"That's So ____"
March 26, 2007 10:25 PM   Subscribe

How to respond to "casual" homophobia and other similarly immature behavior?

I have several friends who use the word "gay" a lot, to mean - you guessed it - stupid, lame, pathetic, etc. They tend to do similar things with words like "fag", "queer", and "retard(ed)". Extremely typical 14-year-old behavior, but these guys are 20-25. I have no doubt that this kind of thing is prevalent among the college crowd, and, for that matter, lots of people.

I am neither gay nor mentally handicapped, but that's obviously neither here nor there. The words don't really offend me or hurt me, but they do make me cringe a little bit at, if nothing else, how stupid it makes them sound.

Mefites - what do you do in these sorts of situations? Until now I've been just ignoring it. I don't want to look like a huge tool or be holier-than-thou, and I know that I can't change ignorant behavior completely, but it would be good if I had some sort of response that at least made them think about what they're saying.
posted by rossination to Society & Culture (134 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let it go. Your friends are not likely to make much out of a show of being offended by proxy.

They'll grow out of it.
posted by nasreddin at 10:37 PM on March 26, 2007


Usually I just ignore it, unless I'm in a situation where someone could actually be offended, in which case I take the person aside and say something like, "You really shouldn't use that word around here, people find it offensive," which is what we had to do a couple of times to break a recently hired employee of the habit of describing things as "retarded" (I work at a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities).
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:40 PM on March 26, 2007


I'm hetero, but I've never been too offended by use of the word "gay" to mean silly, stupid, etc. Words are just words, and they gain power from us — they do not inherently contain their own power. That's why it's possible for certain groups to embrace words themselves while decrying everyone else's use of them.

Just look at your first sentence — it probably never occurred to you that the word "lame" when used to describe something you find stupid or silly, is also potentially offensive, since lame is an outdated term for describing someone with physical disabilities. Saying "Oh my God!" or "Jesus!" when surprised also offends some people.

Words like these are rarely chosen for their offensiveness. More likely, they're simply place-fillers, like people who say "um" too much, or people who cuss a lot. It's probably just a habit, I mean.

My advice is to either ignore it or start a casual, intellectual conversation about how some people might find the terms offensive. It's a fine line to walk between being concerned for other people's feelings and living in a tight-ass overly PC world. Hyper PC-ism is what got this guy fired.

(P.S. — This has been discussed at great length here before, both in comments in The Blue and in MetaTalk.)
posted by Brittanie at 10:42 PM on March 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


You can address this successfully, though it's incredibly hard to get some people to understand the power of language they choose. When you're friends with someone, you can call them on this crap. You have to pick the stringentness of your reproach. Somewhere on the spectrum between
"Dude, you sound fucking ignorant and intellectually lazy, get a vocabulary"
"Are you serious?"
"Stop calling shit 'gay,' PLEASE!"
"Josh, you keep saying things that make me think you're homophobic, and I don't want to think you're like that," and
"Josh, if I were gay, you'd be insulting me by saying that."

Go ahead and be self-righteous. It's usually just a bad habit people pick up, in my experience. Your friends are likely to be self-conscious about it if they discover you're actually holding them to a high standard, and if these are good friends, they know you know their personal best selves.

imho, it's okay to call things that are retarded "retarded," including a person's social skills or development, but the use of the word can be critical or cruel, just like the use of "lame" and "stupid."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:56 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I haven't found a great way to do it. Depending on the situation I might feign ignorance and ask them to repeat themselves or explain what they mean. It can serve to highlight their use of the word and maybe get them to think a bit. Even if they just learn that you're not someone that they can say that word around you've come out on top.

My most recent coping mechanism is to see the resurgence in the use of "gay" & "fag" as evidence of an ambivalent populous coming to terms with, you know, so much gayness everywhere. There's bound to be some linguistic shenanigans during times of upheaval.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:05 PM on March 26, 2007


If they are actually friends, absolutely call them on it, tell them they're being idiots.

