I was having a conversation with my daughter one day and she said something that was dumb. Not that she was dumb, but the thing, policy, whatever it was in a category of not being good. So like the child of the 80’s that I am I looked at her and said, “Well that’s gay.” I used the word in a perfectly good dictionary recognized slang meaning bad, awkward, stupid, etc. However, you’d have thought I had just beaten a homosexual man to death and dragged him through the store we were in by the reaction of the woman who must’ve been eavesdropping from two aisles over. Three hundreds pounds of, I can only assume, lesbian fury holding a churro and a diet coke descended upon us in the junior miss department of the store.
As the fried dough was waved in my face and I was given a lecture about my cultural, racial, sexist, etc callousness and lack of sensibility I was really only thinking about one thing, if she wasn’t careful she was going to lodge that churro into my nose, gesticulating as wildly as she was. Finally, her diatribe done, either due to lack of breath or just plain running out of steam she looked at me and said, “Do you have anything to say for yourself now mister.” I looked at her, then my daughter who was standing there mouth agape with surprise, and I turned back to the woman and said, “That reasoning is just gay.” Then I turned around and walked off ignoring her squawks of protest.
Later on, I was thinking about the interchange and ended up in a conversation with a co-worker who reiterated the spurious belief that the use of gay is some kind of epithet against homosexuals. I thought maybe I should explain why these people are following this spurious belief. Half the problem is that we have been awash in politically correct bull $hit that loves nothing more than shaming people for “insensitive” language. Language isn’t insensitive, the people who misinterpret it just happen to have skin thinner than paper. It was a famous Greek Philosopher, Epictetus, who said “that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, that your judgement that they are so. So when anyone makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you. Wherefore make it your endeavor not to let your impressions carry you away.”
But back to the word gay. Looking it up in the dictionary and then looking into the etymology we find a couple of different things. There are three definitions: happy or carefree, homosexual, or slang for bad. Okay, makes sense but what about they etymology? It seems that happy or carefree was the original definition so every definition after that first one is a morphing of the language. So at some point using gay to mean homosexual was slang like using gay to mean crap has been for the last thirty or so years.
When people, or a group of people, purloin a word and shape the definition to meet their needs they can’t complain when another group does the same thing. The fact that it happens decades, even centuries apart has no bearing on the matter. The English language is always changing and that has to be taken into account. Gay can have three meanings and using one of the definitions in the proper manner should not be shameful. If we were to edit our language to satisfy every last group out there then we would say very little.