Origin of "flamer"?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu Dec 14 15:24:20 UTC 2006

On 12/14/06, Pam Norton <pcnorton at yahoo.com> wrote:
>    My 19 year old daughter has just informed me that there is a term
> "flamer," not referring to flaming on the internet, but referring to gay
> people. I have never heard of this, although I have heard of "flaming"
> as an adjective equivalent of "flamboyant". She swears this is "old"
> usage, e.g. from the '80's. I can see how this meaning would develop
> but does anyone know the origin (and is it from the 80's?). I can't
> believe I've never heard of this, so my feeling is that it's got to be
> something from her generation. True?

It's even older than that. HDAS (that's the Historical Dictionary of
American Slang) has citations for the sense "a conspicuously
effeminate homosexual man" back to the early '70s...

a1972 B. Rodgers _Queens' Vernacular_ 73
1975 Univ. Tenn. student: A flamer is a supereffeminate fag. It's
short for _flaming faggot_.

--Ben Zimmer

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

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