If they are not, let it slide. There are too many idiots out there to start trying to school all of them.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:09 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have always thought use of "gay" in the grade-schoolish way complained of here is not particularly offensive, because the usage has nothing to do with actual gays.

I don't think there's the dark history behind the word "gay" that, say, "nigger" has. When people use the term "gay" in the way complained of, it has nothing to do with actual homosexuals.
posted by jayder at 11:10 PM on March 26, 2007


Good point, Steven. I'm an Okie, a honky, a meegook (there's another one — research the origin of the "slur" gook), and a blonde.
posted by Brittanie at 11:13 PM on March 26, 2007


There's a difference between outdated insults (i.e., gyp[sy], tool, or lame), and real, living stereotypes/epithets/slurs.

"Thicken your skin and ignore it" is fine advice for a straight white male who is jokingly refrerred to as "honky" or "cracker". It's completely different when it's the majority that consistently stereotypes the groups without power - it's endemic of a society-wide problem. It's not about being "offended" - it's about being conscious of the world we live in, and protecting the weaker/minority members of society.

rossination, I don't have an answer for you, but you should say something - it may not go over well, but it will cause them to think about their words in the future (if only around you).
posted by puddleglum at 11:13 PM on March 26, 2007


Lots of posters ignoring the question here. If you don't care about what the OP cares about, posting just to say so isn't a useful answer.

As for the friends, I'd be as direct as possible. Let them know what you let us know. "You sound like a 14 year old. Why do you still call things gay?"
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:17 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


In high school, I had an observant teacher who, when hearing about outrageous/stupid situations, would rub his chin thoughtfully and announce "Wow... I can't decide if that's more gay or retarded."

Granted, the dynamics are different, but a similar tactic might work.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 11:19 PM on March 26, 2007


I have some friends who know better and do it self-consciously as a way of saying "Fuckall, you don't know me, I'm bad like that and sheeeit." These are the hard cases, because I know they use it in company who know they're being appropriative of idiot culture as well as company that might just think they're the idiots. That's their problem. Why they think it's okay to muddy the moral waters that way somewhat escapes me. Like wemayfreeze said, It think this is fallout of our culture, though moreso its PCness than the actual increased visibility of queer culture. If your buds are smart enough to carve out such a persona, they're smart enough to defend it.

dydecker, you're just wrong. a tool = a dumb thing, a penis = a dumb thing. gay = homo, gay /= weird, crufty and irritating. Are you saying it's a homonym?

Lastly, one more technique: imitate them and exaggerate. Every time. Think Napoleon Dynamite.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:22 PM on March 26, 2007


Mefites - what do you do in these sorts of situations? Until now I've been just ignoring it. I don't want to look like a huge tool or be holier-than-thou, and I know that I can't change ignorant behavior completely, but it would be good if I had some sort of response that at least made them think about what they're saying.

Okay, I'm answering the question. If a friend says something that I find offensive, I usually just say, kind of laughing, "Dude, shut the fuck up, that's awful." If the friend says, "What's the big deal," I say, "you shouldn't talk about [insert minority group] like that, what the hell did they do to deserve such talk." Then I kind of laugh and shake my head, sort of suggesting in a light-hearted way, "I can't believe you're such an idiot."

I don't make a big deal about it, or get real indignant, or storm out of the room, because doing that would be really gay of me.
posted by jayder at 11:22 PM on March 26, 2007


Gay doesn't have anything to do with sexuality. It just means "happy" or "in a good mood."

