Is Elmo (Sesame Street) a "Friend of Dorothy"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 16 00:48:36 UTC 2006

Till I was in my '30's, I had no idea that olive oil was edible. I
knew it only as a hair dressing or as an ingredient in pomades (Made
with / Contains OLIVE OIL!!!). Well, that's segregation for you.


On 7/15/06, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
> Subject:      Is Elmo (Sesame Street) a "Friend of Dorothy"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     Last week I watched a Sesame Street episode in which Elmo refers to his goldfish by name (Dorothy).  Now, when I was a child I had goldfish and tropical fish, and it never occurred to me to give any of them a name.  So to me, Elmo's referring to the goldfish by name indicates a special relationship between the two--a genuine friendship--at least from Elmo's side.  Whether Dorothy's reciprocates the friendship, I can't say; I just haven't watched enough episodes.
>     Anyway, note the expression used at least in the 1950's and 1960's by gays: "Are you a friend of Dorothy?" to determine whether the person being addressed is likewise gay.  (The reference is ultimately to the character Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; both she and Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, were highly popular among gays).
>      Maybe it's just a coincidence that Elmo's goldfish friend is named Dorothy rather than, say, Roberta.
> But maybe it's not.  Maybe the screenwriter who named the goldfish Dorothy had in mind the phrase "friend of Dorothy," making Elmo by implication a closet homosexual on Sesame Street.  The motivation of the screnwriter, of course, would have been to produce a sort of in-joke. For a possible parallel, cf. Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl being so named because of the product Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
> Gerald Cohen
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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