"Gay" in 1933

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Feb 17 17:07:53 UTC 2013

On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 11:01 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> At 2/17/2013 07:34 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>>The OED's first unambiguous citations for _gay_ 'homosexual' are
>>dated 1941.  There are other citations going back as far as 1922,
>>printed by the OED in square brackets,  that use the word _gay_ in a
>>homosexual context but could be examples of other meanings of
>>_gay_.  I do not claim that the citation below is an unambiguous
>>example, but it certainly belongs in the square-bracket category.
>>1933 _Baltimore Afro-American_ 21 Oct. 17 (ProQuest Historical
>>Newspapers)  The products engendered by union of these decadents of
>>changing sexes is generally an unenviable type of degeneracy
>>characterized by homicidal or homosexual proclivities.  Sissies,
>>fairies, pansies gay, The woods are full of them today.
> This strikes me as better than bracketed -- what other meaning do
> "Sissies, fairies, pansies gay" have in common?

Was this perhaps a poetic allusion? See William Shenstone's "An
Irregular Ode, After Sickness" (1749): "'Twas from a bank with pansies
gay / I hail'd once more the cheerful day."



Ben Zimmer

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

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