[Ads-l] Only *one* answer? And why only one? Why had the speaker not heard either term before?

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 30 22:09:13 UTC 2015

On Sat, May 30, 2015 at 3:28 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> "Almost the first mischievous question he shot at me was 'Are you homo
> or hetero?' I had never heard either term before; they were explained
> and there seemed only one answer."

Context, from previous thread: "_My Father and Myself_, the memoir of
J.R. Ackerley (1896-1967), in which he recalls a conversation with a
Swiss friend named Arnold Lunn in 1918."

Link: https://books.google.com/books?id=hxerchUMqXAC&pg=PA153

In Ackerley's case, he had not heard either term before --
"homosexual" and "heterosexual" being new clinical terms at the time,
and their clipped forms being very new indeed (OED2 only has "homo"
from 1929 and "hetero" from 1933). It's implied that once Lunn
explained the terms, Ackerley identified himself (for the first time)
as homosexual. Lunn goes on to lend Ackerley some relevant literature,
including the work of Otto Weinberger and Edward Carpenter. More
discussion here:



Ben Zimmer

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

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