[Ads-l] Further Antedating of the Term "Gay"

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 13 13:46:21 UTC 2020

I scanned


which has many of the cover pages from the "Broadway Brevities" of 1931-35.

There are many references to "queer" and "lesbos" and "third sex", but the
other uses of gay seem to mean flamboyant, especially in articles where
there are clear references to homosexuality.

Just my very quick take.

On Tue, Oct 13, 2020, 7:43 AM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:

> Let me add some more information.  In his book, Hugh Ryan discusses this
> Broadway Brevities article at length.  He does not indicate the term "gay"
> being used in the body of the article, but it may appear there.  If the
> term does not appear in the body, that could be significant evidence that
> it was already in widespread use.
> Ryan states: "_Gob_ was slang for 'enlisted sailor,' and the article was a
> tell-all expose on queer celebrities and the bars they cruised."  He quotes
> the article as follows:  "The average citizen would scarcely believe his
> eyes had he been transported there [a bar called Frank's Place] as recently
> as the late spring, when the 'fleet was last in.'  Night after night, but
> especially on Saturdays and Sundays. anywhere from fifty to seventy-five
> sailors were there, and anywhere from fifty to a hundred men and boys, with
> painted faces and dyed tresses, singing and dancing."  Ryan writes:  "At
> Frank's Place, the _Brevities_ author picked up rumors from sailors from
> California, who talked about the 'star who likes them "salty and
> sea-going," and the one who owned an antique store to conceal his faggy
> interest in period decor."
> The scene in the 1938 movie _Bringing Up Baby_, in which Cary Grant,
> dressed in a woman's frilly negligee, jumps in the air saying "Because I
> just went gay all of a sudden !", is less significant now because it is no
> longer the possible earliest known use of the term _gay_.  However, it is
> still important to Grant's biography.  Some scholars, such as Ronald
> Butters, have argued that the line, which Grant ad-libbed, could not have
> been an in-group reference to homosexuality.  But I believe the 1931
> _Broadway Brevities_ article, which squarely links the expression "to go
> gay" with homosexuality, strengthens the case that Grant was expressing
> that link.
> Fred Shapiro
> Editor
> YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)
> ________________________________
> From: Shapiro, Fred
> Sent: Monday, October 12, 2020 9:15 PM
> Subject: Further Antedating of the Term "Gay"
> I have previously traced the term "gay," meaning homosexual, back to 1934,
> and that 1934 citation is now included in the OED as their earliest
> citation for the term.  Now I notice the following citation:
> 1931 _Broadway Brevities_ 2 Nov. in Hugh Ryan _When Brooklyn Was Queer_
> (2019) 156   (heading) Third Sex Plague Spreads Anew ! Sissies Permeate
> Sublime Social Strata as Film Stars and Broadwayites Go Gay ... Brooklyn
> Navy Yard Center of Flagrant Camping for Gobs and Society Slummers.
> I have not seen the _Broadway Brevities_ article itself.  I am aware that
> "to go gay" can have sexual meanings other than referring to homosexuality
> -- _Green's Dictionary of Slang_ has entries for it in the meaning "to
> commit adultery" and in the meaning "to pursue a career as a prostitute."
> But the citation above seems to be clearly referring to homosexuality and
> the adultery and prostitution meanings do not seem applicable.
> Fred Shapiro
> Editor
> YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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