gay for merry

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  • Surinam del Nord

    Senior Member
    Español - España
    I thank you. I am translating into Spanish a story written in the Fifties and they are talking about someone whom they call "the gay one". Some other characters are homosexual and are referred to as "queens". So I'm not sure what to choose, but I guess it will depend on the plot. I wanted to know if back in the Fifties the meaning of gay was already double.

    Thank you again.
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    In this interesting article (and I'm not at all sure how authoritative it is), they say that gay was used in this way since at least the 1920s, and it became widely used in the 1950s or 1960s, when several newspapers were sued by Liberace for implying that he was homosexual, so they began using the words from his TV show's theme song to describe him as gay. It was in widespread use by the early 1970s, and I've heard that it was often used to describe the people involved in the Stonewall riots, in 1969.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The OED has a number of citations dating from between 1922 and 1941 which it places in square brackets and describes in the following terms:
    A number of quotations have been suggested as early attestations of this sense (see a sample below). It is likely that, although there may be innuendo in some cases, these have been interpreted anachronistically in the light either of the context [...] or of knowledge about an author's sexuality.
    Its first non-square-bracketed citation is this one:
    1941 G. LEGMAN Lang. Homosexuality in G. W. Henry Sex Variants II. 1167 Gay, an adjective used almost exclusively by homosexuals to denote homosexuality, sexual attractiveness, promiscuity..or lack of restraint, in a person, place, or party. Often given the French spelling, gai or gaie by (or in burlesque of) cultured homosexuals of both sexes.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I think the 50s is possibly early enough in the history of the use of gay in this way to merit caution in interpreting its use in the novel (see Loob's cited caveat from OED regarding anachronistic interpretation). I would have thought gay meaning jolly or lively was still quite predominant at that time. I would probably like to see selected quotations to have a firmer idea.
     

    Surinam del Nord

    Senior Member
    Español - España
    Well, soon after in the book "the gay one" is called "the frustrated queen", so it's been the story itself which has made me decide.

    Anyway, I find very useful and interesting everything you've told me. One translates not only from a language but from a time!
     

    Yankee_NLPer

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    Perhaps "gay" (homosexual) was used by the gay community for more than half a century, but not by the general public. Just depends on your specific use for this information.

    I have heard the word gay used in several old movies circa 1935-1950 and gay only meant happy. The Hollywood movie industry would never have allowed gay in the movie scripts if they thought people took it as homosexual. Back then actors had to hide their sexual preference if they were gay.

    There were strait people that partied with gay people... and they would have use gay as homosexual, but that's not mainstream.
     
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    jpyvr

    Senior Member
    English - Canadian
    Perhaps "gay" (homosexual) was used by the gay community for more than half a century, but not by the general public. Just depends on your specific use for this information.

    I have heard the word gay used in several old movies circa 1935-1950 and gay only meant happy. The Hollywood movie industry would never have allowed gay in the movie scripts if they thought people took it as homosexual. Back then actors had to hide their sexual preference if they were gay.

    There were strait people that partied with gay people... and they would have use gay as homosexual, but that's not mainstream.
    (spell check....) straight people
     
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