[Ads-l] Antedating of "Come Out of the Closet" (Homosexuality)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 25 10:06:11 UTC 2018

The Oxford English dictionary entry for "to come out of the closet"
presents a general meaning based on the cessation of concealment. The
first OED citation is in 1963. Below are some additional citations
beginning in 1960.

[Begin excerpt]
closet, n.

3.d. to come out of the closet: to admit (something) openly, to cease
to conceal, esp. one's homosexuality. Opp. to be in the closet. Cf.
sense 10   below. slang.

1963   S. Plath in London Mag. Jan. 16   Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.

1972   Pride of Lions (Columbia Univ.) Apr. 2/1   For those who have
come out, tried it and like it, read no more. For those, ‘in the
closet’, you need to read on, get right on!
[End excerpt]

Date: July 14, 1960
Newspaper: Fort Lauderdale News
Newspaper Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Article: Tell Us, Ol' Chap, Is It Sudsy, Too?
Author: Hugh A. Mulligan
Quote Page 9A, Column 4
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
A BOY SCOUT pulling on a canteen would be as suspect as a Bowery bum
swigging on a pint bottle in a doorway.
The country's myriad closet drinkers could at last come out of the
closet and get their kicks with the garden sprinkler.
[End excerpt]

Date: June 21, 1962
Newspaper: El Paso Herald-Post
Newspaper Location: El Paso, Texas
Article: Van Horne on TV: Subject of Mental Illness Is Dramatists Main Topic
Author: Harriet Van Horne
Quote Page B4, Column 1
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
During the past 15 years--ever since the human condition, as viewed by
Freud, came out of the closet and into the salon -- we have had enough
mad scenes on our small screens (not counting Ophelia's) to cram the
case files of a major state hospital.
[End excerpt]

Date: September 15, 1962
Newspaper: The Kansas City Times
Newspaper Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Article: Disease Better Known: Multiple Sclerosis Society Meets
Quote Page 6, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Jack Brauntuch, assistant director of patient services for the
National Multiple Sclerosis society, said last night. Even though
there is no cause or cure known, he said, the disease is coming out of
the closet.
[End excerpt]

Date: November 2, 1962
Newspaper: Oakland Tribune
Newspaper Location: Oakland, California
Article: The Retarded Child: Era of Indifference Drawing to a Close
Author: Serena T. Scheer
Quote Page 26D, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Mental retardation is finally coming out of the closet.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 4:30 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>> On Jan 23, 2018, at 3:16 PM, MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY RDECOM AMRDEC (US) <william.d.mullins18.civ at MAIL.MIL> wrote:
>>>>> There’s also this but I don’t know the broader context of the excerpt:
>>>>> 1963   S. Plath in London Mag. Jan. 16   Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
>>>>> It’s not bracketed, so I assume it’s metaphorical in one sense or another.
>>>> The Plath cite is from a poem:
>>>> Chttps://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57419/the-applicant
>>>> and I am not able to tell what the author meant by this use.
>>> Thanks, Bill.  If it were my entry, I’d have at least bracketed if not entirely omitted this occurrence, which I don’t see as having to anything
>>> obvious do with the sense glossed above, 'to admit (something) openly, to cease to conceal, esp. one's homosexuality’.
>>> LH
>> That is my take as well, but like I said, it is pretty opaque to me, and I wanted to allow for the possibility I was missing something that was obvious to a Plath scholar (or even an run of the mill English major).
> FWIW, the Genius annotation, which may or may not have been provided by an English major, annotates the relevant bit—
> Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
> I have the ticket for *that*.
> Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
> --as follows (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57419/the-applicant):
> We can speculate why the woman is in the closet. She may be hiding, to try to escape her fate. Or she may be too timid to assert herself.
> =========
> Plath in this poem, and others (and at times in The Bell Jar, for that matter), depicts women in contemporary America as mannequins (or, to link with the previous thread on digisexuality, as robots designed for servicing men), another reason to take the closet in which the applicant is hiding to be a literal closet, or at least not a metaphorical closet of the relevant kind.
> LH
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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