[Ads-l] "gay" in 1938?

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Mon Jun 8 23:07:40 UTC 2015

John Baker's mention of Miss Gay, although for the 1950s, as well as a 1940 movie I saw on TCM recently, reminded me of the question of exactly what Cary Grant meant in his ad-lib in "Bringing Up Baby".  As Wikipedia puts it (article on the movie):

"In one scene, Cary Grant's character is wearing a woman's marabou-trimmed négligée; when asked why, he replies exasperatedly "Because I just went gay all 
of a sudden!" (leaping into the air at the word "gay"). As the term 
"gay" did not become familiar to the general public until the Stonewall riots in 1969,[15] it is debated whether the word was used here in its original sense (meaning "happy"[16]) or is an intentional, joking reference to homosexuality."

In the 1940 movie "My Favorite Wife," Grant's character (Nick) has remarried after his wife (Ellen) was presumed lost at sea.  But after the requisite seven years she has reappeared, having spent the time (as "Eve") on an otherwise-deserted island with Stephen ("Adam") Burkett -- played by the Randolph Scott who was significant in Grant's life between 1933 and 1945 (specifics disputed voluminously on the Web).

At one point soon after her return Ellen has fallen accidentally into a hotel pool, and has removed her wet clothes and covered up in a bed, I think in Adam's hotel room.  She asks Nick to get her some dry clothes.  He goes (it must logically be) to her room, picks out a dress, and holds it up against his body while posing, or at least looking at himself, before a mirror.  When asked what he's doing, Nick says "It's for a friend of mine, he's waiting downstairs."  The "he" waiting downstairs is Adam, waiting to bring Ellen's dry dress to her.  [This scene is about one hour into the film.)
Is this "an intentional, joking reference to homosexuality" (although it is irrelevant to the plot)?  Does it support the possibility that Grant's "gay" of 1938 does refer to homosexuality?

And one could add the presumably well-known  " 'My father liked being called gay,' admits Cary Grant's daughter [Jennifer Grant], in new memoir. "   [Daily Mail on-line, Updated: 05:29 EST, 28 April 2011.]   Was he actually called "gay"?  How early?  During his 1933--1945 cohabitation with Randolph Scott?

(Wikipedia, "Cary Grant", has a different slant, writing " Grant's daughter Jennifer Grant wrote that her father was not gay in her 2011 memoir. ", but this does not directly contradict that he was called gay.)



> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
> Behalf Of Baker, John
> Sent: Saturday, June 06, 2015 10:37 AM
> Subject: Butch Dykeman and Miss Gay
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header ---------------
> --------
> Sender:      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:      "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      Butch Dykeman and Miss Gay
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> I recently encountered the old comic book characters Toni Gay and Butch
> Dyk= eman, although it seems that these names have attracted comment on
> the Inte= rnet for years.  It would seem that the names adhere too
> strongly to the sa= me theme to be coincidence.  Particularly striking
> is the story in Popular = Teen-Agers #6 (Jan. 1951), the first page of
> which is at http://digitalcomi=
> cmuseum.com/preview/index.php?did=3D5695&page=3D3, where a gym
> instructor s= laps Butch Dykeman around for his bad posture. =20
> Toni Gay started as Toni Gayle, a "glamorous model with a yen for crime
> det= ecting."  She appeared under that name in comics such as Young
> King Cole, G= uns Against Gangsters, and Thrilling Crime Cases.  Still
> using the Toni Gay= le name, she was first paired up with Butch Dykeman
> in School-Day Romances =
> #1 (Nov. - Dec. 1949), in which she was a student at the Venus School
> of Mo= deling and he was a student at the adjacent Adonis School of
> Dramatic Arts.=
>  The crime-fighting adventures were now done; Butch and Toni instead
> were = comedic romantic figures, and some stories also featured Toni's
> romantic ri= val, Eve Ardor.  Without explanation, Toni Gayle's last
> name changed to Gay=  with School-Day Romances #4 (May - June 1950) (or
> possibly #3, which I don= 't see online).  School-Day Romances changed
> its name to Popular Teen-Agers=  with #5 (Sept. 1950).  Gay and Dykeman
> continued as a feature through Popu= lar Teen-Agers #7 (Apr. 1951), and
> Gay appeared without Dykeman in Popular = Teen-Agers #8 (July 1951).
> After that Popular Teen-Agers became a standard=  romance comic that
> did not have regular characters, continuing in that for= mat until #23
> (Nov. 1954).
> Comic books in the 1949 to 1951 period received little formal
> attention, an= d there was considerable flexibility in what could be
> portrayed.  This was = to change radically in 1954, with the
> publication of the best-seller Seduct= ion of the Innocent and
> publishers' institution of the Comics Code Authorit= y, which imposed a
> rigorous system of censorship, but it was still an almos= t-anything-
> goes system for Butch Dykeman and Toni Gay.  These comics are no= t
> antedatings of "gay," "butch," or "dyke," but they are early uses and
> dem= onstrate that the terms were sufficiently little-known that they
> could be u= sed as names in a children's comic book.
> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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