Cary Grant and the Emergence of gay 'homosexual' Ronald R. Butters This paper explores the evolving colloquial meanings of the term gay (and the phrases go gay and get gay) in several 20th-century senses but most particularly the current dominant sense 'homosexual'. The sociolinguistic emergence of this sense in the United States in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and its relationship to other slang senses of the term, are highly complex -- especially so because our sensibilities have been profoundly affected by the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsex- ual-rights movements of the 1970s and beyond. Dictionary makers, however, are forced to simplify the sociolinguistic record, and the general public -- and even cultural historians -- are wont to do so as well. Instances of gay before World War II in cultural contexts that seem to suggest homosexual activity have generally been misconstrued from a later 20th-century perspective to be instances in which gay actually means 'homosexual', even though that meaning in all likelihood was not the intent of those who wrote or spoke the word. I am especially interested here in the commonplace assumption, voiced for example by the film critic Vito Russo in 1981, that gay 'homosexual' occurs as a Cary
Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America – Dictionary Society of North America
Published: Apr 4, 1998
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