"Sissies, fairies, pansies gay"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 17 17:23:11 UTC 2013

A check of GB shows (most irritatingly) that "pansies gay" was something of
a cliche' description of flowering pansies ever since William Shenstone
wrote his oft-reprinted "Irregular Ode after Sickness" in 1758.

"Gay pansies" is the more prosaic and more frequent form (1717: ECCO).

So "gay" means "gay" even in this case.

Whether it also means "homosexual" seems unknowable.

So the brackets must remain. It does seem possible that the old association
of "gay" with "pansies" may have helped promote the newer sense - a little.


On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "Sissies, fairies, pansies gay"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 2/17/2013 07:34 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> >...
> >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.
> And it's a much pithier verse than N. Coward's of 1939:
> "Everyone's here and frightfully gay, Nobody cares what people say,
> Though the Riviera Seems really much queerer Than Rome at its height."
> (Rivierer/quairer??)
> I am imagining a musical comedy satire on "Little Red Riding
> Hood."  The writers of "Forbidden Broadway" restage Sondheim's "Into
> the Woods."  The recurrent sung motif: "The woods are full of them
> today."  The Broadway types for the Big Bad Wolf are endless.  I
> start with Liberace.
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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