UWP 1 Word Paper

UWP 1 Word Paper - Kelly Neil July 2010 Gay Gay and Gay One...

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Kelly Neil UWP 01 28 July 2010 Gay, Gay and Gay- One word, many meanings Gay: “To be happily excited : merry, keenly alive and exuberant : to have or induce high spirits” (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary). How did such an innocent word with such a positive definition become the derogatory term commonly used in everyday speech? As the English language expands, more and more words develop additional meanings that are not always positive. The real question is, how does a word as simple as gay stray from its original meaning of happy to one relating to homosexuals and being stupid? As generations change, definitions of words change as well; Gay, a word that used to mean happy fifty years ago is now interchangeable with words like boring and dumb. The word gay has not always had the negative connotation that it has today. When the word gay originated, it was used in lyrics, books, and most commonly poems as a synonym for words such as “Noble; beautiful; excellent, [and] fine” usually praising a woman. The oldest English meaning found for the word gay, showed up as early as 1310, and was defined as "disposed to joy and mirth"(Oxford English Dictionary). This was the most common definition for the word gay until the later part of the 20th Century which explains why many adults still refer to the term gay as meaning happy or merry today. A few decades later, in 1929 to be exact, the meaning of gay changed again; this time to one defining a sexual preference “of or relating to homosexuals” which labeled a specific group of men who were interested in other men. Another definition of the word gay surfaced in 1978. Rather than defining joy or sexual orientation, the
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meaning of gay changed yet again; now to a more offensive term associated with “foolish, stupid, socially inappropriate or disapproved of; ‘lame’” leaving the word with a negative connotation (Oxford English Dictionary). The definition of the word gay has drastically changed throughout time. Despite the fact that the definition of gay has changed dramatically throughout the years, older generations tend to still use gay in a positive connotation. Therese Lalor and Johanna Rendle-Short, from the Australian National University, argue that “Anecdotal evidence from people who are 60 and over indicates that they still prefer the older ‘happy’ and ‘carefree’ meaning, and avoid the more modern homosexual meaning of gay. It should also be noted that although some people might still consider gay to be a derogatory epithet, in many circles it is considered a positive or neutral term” (4). Even though the world is changing around them, elderly people choose to stick with what they know rather than adapt to the modern slang language that exists today. Because older generations refuse to change their vocabulary, there exists a communication gap between the age groups making it hard for them to understand each other. This communication gap is a real problem for our society today because when people from
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2012 for the course UWP 1 taught by Professor Braun during the Summer '08 term at UC Davis.

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UWP 1 Word Paper - Kelly Neil July 2010 Gay Gay and Gay One...

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