fag out

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Fri May 4 14:20:10 UTC 2007

I agree completely with JL's assessment.

Speakers of contemporary American English know that "fag out" means 'wimp 
out' or 'crap out' and that it also has connotations of 'grow weary' or make 
weary'. In the reported exchange, given the ages of the speakers involved, their 
putative sexual orientation, and the relatively intimate nature of their 
relationship, it seems highly unlikely that the speaker who said "fag out" rather 
than "wimp out" had any sense in his mind that "fag" AS HE WAS USING IT had any 
connection to homosexuals--any more than a guy who says, "She tried to put her 
fag out on my arm" will think that people will think he is not talking about 
a 'cigarette'. This does not mean that the speaker did not know that "fag" can 
also be a homosexual slur, only that in the context the alternative meaning 
did not enter his mind. Ironically, it may even have been that the speaker 
chose "fag" rather than "wimp" or "crap" because "wimp" has a connotation of 
'cowardice' that he did not intend to convey, whereas "crap" (at least to an older 
generation) is a 'dirty word' that one should not use in public.

When I did a search-engine search (just now) for "fag out on," I was amazed 
to find how many people were offended by the statement. Joining the 
Putatively-Offensive-Language Police has become something of a national obsession, I 

In a message dated 4/7/07 7:37:08 PM, wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM writes:

> Intrans. "fag out" (to become wearied to exhaustion) is not commonly used 
> by U.S. speakers in my experience, but undergraduates frequently report it as 
> "slang," presumably because they've read it somewhere in an English class.  
> Trans. "fag (out)" (to weary to exhuastion) and adj. "fagged" (exhausted) may 
> be more common, but none are typical.
>   Irrespective of what Packer may have meant, vast numbers of young 
> Americans would understand "fag out" as roughly equivalent to "wimp out," partially 
> because of the rarity of "fag" (to fatigue) and the universal familiarity of 
> "fag" (homosexual). The semantic context of the statement also seems to 
> support it, even if it may also be conistent with other interpretations.
>   Part of the general confusion is the belief that "fag" must-must-must 
> essentially mean "homosexual,"  much as "niggardly" and "a chink in one's armor" 
> must-must-must be blatant ethnic slurs.
>   That's life in the language swamp.
>   JL
> "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header 
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
> Subject: Re: fag out
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> --
> >Packer: "You always fag out on that one for me."
> >
> >Rose laughed, seemingly unaffected by Packer's use of a term that
> >often is used as a slur for gays.
> >
> >Packer continued: "You always say, `Yeah, I'm gonna be the runner'
> >and then you never show up. But I'm sure they could find a place for
> >you. You have all the connections in the world."
> >
> >Packer said Wednesday that that the term "has nothing to do with
> >sexual connotation. I think Charlie was once voted one of the most
> >eligible bachelors. It has to do with fatigue."
> >
> >Some background: Packer and Rose have been friendly for years, with
> >Rose having joked that he would like to serve as a runner--basically
> >a gofer--during the Final Four so he can watch the games from press row.
> >
> >... "It has no relationship to gay people," Packer said Wednesday.
> >"He's never up to doing the work."
> >
> >The first definition of "fag" in the Random House Unabridged
> >Dictionary is "to tire or weary by labor; exhaust (often followed by
> >out): The long climb fagged us out."
> >
> >CBS spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade defended the 67-year-old Packer,
> >saying his use of the term was "generational."
> >
> >But she wished Packer had not used the term "because of the climate
> >we live in," she said.
> >-----
> >
> >i'm trying to sort out the usage here.
> >
> >first, the Random House cite is for *transitive* "fag (out)", while
> >packer's use was *intransitive* (with two PP complements, "on that
> >one", i.e. on serving as runner, and the experiencer "for me").
> >dictionaries generally seem to list an intransitive "fag" 'toil', for
> >example:
> >
> > OED: to do something that wearies one; to work hard; to labour,
> >strain, toil
> >
> > AHD4: to work to exhaustion; toil
> >
> > NOAD2: to work hard, esp. at a tedious job or task
> >
> > M-W Online: to work hard: TOIL
> >
> >even with the component of exhaustion, this intransitive "fag"
> >doesn't fit in packer's sentence; he certainly wasn't saying that
> >rose always works hard, to the point of exhaustion, for him.
> >
> >NOAD2 lists an intransitive sense that's a bit closer: to grow
> >weary. (very close to "flag".) but that's inchoative, and also
> >doesn't quite fit in packer's sentence, especially with "out" and
> >those two complements.
> >
> >packer has been reported as sticking to the dictionary, citing the
> >transitive verb "fag":
> >
> > Packer said by "fag out," he meant the Dictionary.com definition,
> >"to tire or weary by labor; exhaust."
> > http://www.outsports.com/cbb/20062007/packer0403.htm
> >
> >Outsports tells us that on-line (non-scholarly) dictionaries
> >generally have entries for "fag out", with pretty much the same
> >definitions: e.g., the Urban Dictionary's "To bail on something,
> >'pussy out'." this seems to me to be right on the nose. the
> >expression is slang, and belongs to a small family of idioms of the
> >form "X out (on someone)", where X is a verb zero-derived from a noun
> >denoting a weak or ineffectual person: wimp, wuss, pussy. (lots and
> >lots of hits for "wimp out" and "wuss out".) call this the WimpOut
> >pattern. the meaning of the pattern is, as UsingEnglish.com says for
> >"wimp out" itself, 'not be brave enough to do something' -- or, more
> >precisely, to fail to do something because of a lack of balls. ....
> There is probably a lot of conflation and confusion involved in such
> expressions.
> I would add that "fag out" (v.i.) as used here evokes -- to me -- not so
> much "wimp out" etc. as "crap out".
> "He wimped/pussied/etc. out" would usually mean "He failed [something]
> because of weakness/cowardice", while "He crapped out" would usually mean
> simply "He failed [something]" (could be because of fatigue, laziness,
> injury, whatever).
> Maybe "fag out" here represents "get fagged and crap/bail/back out" or
> something like that. Hard to say (hard for me anyway).
> -- Doug Wilson
> --
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