I do have a point, and it's that language change is inevitable. Just because you don't want a word to be used in a certain sense does not mean that its use in that sense cannot eventually become a mainstream, accepted use of that word. Other than rolling your eyes in response (which will do nothing but make you feel better), there is not really any action you can take. Language will become what it will become, and there's nothing any one of us can do about it.
posted by oaf at 11:40 PM on March 26, 2007


I used to have this problem a bit when I was a barman years ago, though in my case it was casual misogyny from regulars who liked me and thought they were including me in matey manly chat.
I reckoned it would be a bad tactic to appear to be the one making an issue, as that just tends to get people's backs up, but I found attacking the issue from other angles worked.
I'd drop things into my conversation that put them and their prejudices on the spot, and say things where it would be up to them to make an issue of it, which was easy as it was stuff I thought anyway. If they wanted to address it then, I was in a good position to say my piece, as I'd been asked. Didn't work with everyone of course, but it did with quite a few.
posted by Abiezer at 11:40 PM on March 26, 2007


there's another one — research the origin of the "slur" gook

Since I love that story (although some claim it to be apocryphal), I'll tell it here. I thought I had before, but I can't find it.

During the Korean war, American soldiers, at least the blonde ones, were chased around by groups of Korean children shouting mi-guk! mi-guk! (미국) and mi-guk in! (미국인).

(Han-guk (한국) is one of the words meaning 'Korea' (Han country) in Korean itself, and -in(인) means person/people (as does the word saram), so han-guk in (한국인) means 'Korean people/person)'. Here, Han (한) is different from the ancient Han dynasty of China.

Names of most countries end with a country character as a suffix: kuk/guk in Korean, guo in Chinese, koku/goku in Japanese. The Chinese-origin morpheme for "person/people" is in while the Korean-native word for it is saram. )

The adjective mi (미) means 'beautiful' (it's the same one used, for example, in 'beauty salon' (미용실) if I remember correctly), mi-guk (미국) means beautiful country, and mi-guk in (미국인) literally means (beautiful country people/person = 'American'), and is the word most used used by Koreans to this day to refer to Americans.

So: what the soldiers heard was 'me gook! me gook!' - i.e. 'I am a gook' - and so was born the pejorative slang using the sound 'gook' to refer to Koreans, and later all Asians, in an insulting and derogatory way. But the Koreans were actually saying 'beautiful! beautiful country person!'

Ironies like this make me wish I spoke better Korean. Their history is full of stuff like this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:43 PM on March 26, 2007 [23 favorites]


Also, I'm sorry for the off-topic. I hope the story was worth it, and somehow germane to the user's question.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:44 PM on March 26, 2007


Just wanted to point out that tool (person) does not originate from tool (penis). A person is a tool because they surrender their personality/best interests and allow themselves to be used, either by another person or a social system (e.g "tool of The Man"), not because they're a dick.

In this case, rossination wants to avoid looking like a "huge tool" of the perceived Political Correctness Establishment. Not an enormous penis, gay as that would be.
posted by contraption at 11:57 PM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Language will become what it will become, and there's nothing any one of us can do about it.

What?

Language is "done" -- that's the definition of language. All of us are spending our entire lives "doing something about it." Every decision on even a single-human scale is part of this.

Human choice turned "the word overwhelmingly understood to mean happy" into "the word overwhelmingly understood to mean homosexual."

The poster wants to talk about his options for being part of the evolution in a specific way. That should be a simple question.
posted by sparrows at 11:58 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


They act like 12-year olds because no one told them not to say that when they were twelve year olds.

I say the same thing to my very intelligent friends that I say to the kids I teach. It can be as easy as saying "that's offensive. You mean that thing is dumb. Does gay mean dumb? No, it means homosexual. Did you mean to say that Tapioca is homosexual? I didn't think so. It's offensive when you use gay as a synonym for dumb."

Don't underestimate being direct. It's not instantaneous, but you'll be doing them a favor. They only need to make a similar comment ONCE in front of someone who has a gay sister or a mentally handicapped brother to go home with a bloody nose and a chipped tooth.
posted by conch soup at 12:03 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to point out that tool (person) does not originate from tool (penis).

It does in some cases, especially those where it's synonymous with "asshole" or "jerk."
posted by oaf at 12:04 AM on March 27, 2007


Human choice turned "the word overwhelmingly understood to mean happy" into "the word overwhelmingly understood to mean homosexual."

