" originally AFAIK (whence?), and only later
"sidekick"/"possible catamite".

-- Doug Wilson

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