Playing with the gay word
Word extensions. My daughter came up to me the other day and read 'she was a pretty gay very little girl….' She told me she feared there was a word misspell there because to her gay meant a different thing all together.
I just smiled, and before answering quickly thought about how words over the years have been massaged, manipulated, altered and taken a life of their own to express different things, trends and meanings.
"No there is no misspell. Gay as in happy, because this is what it earlier meant," I told her if you say "I am gay, or he is gay, it simply meant I am happy, or he is happy."
Nevertheless, I uttered that without being convinced of what I had just said. Over the years I had forget the "happy" bit of the word, and psychologically taken on the new meaning of gay, associating it with its one-tunneled preference.
Happy off course was a simplification as well for different dictionaries, which are there to guard our standard of expression, statements and declarations provide more elaborate meanings
I quickly looked up the word in my tattered copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, (fifth edition, 1974), which I happened to have kept all these years. Its entry for gay was "full of or disposed to or indicating mirth, lighted hearted, sportive, off hand, cheeky impertinent, dissolute, immoral, living by prostitution, bright coloured and finely dressed."
To a layman like me that might be summed up as happy despite the fact that many of the highbrow might totally disagree and say I am simplifying again.
But at no time was there a homosexual inference there despite the suggested moral impropriety involved in the evolution of the word whose origin the dictionary states is unknown.
Fast forward to today's www.dictionary.com where a whole list of meanings is conveyed starting with the above definition with an add as one of the new meanings. Gay is now used as a noun to mean "a homosexual person especially a male. The dictionary was reflecting the changing of the times and of cultural aceptance.
Back in the early 1970s I remember many were still using gay to mean happiness or lightheartedness, or gay as in outlandish colors like in "what a gay day." Today I fear this would not be used, with sneaking voices at the back of my mind telling me how on earth can the day be gay!
The suggestion that gay had come to mean same gay preference had not yet been widely popularized in then, although it is suggested by the same online dictionary homosexuals had started to refer to themselves as gay since World War II.
And so today very few people—heterosexuals—have for all intense and purposes stopped referring to themselves as gay in fear of being labeled as something that they are not. On the other hand gay as in homosexual has become a politically-correct term.