The number of individuals who consciously chose to shift the meaning in this direction is approximately zero.
posted by oaf at 12:06 AM on March 27, 2007


"You sound like a 14 year old. Why do you still call things gay?"

Do that. You are absolutely right that you should say something, keep it light and don't go on and on about it. Your friends aren't going to change instantly, your best hope is to plant a seed for future change, and to put the phrase off-limits when you are around.

Also--I'll guarantee you that at least one of your friends is thinking the same thing, but like you hasn't found the way to speak up.
posted by LarryC at 12:09 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


You mean that thing is dumb.

Hey man my sister cannot speak. doesn't mean she's stupid. you take that back.
posted by dydecker at 12:10 AM on March 27, 2007


In short: words simply mean what everyone agrees that they mean. If the original poster is cringing because his friends' use of specific words makes them "sound stupid", it is surely because his friends inhabit a different social sphere to himself, a sphere where those words are acceptable.

In a real friendship, any words are acceptable.

To answer the question: Maybe they're all friends with each other, but they're not really your friends.
posted by dydecker at 12:23 AM on March 27, 2007


They only need to make a similar comment ONCE in front of someone who has a gay sister or a mentally handicapped brother to go home with a bloody nose and a chipped tooth.

"Hey, my sister is gay and I take offense to you using the term gay that way. What I don't take offense to, however, is physically assaulting you!"
posted by The God Complex at 12:23 AM on March 27, 2007


Oaf, I don't understand your above comment.

The word in question, gay, has itself morphed through three meanings in no less than 100 years, from "happy" to "homosexual" to "stupid". Somewhere along the line, someone had to use it in a context meaning homosexual in order for everyone else to start using that way. Then, someone else had to decide to use it, and so on and so on, until it spread into common usage. Just like someone had to first use the term "fruit," "queer," "swishy," and "queen". All these words had original denotations that are independent of their connotations. Language doesn't define itself.
posted by Brittanie at 12:29 AM on March 27, 2007


Brittanie, there's no requirement (and it's not very likely) that there be conscious changes, or that they be instantaneous. (Who decided to change the meaning of starve to require an element of not having enough food? No one.)
posted by oaf at 12:37 AM on March 27, 2007


It's slang. Stuff they've been saying for over 10 years. It's a hard habit to break. You can call them up on it, and if they're decent friends, then they'll stop using it around you. But you can't make them stop using the language completely. It just won't happen.

Tell them "Sorry guys, can you not use those terms in front of me, I find them offensive". It'll take some training, but eventually they'll know not to say gay, queer, fag etc. in front of you. Just realise that they'll most likely keep using the terms amongst themselves.

I know a lot of guys that will use the word cunt amongst themselves, but not in mixed company. And they know not to because women keep reprimanding for them when they do.
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:38 AM on March 27, 2007


Also, I'm sorry for the off-topic. I hope the story was worth it, and somehow germane to the user's question.

fucking great derail.
posted by phaedon at 12:41 AM on March 27, 2007


FWIW, as a gay guy, I do bristle at "that's so gay," and I generally assume that the people saying it don't know any openly gay people and are at least a little homophobic. It grates in a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard kind of way.

On the other hand, I've almost said it once or twice myself . . .

To answer the OP's question, I sometimes handle such situations by looking the person I'm having a conversation with directly in the eye while remaining silent. I try not to look judgmental or scolding. I'm not sure if that's the best way, but it sometimes produces produces an awkward silence followed by something like "Oh, when I said xyz, I didn't mean . . ."
posted by treepour at 12:48 AM on March 27, 2007


I have a hard time understanding why all this commentary that doesn't address the question is geared toward defense of our right to use intellectually lazy and demonstrably homophobically derived slang. If this thread were about people saying "getting jewed," "irregardless," or even "liberry," there wouldn't be a big backlash defending them. Why the acceptance of this? Why the boys will be boys bullshit? Ignorance or custom as excuse for bigotry is fucking pathetic.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:49 AM on March 27, 2007


Is humour a good defense?

