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Playing with the gay word

Updated on February 26, 2017

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 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.


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    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 6 years ago

      Dearest Marwan Asmar,

      It is nice to meet you and your family here on HubPages! You are a wonderful writer and a welcome addition to this amazing Internet community!

      There are many words in the English language that have multiple meanings, the word gay just happens to be one! No need to stop using it for meanings of joy and happy!

      Language, once thought static, really is wonderfully alive, growing and organic! Each word provides us with another tool to be more expressive!

      Unfortunately, we (collectively) get lazy and reduce the number of words we use in conversation and in writing! This puts multiplied and heightened emphasis on commonly used words!

      The word millionaire used to mean success; now it is synonymous with crook!

      It is not the word gay that is an issue, it is the fear-based social and moral connotations with which the word becomes burdened! Children are born without prejudice and only learn it from the adults they love and trust!

      I am a happy, joy-filled, enthusiastic, optimistic person and many refer to me as being gay! I am a heterosexual who accepts the compliment with the loving intention behind it!

      Your little girl was given a lovely compliment!

      Blessings to you and yours always, Earth Angel!

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Thank you for your comment. Very nice. I was merely pointing out to the fact how words develop and can be culturaly ztretched by people. I used the word gay as an example because I have lived through its different meanings in the past years. There is no judgment inferred. cheers.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 6 years ago

      Continued blessings to you Marwan Asmar! I look forward to following your Hubs! The best always, Earth Angel!

    • profile image

      maisa 6 years ago

      hey doc, dad

      thanks for the clarification,absolutly wonderfull

    • profile image

      Rasheed Roussan 6 years ago

      Very thoughtful Dr :-) It shows how words yield themselves to epoch and circumstance.

    • profile image

      Marcella Glenn 6 years ago from PA

      Words, often, have more than one meaning.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Yes they sure do, and quite often one meaning is more popularized than another.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      This is such a difficult word Mr Asmar. I'm for the most part gay but I've always been straight - to each their own.

      I have such great trouble in promoting Nietzsche's book titled, "The Gay Science" to my own friends ... where do I even start?

      Thank you for clearing things-up. Cheers!

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers Mr Happy. I always felt gay was a 'happy' word but it has been increasingly used by 'one side' that many today, and have increasingly so steered away from it...what a pity!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Nietzsche doesn't like pity Mr. Asmar. I agree with him on that. There are lessons we need to learn - it is not a pity but it is sad, in my opinion. All the best.

    • Mamelody profile image

      Mamelody 5 years ago

      Excellent hub dude. I miss the days when being gay wasn't shoved in our faces everyday. I even miss the old dictionary that described gay as happy yappy. Nice one.

    • profile image

      Wilma 2 years ago

      Big help, big help. And sulerpative news of course.

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