"What are you doing in _those_ underwear?" [NT]

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Thu Apr 29 22:19:08 UTC 2010

I'm not convinced that it is "well" attested. Legman notes it in I think 1941 as an underworld term known only to homosexuals and the vice police. The citations that I have seen from before Legmon are not at all convincing. At any rate, the movie-going audiences would not have understood Grant's ad lib as 'homosexual' and he would not have made it if he had thought of it. And the censors (and the homophobic director) would not have allowed it to stay. See my article in DICTIONARIES and (I believe, if I recall correctly) Geoff Nunberg gave a later, totally independent analysis (concurring) in one of his radio broadcasts.
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-----Original Message-----
From: "Baker, John M." <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
Date:         Thu, 29 Apr 2010 17:45:42
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] "What are you doing in _those_ underwear?" [NT]

        Gay = homosexual is well-attested by 1941, so that meaning
certainly cannot be ruled out on chronological grounds in 1938.  The OED
includes this among a number of pre-1941 citations of uncertain meaning.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Garson O'Toole
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2010 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: "What are you doing in_those_ underwear?" [NT]

Ron Butters wrote:
> What Cary Grant said was "gay," which in the 1930s ddn't mean
'homosexual' or (arguably) 'transvestite' but was associated with skimpy
garments worn by burlesque dancing-girls. Of course, he was wearing
Hepburn's nigjtclothes, not her undergarments. And his questioner said
"clothes," not "underwear"!

Here is a link to a YouTube clip of the relevant scene with Cary Grant
in Bringing Up Baby together with an except of dialog from IMDB.


Mrs. Random: Well who are you?
David Huxley: I don't know. I'm not quite myself today.
Mrs. Random: Well, you look perfectly idiotic in those clothes.
David Huxley: These aren't my clothes.
Mrs. Random: Well, where are your clothes?
David Huxley: I've lost my clothes!
Mrs. Random: But why are you wearing *these* clothes?
David Huxley: Because I just went gay all of a sudden!
Mrs. Random: Now see here young man, stop this nonsense. What are you
David Huxley: I'm sitting in the middle of 42nd Street waiting for a

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

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

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