"Friend of Dorothy" (lesbian)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Apr 21 05:14:01 UTC 2005

On Wed, 20 Apr 2005 04:45:38 -0400, bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:

>Did "friend of Dorothy" originate in Chicago or New York? A note below
>says NYC in the 1970s, but the Randy Shilts book is surely better than
>Bag 5102/3/4A/B
>... She Is A Friend Of Dorothy's, New York slang for lesbians, dates from
>1977 and is a very polished song compared to many of John's home demos.
>www.vigotone.com/bag/bag5102.htm - 16k - Cached - Similar pages

Just to clarify: that website gives the date of 1977 for John Lennon's
demo recording "She is A Friend of Dorothy's", not for the expression
"friend of Dorothy('s)".

And Randy Shilts didn't say that "FoD" originated in Chicago.  That was
the setting for his 1981 story about the Great Lakes Naval Training
Center, but he simply wrote that the expression "had originated in the
1940's and 1950's" without localizing the origin.

Checking Amazon, I see "FoD" in a reminiscence by Philip Bockman about
Toledo in 1961 ("Fishing Practice" in _Boys Like Us_, 1996, p. 75):

We even had a password, by which we identified ourselves in those days
when very few dared to be "obvious": "I'm a friend of Dorothy's." If
people didn't get it, you knew they weren't gay. A gay person would
answer, "I am too" with a knowing smile. Perhaps we chose this reference
to _The Wizard of Oz_ because Judy Garland sang songs with which we
identified, ballads of hope and despair, love and rejection: the
contradictions of our double lives.

The book _Queer Sites_ by David Higgs says the expression "became a
universally recognized code" for "post-war gay insiders."  He also cites
Bruce Rodgers' _The Queens' Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon_ (1972) for usage of
"Dorothy and Toto" in reference to "male couples in which the effeminate
partner dominated."

So in any case, it's certainly both semantically and geographically
restricting to say that "FoD" is "New York slang for lesbians."

--Ben Zimmer

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