I call my girlfriend a gook all the time. Why does she put up with it? Because it makes her laugh.
posted by dydecker at 12:57 AM on March 27, 2007


I don't think anybody is defending the bigots. I think most people are saying that it's no way to live your life getting upset every time someone says "gypped" or "retarded."

And anyway, if the question is "what to do," then "ignore it" is a perfectly accurate answer (maybe not the best answer, but it is an answer).

Rossination, search MeFi for the term "drama queen" for previous posts addressing this question.
posted by Brittanie at 1:00 AM on March 27, 2007




I've seen others successfully deal with this by talking about the word, and not the person's intention in using it; saying straight off something like "isn't it weird how 'gay' has come to mean 'stupid'? I don't get that" was surprisingly effective at starting a conversation about how (gasp!) language can sometimes be inappropriate.
posted by transient at 1:07 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ignorance or custom as excuse for bigotry is fucking pathetic.

You're seeing bigotry where there is none. These people do not think about that connotation when they say "gay" in that sense. They're just saying a word that they heard before from someone else, and determined the meaning through context, just like every word that they—and you—say without having to look up in a dictionary.
posted by oaf at 1:15 AM on March 27, 2007


Tell them "Sorry guys, can you not use those terms in front of me, I find them offensive".

Or, my version: "Dudes, you sound like thick-fingered mouthbreathing yokel dipshits. Give it a fucking rest" rather than coming off like a delicate snowflake and inviting ridicule. I have been accused in the past of being overly blunt, though.

I'm not getting the feeling from the Asker that these guys are all about sensitivity, and he says he actually isn't offended.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:15 AM on March 27, 2007


Actually stav, I thought the poster was a woman (I don't know why, sorry rossination!) when I wrote that. So I wouldn't really encourage that particular wording either, but the point is the same. You can tell them that it pisses you off and you don't want to hear it, and you won't hear it. But they'll still say it out of earshot.
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:22 AM on March 27, 2007


You can address this without venturing into afterschool special speech territory. What I do is matter-of-factly say "That's crass." I don't linger. If that morphs into a conversation about said phrase, I just explain in a calm friendly way that I've seen the hurt those kind of casual throwaway insults can cause, not least to the person uttering them. My go-to example of this is a department head at my former company who had a child with Downs, and how her overhearing an employee use "retarded" as an insult was a great way to end up on her shitlist, often without the offender even realizing it.

There are real world consequences to being so casually dickish and one never knows how severe or meaningful they will be. Like stavros said, you can't school everyone, but I expect my good and true friends to tell me when my breath stinks or my hair looks like hell or I sound like a thick-fingered mouthbreathing yokel dipshit. If that's the kind of friendship you guys have, then by all means attempt to help them avoid such needless moments of flaming jackassery.
posted by melissa may at 1:46 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I knew of someone who responded to off-color comments by saying that the comments were "not politically correct." Which is about the least persuasive way I can think of to get people to stop making the comments, because most people really don't care whether they are being "politically correct." So I would focus on how offensive it would be to any homosexual people if they were present, as well as how it makes the speaker sound like an ignorant ass. [NOT SPECIESIST!]
posted by grouse at 2:34 AM on March 27, 2007


How to respond to it? Don't - if they're immature enough to call things "gay" or "retarded", you calling them out on it will not change their behaviour. If nothing else, they could end up calling you those names for being offended by them. If it was me (I don't personally use those terms most of the time... although I *am* guilty of the occasional "retard" slip here and there), I would think you need to get off your high horse and stop being offended on behalf of other people, because that is one of my HUGE pet peeves. I would be less likely to want to hang out with you. But that's just me, and I'm not your friend. Only you know how your friends will react to it.
posted by antifuse at 2:55 AM on March 27, 2007


Is there, really, such a thing as '"casual" homophobia?' I think the principal problem is that rossination is inferring "homophobia" where there may be none of the real deal. In my experience, "homophobia" isn't casual. Many people I know dislike homosexuals, as is their right. Some whom are military members have been obligated in security probes to disclose identities of people they've seen in homosexual acts. Other people I know make all kinds of choices about dealing with other people based, at least in part, on what they know of other people's sexual preferences. But they don't fear homosexuals, and they don't persecute them. They're not, therefore, homophobic.

