"gay" redux

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 30 12:40:41 UTC 2012

> for Hollywood insiders.

Yeah, they know everything past, present, and future.  Clever how they used
Benny and Rochester as their dupes, too!  Wait a minute...

But seriously, if the tepid laughers in the audience knew that gay meant
homosexual, that would mean that a measurable proportion of Americans in
1936 knew that gay meant homosexual. They were most likely laughing because
"gay" is such a plain term in contrast with "exhilaration and sparkiling
effervescence." Also because they knew you're supposed to laugh at the
third item in an ostensibly humorous series.

Despite the existence of a seemingly unequivocal 1933 ex. in HDAS (from a
sub rosa publication read by few), which makes the question of "gay" in
_Bringing up Baby_ less crucial, the sense doesn't become prominent in
print till the late '60s - even though homosexuality was widely and openly
discussed after the appearance of the Kinsey Report on the "Human Male"
(i.e., mostly white, middle-class, American college guys) twenty years


On Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 8:19 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "gay" redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> WB: Gay 1936. Jack Benny radio show, 1936-11-22, episode 36, =93Buck Benny
> Rides Again=94.
> <<<Don Wilson:  Tell me, Jack, what=92s the cause of your exhilaration and
> sparkling effervescence?
> Jack Benny:  Well, I =85 uh=85 What is that, Don?
> Don Wilson:  I say what=92s the cause of your exhilaration and sparkling
> effervescence?
> Jack Benny:  I don=92t =85
> Don Wilson:  Well, what motivates the sudden display of exuberance?
> Jack Benny:  Well, I=85 uh=85
> Don Wilson:  In other words, Jack, what makes you so gay?
> Jack Benny:  Oh, I was hoping we=92d get together. (Tepid laughter from
> audience.) Well, Don, you know how tired I=92ve been the last couple of
> wee=
> ks
> so I went down to Palm Springs for a rest and it did me a lot of good.
> =85>=
> >>
> WB: In this context, it seems the audience did not catch the pun. It
> probably slipped passed the censors, since it would have been a joke for
> Hollywood insiders.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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