"gay" in "Bringing Up Baby"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 26 17:16:43 UTC 2010

I think the square brackets here mean that the usage is uncertain.  To me it seems likely that David is referring to homosexuality, but others, such as Ron Butters, have argued against this.  Gary Simes has collected various pre-Legman citations from the 1920s and 1930s, but the OED seems to be conservative about accepting them.  Curiously, for decades the OED went with a highly questionable 1935 citation as their first use.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Joel S. Berson [Berson at ATT.NET]
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:09 PM
Subject: "gay" in "Bringing Up Baby"

Having just seen "Bringing Up Baby" again, I am surprised that the
OED can continue to, in its June 2010 draft revision, bracket the
following quotation as, presumably, "interpreted anachronistically".

1938 D. NICHOLS & H. WILDE Bringing up Baby (film script, final
revision) 35 David..comes on..in negligee... Aunt: Why are you
wearing these clothes?.. David: Because I just went gay, all of a sudden.

If it is not taken as specifically referring to a person as a
homosexual (sense 4.d.(a)), it seems at least to be "(of a ... way of
life, etc.) of or relating to homosexuals" (sense 4.d(b).  (Unless
this use is taken only as cross-dressing?)  And a few of the later,
but still bracketed, quotations, seem also to fit 4.d(b).


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list