"Correcting" other people's language, based on your own inferences, presumes a lot, and generally doesn't wear well, unless you've been given advance permission to help somebody recognize when they are saying things by habit. You might try giving your friends permission to help you correct your own habitual speech patterns, and see if it rubs back from them to you. If it doesn't, you'll still be getting helpful feedback on improving your own speech, and if it does, you might get a chance to actually help your friends, at least so far as by your lights, they need "help."
posted by paulsc at 3:35 AM on March 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


My friends used to do this all the time, I just say "Ugh, don't use that word!" and if they ask why I just reply with "There are better ways to express yoursel, m'kay?"

Simple, and maybe they do still use it, but they sure ain't using it around me.
posted by liquorice at 3:48 AM on March 27, 2007


I really can't believe how many people have rubber stamped use of the word "gay" or "retarded." Seriously, folks, it is offensive. It's not hyper PC-ism at work. Trust me. As a gay woman, to hear someone say that, even when you know they may just be uninformed, not homophobic, even when you know they are just being 20-25 years old and not hellbent on denying you your rights, it wounds you a little bit. Is it the end of the world? No. Should they be skewered for it? No. All you need to do is pull them aside (as another commenter said) and say "Hey, dude, just so you know, it makes you sound sort of homophobic to say that. Have you ever considered how it sounds when you call something gay to mean 'dumb' or 'bad'?" They may or may not get it, that's not really your responsibility. Your responsibility is to point it out and hope they come around.

Again, I am really surprised at how many people said variations on "words are words!" and "Stop being PC" and "Don't correct other people's language!" Where I come from, when people say/do hurtful things, you call them on it. Period.

Yikes.
posted by sneakin at 3:48 AM on March 27, 2007


Where I come from, when people say/do hurtful things, you call them on it.

If, however, you call them on it in a way that implies they intended harm, you're overreacting. I think it's pretty likely that the people described in this question do not intend whatever offense they may cause to someone who is homosexual.
posted by oaf at 4:27 AM on March 27, 2007


when people say/do hurtful things, you call them on it.

Ugh, Words are words. Where I come from if people do hurtful things you call them on it. If they say hurtful things, well... it's just words. Don't be so gay.

Language evolves, get over it. I get so angry at shit like this and maybe it's a cultural thing. I mean, I use words like gay, cunt, fuck, retarded, spastic all the time. My GF works with people with learning disabilities and I have a great respect for her and them. I'm not going to run up to them and scream "Don't be such a spastic". And I'm not going to tell someone I know who is gay to stop being so gay.

Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. That's an important lesson I learned from a very young age and I still believe strongly in it. Hit me and I'll bust your face open. Call me whatever you want and I'll just laugh in your face.
posted by twistedonion at 4:30 AM on March 27, 2007


oaf, you're wrong.

'Gay' as a synonym for 'stupid' was absolutely born out of homophobia. Using it in that way perpetuates a subconscious association that being homosexual is a bad thing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:34 AM on March 27, 2007


I am a large, beastly gay man. When someone around me uses the 'that's so gay' vernacular phrase - I simply ask them what they mean. I don't ask them in a laid back 'huh?' kind of way - I ask them in a very direct, very aggressive kind of way.

They don't do it twice - around me at least.

Since you're not gay, and I have no idea what your persona is like - I recommend going with a simple "Huh?" or "Whadd'ya mean?" approach.

It's not so important that you tell them you don't approve but that you convey to them that they're not making any sense.
posted by matty at 4:38 AM on March 27, 2007


oaf, you're wrong.

