Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon May 31 16:21:56 UTC 2004

On May 31, 2004, at 7:18 AM, James Smith wrote:

> I first heard a teenage boy use "gay" in the "weird,
> strange, different, stupid, annoying, lame" sense
> around 15 years ago.  I didn't take it to relate
> directly to homosexuality then, but to me, the origin
> of this use seems pretty obviously linked through the
> homosexual meaning.

we've discussed "gay" 'stupid, annoying, lame' here before.  i don't
think there's any doubt that it developed from "gay" 'homosexual', or
that many young people have learned the new sense without consciously
connecting it to the older one, or that plenty of people connect the
two senses.  the point of my posting was not to re-hash these familiar
facts, but to observe the innovative *spellings* "ghey" and "ghay" for
the new sense, which i don't believe had been recorded here before
(though they may be old hat to the lexicographers among us).

i also wanted to note that some synonyms of "gay" 'homosexual' have
(recently, i think) developed in parallel with "gay": once converted
from nouns to adjectives (recall the discussion of adjectives like
"w(h)ack"), "homo", "fag", and "faggot" have all picked up the
bleached, merely (negatively) evaluative meanings 'stupid, annoying,
lame' (for some speakers).  i wouldn't be surprised if similar
developments turned up for, say, "fairy" or "pansy".

arnold (zwicky at

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