"gay" redux

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 3 14:37:52 UTC 2012

Unfortunately there seem to be few likely written or non-written resources
left unexamined. Of course, it would take just one, but people have been
looking for a long time.

For the reasons given, I stand by my interpretation of Rochester's "gay."
 An earlier exx. showing that it was well known in '30s Los Angeles would
change my mind as well as make the Rochester ex. completely moot.

But even if all three '30s refs. are legit, they tell us little, because
the 1941 ex. in HDAS is, indeed, absolutely unequivocal. And the glossarist
explains that only gay people were likely to be familiar with it.

With a 1941 glossarial appearance (apparently representing NYC usage), it's
virtually certain that some urban homosexual Americans were familiar with
it during the '30s. By ca1960, if not earlier, it was no longer obscure. In
the general American lexicon, as revealed to us through living memory and
one zillion published records, it was statistically nonexistent before the

Person-to-person interactions during WW2 probably diffused the term more
than _Bringing up Baby_, no matter what induced Carey Grant to ad-lib the


On Sat, Nov 3, 2012 at 10:17 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "gay" redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> BZ: <<<the sense doesn't become prominent in print till the late '60s>>>
> WB: Even granting an equivocal starting point of 1933 for _gay_
> 'homosexual', the only important point is the rate diffusion of this
> semantic change through the Anglophone and Anglologue communities. My
> epiphany came in 1969: that's one point. In hindsight, for me, Bringing up
> Baby 1938 and Jack Benny 1936 are solid attestations of a limited spread of
> insider knowledge; the vocal and visual cues are unambiguous. Add more
> unequivocal data, especially non-written sources, to build up a solid
> argument, instead of mincing words about obscure references. Amen.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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