The facts beg to differ.
posted by oaf at 4:46 AM on March 27, 2007


When I was 8 or 9, we called things gay. Homework was gay. Certain types of cars were gay. Some toys were gay.

When I was 8 or 9, I had no idea homosexuals existed.
posted by Jimbob at 4:52 AM on March 27, 2007


Just tell them that you'd appreciate it if they didn't use "that's so gay" or "retarded" around you, then move on. Just saying it will make them think, and not making a huge deal out of it will make it easier for them to stop.
posted by mediareport at 4:59 AM on March 27, 2007


Where I come from, when people say/do hurtful things, you call them on it. Period.

When people say/do hurtful things that are hurtful to YOU, or hurtful to people around you, you call them on it. When one frat boy calls another frat boy gay as a joke, calling them out on it isn't really going to improve anybody.
posted by antifuse at 5:22 AM on March 27, 2007


I should add - this is provided that the frat boy being called gay isn't gay, and isn't offended by being called gay. Or something. I just get annoyed by people who are offended by proxy.
posted by antifuse at 5:23 AM on March 27, 2007


I just get annoyed by people who are offended by proxy.

Huh. I think it's great when folks stand up for what's right in situations where folks who may not be able to stand up might be present.
posted by mediareport at 5:31 AM on March 27, 2007


Swearing is offensive. That's the whole point of it. So to say "don't swear that way, it's offensive" is kind of pointless.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:39 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


1) Ignore it
2) Realize that at 25, they aren't likely changing. Exchange friends for intelligent ones. If you have your receipt, you can exchange them within 30 days for total cash value; or, if purchased at another store or you do not have a receipt, exchange them for models of like or lesser value, unless they are damaged. Damaged friends must be returned to the manufacturer (read: mother) for a stern ass-whupping.
3) Be snarky.
posted by mr_book at 5:43 AM on March 27, 2007


This is also a pet peave of mine (I blame it on ya'll for my new-found sensitivity!) and I've found the direct, "How is 'z' gay? I don't get it," In an honest tone.

The real problem arises in group dynamics- especially online in games like WoW. It's not uncommon for someone to make the "gay" comment, and I say something only to have 15 people jump on me. Same thing in real life. When I'm with a group of 4 people whom I know use the term gay in jest, it's hard to be direct with their use of the word as they now have a defense system.
posted by jmd82 at 5:50 AM on March 27, 2007


I've always been annoyed by this -- the slang of gay, retarded, using "pussy" as a synonym for wimpy, "don't be such a girl" directed at straight men, etc. It's perpetuating & reinforcing shitty societal thinking and unacknowledged individual prejudices through sheer laziness. I'm not a PC freak, but it's actually not that hard not to use this language. I've never said "that's so gay" about anything, and interestingly, I've only ever heard straight men (never women) use this as an insult. Which is awfully curious, given the outcry of "there's not a single thing homophobic about it!" Regardless of the general unbigoted nature of most of the fine young gentlemen I know that use the phrase, the general underlying message is that "gay" is a bad thing to be, and an insult, and I'm not down with that.

I slowly got a few friends to quit it with tactics similar to those mentioned above. Getting huffy and "you're offending me" is guaranteed just to make people think you're an oversensitive twit. Instead, comments more along the lines of "so X is homosexual, then?" and "what a stupid thing to say" work a bit better. With the girl thing, well, I am female, so it's a simple matter to turn and look unblinkingly at the offender and say "so you're saying being female is bad?"

To clarify, I don't necessarily think that all of the people who use these phrases are homophobic -- but I think that allowing the words gay/girl/pussy/etc. to continue as shorthand for bad, it keeps low-level prejudice against the "other" alive in our society, and enables otherwise upright and interesting people to continue to coast through the world leaving their own subtle sexist or homophobic or racist attitudes go unexamined. As the song goes, everyone's a little bit racist (sexist, etc.), and we'd probably be better off if we looked at that honestly.
posted by tigerbelly at 5:51 AM on March 27, 2007 [9 favorites]


"Dude, my cousin's gay and that's really starting to annoy me. Cut it out, wouldya?"
posted by desjardins at 5:54 AM on March 27, 2007


Lots of posters ignoring the question here. If you don't care about what the OP cares about, posting just to say so isn't a useful answer.

