"Gay" in Sunday NY Times (City section, FYI column)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Feb 5 02:54:57 UTC 2006

This is an old one. Wasn't this question asked and answered about  thirty
years ago? Didn't I read about it in the NY Times?

'Gay' and Its Origins
Q. At nearly the epicenter of the Christopher Street gay  neighborhood, there
is a short, curved lane called Gay Street. Is there any  connection between
that name and the 20th-century meaning of "gay"?
A. It's a coincidence. Gay Street first appeared in the city  records in
1827, before any known use of "gay" meaning homosexual. The namesake  is unknown,
according to "The Street Book" by Henry Moscow, but it was probably  a family
named Gay, of whom there are records as early as 1775. Noteworthy  residents
included Mary McCarthy; Frank Paris, the puppeteer who created Howdy  Doody;
and Ruth McKenney, whose collection of stories about living there with  her
sister, "My Sister Eileen," became the basis for the musical "Wonderful  Town."
"Gay" meaning homosexual is probably a derivation from the British "geycat"
or "gaycat," prison slang for a homosexual boy, according to The Oxford
English  Dictionary, which cites a 1935 use. Other sources give the meaning of
"gaycat"  as a young tramp or hobo in the company of an older one.
Sources in _wordorigins.org_ (http://wordorigins.org/)  say homosexuals were
using "gay" to  refer to themselves by the 1920's, and possibly as early as
the 1860's. The  Historical Dictionary of American Slang notes that the word was
in common use by  homosexuals by 1941; its first reference to "gay bar" is in
None of the reference works consulted connect the word and the Greenwich
Village street.

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

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