[Ads-l] Antedatings of the Term "Gay" (Homosexual)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 21 17:37:08 UTC 2019

Stellar work, Fred. This is one of those cases where it would be great if
the OED provided a more explicit treatment of the revision history of
online entries. There's no way of knowing what's changed in the "gay" entry
since the OED3 revised entry was first published in June 2008.

On Sat, Dec 21, 2019 at 12:25 PM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu>

> I am proud that my discovery of a 1934 usage of the term "gay" meaning
> "homosexual" has been accepted by the OED as the earliest known citation.
> Acceptance by the OED is in this instance a big deal, as there are many
> early occurrences of the word "gay" in homosexual contexts that are too
> general or too ambiguous for them to accept as antedatings.
> I copy below the first three fully accepted citations from the revised OED
> entry for this sense of "gay."  The first one, and also the third one, were
> contributed by me.  I also contributed to them a 1939 citation that is
> clearly unambiguously a usage of "gay" meaning "homosexual" but which they
> have not added to the entry.
> 1934   Let. 26 May (transcript, Univ. of Chicago Libr.: Ernest W. Burgess
> Papers, Box 98, Folder 11)    Yes I did hear of your gay parks and
> beaches... As for gay places there just aren't any in town. We generally go
> to Detroit.
> ?1937   Typescript (anon., ‘I was twenty years at the time’) (Univ. of
> Chicago Libr.: Ernest W. Burgess Papers, Box 98, Folder 11) 1   Al had told
> me that Kenneth was not gay but jam [i.e. heterosexual], and so I acted
> very manly.
> 1940   A. Bernstein Millions of Queers (typescript, National Libr. Med.:
> HMD Coll. MS B 198) 59   No gossiping Winchell nor encyclopedic W.P.A.
> guide book ever lists the gay places (using ‘gay’ in our specialized sense
> of ‘queer’).
> The first two of these citations have the effect of lessening the
> importance of the controversy about Cary Grant's ad-libbed use of "gay"
> while wearing a women's negligee in the 1938 movie "Bringing Up Baby."
> Fred Shapiro
> Editor
> YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

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