Gonzaga's "Brokeback" chant

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Feb 16 15:41:04 UTC 2006

At 7:39 AM -0500 2/16/06, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>More on the "Brokeback" front... At a basketball game between Gonzaga
>University and St. Mary's College, a Gonzaga booster group chanted
>"Brokeback! Mountain!" to taunt a St. Mary's player (a photo had
>circulated online purporting to show the player kissing another man).
>Details here:
>A writer using the pen name "Diogenes" wrote the following column for
>Catholic World News about the chant, calling it a "lexical
>innovation." His silly etymological argument sounds tongue in cheek,
>but a quick glance at other CWN columns on homosexuality suggests that
>there's something more malicious at work here.
>     bad-de (2 syllables) the Middle English reflex of Old English
>baeddel, 'man of both genders, hermaphrodite', doubtless like Greek
>androgynos, and the derivative baedling, 'effeminate fellow, womanish
>man, malakos,' applied contemptuously, assuming a later adjectival

I thought I recalled a discussion of _badde, _bædling_ and their
cousins from last year, but it turns out it was a discussion with a
proper subset of the group.  Jon L. wrote

>It would seem, according to OED, that "bad" originally meant
>"hermaphroditic" and perh. "homosexual."

to which I commented

>Interesting, Jon.  I see the "hermaphroditic" (or "androgynous"),
>but I don't see the "perh. 'homosexual'".  Is there some evidence
>for the latter, or are you just reading that into the 'homo
>utriusque generis, hermaphrodita'?  I don't think of the two as
>interchangeable, and especially during the relevant period (which
>we're told pre-dated the first written records of "bad" in the late
>13th c.) I don't see how "hermaphroditic" or "androgynous"--assuming
>the OED suggestion (and the allusion to _bædling_
>'effeminate/womanish man', "applied contemptuously" and later
>evolving into an adjective) is correct--would allude to sexual
>orientation, particularly at a time maybe centuries before the
>notion of homosexuality, or same-sex orientation, would have been

Jon rebutted this claim (no brokebackian paronomasia intended) and we
went back and forth for a while, ending with this characteristically
idle suggestion of mine:

>  I still find "homosexual(ity)" anachronistic (though not
>exoglossistic) in this frame, and not convincingly interchangeable
>with "androgynous"/"effeminate"/"hermaphroditic".  I do like
>"bædling", though, and hereby propose its extended use in political
>contexts with no imputation of sexual indeterminacy intended.

But maybe it's now too late for this innocent application of
"bædling".  More's the pity.


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