anymore, flowers don't seem to be gay

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 27 04:50:40 UTC 2008

Again, I agree with Ron that the use of "gay" in its traditional
meaning is worthy of note.

As for flowery types, when I was a college freshman, our professor of
botany, a gracious lady of some fifty years of age in 1954, once
expatiated for about fifteen minutes on "some absolutely-beautiful,
furry pussies" that had "greeted" her on her walk to campus. Of
course, she was speaking of pussy willows. But she was completely
unaware of any other possible reading of the phrase, "furry pussy."

As a consequence, for an entire hour, there was no class participation
of any kind, since every student was fearful of bursting into
hysterical laughter, which the poor professor would never have
understood, had he or she done anything other than sit quietly, head
bowed, staring at fingers clasped in lap.


On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 9:46 PM,  <RonButters at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>  Poster:       RonButters at AOL.COM
>  Subject:      anymore, flowers don't seem to be gay
>  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  I agree--it doesn't support a 'homosexual' reading (though it would support=20=
>  a=20
>  'worthless' reading in the slang sense, but I suspect the author is so far=20
>  out of it that he or she does not even know that that reading is possible).
>  I do think, though, that the use of "gay" to mean cheerful has been so=20
>  crowded out by the 'homosexual' reading that it rarely if every appears in t=
>  he=20
>  'cheerful' sense--people tend to snicker, even when it the 'homosexual' read=
>  ing is=20
>  not plausible.
>  Given that this appears to be a genuine sighting of "gay" used in a=20
>  traditional sense, I simply thought it might be of some histgorical lexicogr=
>  aphical=20
>  significance. No dictionary that I know of actually lists the traditional se=
>  nses=20
>  as obsolete or archaic, but the word does seem to be going in that direction=
>  ,=20
>  given the rarity of its usage in anything other than the "homosexual" or=20
>  "worthless" readings.
>  In a message dated 2/26/08 8:18:27 PM, thnidu at writes:
>  > Thanks for the PDF of the page (sent off-list). Maybe the author is unawar=
>  e=20
>  > of the shift, or is conservative and ignoring it, or doesn't care.
>  >=20
>  > Another thing that just occurred to me: all of the ad, naturally, is about=
>  =20
>  > the plant. To me at least, the context is much less supportive of the=20
>  > 'homosexual' reading than any context relating to people. "X is gay" or "g=
>  ay=20
>  > laughter" or "a gay party" are readable as either emotion/personality or s=
>  exual=20
>  > orientation, but the ad text --
>  >=20
>  >      =E2=80=A2     Blooms lavishly starting this summer
>  >      =E2=80=A2     Produces gay masses of blue-violet flowering spires
>  >      =E2=80=A2     Blooms year after year...
>  >=20
>  >=20
>  > =C2=A0-- is neither. It only allows an esthetic reading, which is differen=
>  t=20
>  > though related to the emotion/personality sense, and which (to me at least=
>  )=20
>  > doesn't support the other reading at all.
>  >=20
>  > --
>  > Mark Mandel
>  >=20
>  **************
>  Ideas to please picky eaters. Watch video on AOL Living.
>      =20
>  (
>  ffy/
>  2050827?NCID=3Daolcmp00300000002598)
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>  The American Dialect Society -

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