Slang terms for homosexuals have evolved over long time


Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

Ask someone if they’re “gay” and reactions will vary. Many people immediately get defensive. Ask the same question of someone who is eating, they might come close to choking to death.

Once they regain composure, however, reactions by heterosexuals vary little.

“If someone’s goofing around and says, ‘You’re gay,’ you don’t think ‘homosexual,'” said Jeremy Granflaten, a freshman pharmacy major, whose reaction to the “gay” question caused a Jack’s Place sub to momentarily lodge in his throat.

“It’s an insult, kinda, making fun of someone,” said Granflaten.

Dr. John Taylor, English professor, said that the usage of “gay” to mean “stupid,” “foolish” or “crazy” is, according to the “Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang,” a juvenile usage, more commonly found in the younger crowd.

The usage of “gay” as a synonym for “homosexual” does not necessarily hold any negative connotation.

“‘Gay’ and ‘queer’ are not quite offensive,” said Taylor.

Few American English words are actually considered by linguists to be obscene, in fact only “cunt” and “nigger” seem to be left, with “fuck” moving into the mainstream more and more.

“When a word goes negative, it usually stays negative,” said Taylor. “Negative meanings tend to drive out other meanings.”

“Gay” is rarely used as an epithet now. According to Taylor, it has started to lose the negative connotation that became attached to it, during recent homophobic eras.

“‘Gay’ as an adjective isn’t quite as bad as ‘gay’ as a noun.”

Even though, “gay” is becoming more acceptable, reactions to it still tend to be negative.

After being asked how he felt when someone asks whether he is “gay” or not, Nick Milbrett, freshman Mechanical Engineering major, said, “I freak out; I’m not used to people asking me that all the time.”

The rarely used “queer” is also making a comeback according to Taylor.

“It’s one of those words you don’t hear a lot,” said Granflaten.

Unlike “gay,” many heterosexuals would not call a homosexual “queer.”

“I don’t really use the term very much,” said Kristy Smith, freshman General Studies major. “I use it joking, but I’d never call a gay person that.”

Some linguists say that queer has been reclaimed by the homosexual community, for example “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”