Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Thu Sep 22 18:12:40 UTC 2011

The word gay appears some 26 times in "Scarlet Pansy" (1932), but always with the apparent meaning ‘happy’
or ‘fun’ or ‘given to heavy-duty partying’. There is no exact synomym for gay in this latter sense in the
English of the late 20th  century. Some examples: 

“The avenue seemed full of gay people those days, persons happy as she” [104]; 

“It was shortly after this that Fay and Henri began to habituate the gay Bohemian places of the town” [119]; 

“ … Henri blurted out, …‘I’ve heard of him. He gives remarkable parties, the gayest in town. If he invites you, don’t fail to attend, for you’ll meet the very elite of our young set’” [122]; 

“First they stopped in the basement of the old Brevoort, where at the time the gayest and most interesting crowds gathered nightly” [145]; 

“The cafe was the gathering place of all the high-grade kept women, wild society women, dissipated men, ladies of the night, fairies, pimps and its of that generation, probably the teachers of today’s crop of gay youth that seems to have assimilated everything at a tender age” [160]). 

The fact that "gay" does not appear in the list of terms for dissipated persons but then is used immediately thereafter to modify "youth" in general indicates strongly that "gay" does not mean 'homosexual,' only something like ‘given to heavy-duty partying’. It does suggest, however, that the continued association of the word gay with somewhat decadent partying is doubtless a part of the etymology of the term gay in a narrower sense of  'homosexual' that, over the course of the rest of the decade, continued to emerge.
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