Gonzaga's "Brokeback" chant

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 16 21:52:32 UTC 2006

That article is appalling on many levels. When spectators used to make
monkey-like sounds and gestures when certain black players were on the
floor, no one tried to justify any aspect of it. As one who is
Jesuit-trained and who once considered joining the Order, I am

On 2/16/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Gonzaga's "Brokeback" chant
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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:
> http://msn.foxsports.com/cbk/story/5331874
> http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/collegesports/2002808261_zags16.html
> 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.
> -----
> http://www.cwnews.com/offtherecord/offtherecord.cfm?recnum=3424
> bad enough
> Posted by: Diogenes
> Feb. 14, 2006 3:20 AM EST
> Spokane's Jesuit university is displaying a spirit of lexical
> innovation in the basketball arena that some faculty have deemed
> "inappropriate," according to this AP story:
>     Fans of No. 5 Gonzaga have been asked to stop yelling "Brokeback
> Mountain" at opposing players. The reference to the recent movie about
> homosexual cowboys was chanted by some fans during Monday's game
> against Saint Mary's, and is apparently intended to suggest an
> opposing player is gay.
>     The chants were the subject of several classroom discussions over
> the past week, and the faculty advisers for the Kennel Club booster
> group urged students this week to avoid "inappropriate chants" during
> the Bulldogs' Saturday game against Stanford, which was nationally
> televised on ESPN.
>     "We implore the students of the Kennel Club to show the nation
> this weekend what makes Gonzaga different," Kennel Club advisers David
> Lindsay and Aaron Hill wrote in a letter in the student newspaper, the
> Bulletin. "We challenge the students of the Kennel Club to exhibit the
> class, the creativeness and the competitive drive that has become a
> foundation of this great university."
> "We implore the students of the Kennel Club to show the nation this
> weekend what makes Gonzaga different." High among such differences is
> the number of Gonzaga basketball fans that are students of historical
> linguistics. For in employing "brokeback" as a term of general
> contempt they are hearkening back to semantic connections as ancient
> as the language itself. Indeed, the origin of the adjective "bad," as
> given by its etymology in the Oxford English Dictionary, is
> semantically indistinguishable from the Kennel Club's new lexeme:
>     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
> use.
> The same evaluative intuition continually resurfaces in English, the
> pressures of etiquette notwithstanding. When an Australian says "The
> transmission on my Rover is buggered," he too, knowingly or not,
> exactly replicates the chain of semantic development that his
> linguistic ancestors constructed in the word "bad." That "bad" in
> modern English has lost its earliest connotations so as to become the
> language's most general term of disapproval is an accident of history;
> lexical change is spectacularly unpredictable. The Kennel Club's
> coinage follows the same path, as its faculty advisers indicate:
> intending to come up with an insult, it succeeded. And Gonzaga's gay
> rights group clubbed itself with the same boomerang by conceding what
> it was at pains to deny.
> In terms of precision of word usage, Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight
> would concur with the Oxford English Dictionary that the Kennel Club
> was on target: to fail to block-out in the offensive lane is to be
> (contextually) womanish, is to be brokeback, is to be bad. When you
> consider that St. Mary's allowed Gonzaga's J.P. Batista to pull down
> 10 defensive rebounds in a 123-point game, you understand that the
> "brokeback" taunt -- lexically speaking -- was anything but
> inappropriate.
> To say that "brokeback" was lexically accurate is not to say it was
> gracious. Athletic spectators, especially those supporting Catholic
> institutions, should realize that it's in poor taste to call a bad
> performance bad, especially when that bad performance belongs to one's
> opponents. The Kennel Club does not deserve congratulation. If their
> sportmanship is spotty, however, their philology is flawless.
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list