The Young and Evil

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Thu Sep 22 18:08:50 UTC 2011

Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler’s New York homosexual coterie novel, The Young and Evil (Paris, Obelisk, 1933, 163; repr. 1975, New York: Arno):

 … compliments flew down on special wheels couldn’t say no to the sensations he gives
me gayest thing on two feet harlot making theatrical costumes like one demented and renting the
bed them to come down here and fight like mEn startling …

Nothing says this doesn't just mean 'cheerful' or 'decadent' or 'colorful' or just the general sense of 'partier' used throughout the era. Yes, it is a novel about the homosexual subculture, and, yes, it is tempting to anachronistically impose a late-twentieth century reading on the usage in this rather scrambled passage. But that doesn't mean that "gay" here means 'homosexual'.

Also, it is worth pointing out that The Young and Evil uses the term in its only other occurrence in the novel in a sense wherein "gay" = 'lovely':

I say said Osbert to Harold you look positively gay in the new clothes. [¶] Oh said Harold you’re lovely too, dear, and gave him a big kiss on the forehead, much to Osbert’s dismay. [p64]
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