lisps and homosexuals

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Tue Feb 24 16:57:09 UTC 2004

On Feb 24, 2004, at 8:27 AM, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:

> In a message dated 2/24/04 12:41:06 AM, SClements at NEO.RR.COM writes:
> << Doug Wilson just posted to the "Gay self-appellation" thread and
> cited HDAS
> "gay boy" from 1904.
> So, I went to see the exact language.  And then I read the cite above
> it for
> "gay-and-frisky" which was rhyming slang for _whiskey_.
> But the interesting part was the actual quote:
> 1904 Dunbar _Happy Hollow_ 248:  Whath the mattah?  Up againtht it?
> You look
> a little ol' to be doin' the gay an' frithky.
> Is there an earlier cite for imitating the stereotypical? gay lisp?
> Or, am
> I just misreading this cite?

Ron replies:

> GAY didn't come to mean 'homosexual' until the 1930s (late 1920s at
> the very
> earliest), and then it was an insider term known only to other
> homosexuals. It
> didn't move out into the general population until the 1940s and 1950s,
> and
> even then it wasn't very powerful. The general population didn't use
> the term as
> the primary meaning until the late 1960s.
> The 1904 cite surely has nothing to do with homosexuality.

we'd need more context to settle this, but my first reaction was that
what was being represented here was either dandified speech or drunken
speech or both.

arnold (zwicky at

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