As for the friends, I'd be as direct as possible. Let them know what you let us know. "You sound like a 14 year old. Why do you still call things gay?"


I can't think of a better way to say it than allterrainbrain did, above. On both counts.
posted by desuetude at 6:08 AM on March 27, 2007


Confront it lightly, but pointedly. Otherwise you're part of the problem.

I had a coworker in his 50's I was friendly with who would announce everyday he was about to order Chinese food, "OK, anyone here want some Chink food?" He didn't stop until I made a point of visibly wincing and saying with a light but horrified laugh plus headshake, "Man, you have GOT to stop using that word." He knew I was serious, but didn't react defensively.....he just stopped doing it. Note: it took more than once, and I had to be consistent.

With "gay" or "fag", I also tend to try to point out how stupid or uncreative someone is being: "Oh, so you're saying that car is totally homosexual"? "Do you mean 'fag' like bundle of sticks, or homosexual," etc.

With "retard" I just go straight for the shame factor and bring up people I have known (through mainstreamed schools, relatives, etc.) with Down's Syndrome.
posted by availablelight at 6:10 AM on March 27, 2007


MetaFilter has fought this fight before.  And I have fought it before too in many contexts.

The reason why this is so offensive is not because the people who use these expressions mean harm.  It's the opposite; it's their blithe, ignorant, "innocent" use of the words that hurts.  It implies a certain vantage point of safety and of being untouched by the implications of the words, which the casual listener may not share.

But to remain willfully ignorant of the hurt caused by this slang  is itself harmful.  Being gay, I bristle when I hear someone say it.  If I was on the same subway car with you and your friends and I heard one of them say, "That's so gay!" I would assume that you were just the same as them.  So that's the real reason you definitely should say something.  Because out in public or at a party or in mixed company, one day one of these guys is going to say something horrible or dumb, and you will be tainted by association, probably without ever sensing it. You need to set a precedent that this is not okay, or resign yourself to having spent the sum of your friendship having condoned and even accepted such behavior.

When I was younger and still figuring out what I was, I had to struggle to hide the panic that I felt when someone referred to me jokingly as "fag" or as "gay" in the stupid sense. Because for an instant I felt that they could see right inside me and were simply announcing what they saw. It was a disgusting, helpless, paranoid feeling. It was years before I figured out that these were just catch-all words that people use to make fun of anyone, and that they hadn't necessarily been able to see right through me. When I hear such things in public now, I hurt for the people around me who may be going through their own struggle now, whose peace of mind the jokers' jokes come at the expense of.

If your friends are people around whom you can't say, "Hey, I wish you wouldn't say that around me. I don't want people thinking that I think that shit is okay," without them making a big deal out of it or using it as an issue to taunt you with, then what does that tell you?
posted by hermitosis at 6:15 AM on March 27, 2007 [13 favorites]


I'm hetero, but I've never been too offended by use of the word "gay" to mean silly, stupid, etc.

That about says it all, doesn't it?
posted by hermitosis at 6:19 AM on March 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Having any kind of real fun with friends is almost always going to involve transgressing some of the social rules you would expect to operate in polite society. It's not fun to hang out with someone who is going to judge you for saying stupid stuff. By all means, make fun of them for it if you can genuinely do it in a good spirit, but I'm not optimistic on the chances of that based on this question.

I think you need to ask yourself if you can be around them without judging them, and if you really can't then it's time to find new friends.
posted by teleskiving at 6:20 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I use to be one of those guys until I was 18. In fact, all my friends and I use to act like this. I was pretty bad because I would crack homophobic jokse to make people laugh. I wasn't trying to be hurtful but, looking back on it, I was pretty damn stupid.

I stopped because I finally started befriending gays and lesbians and they didn't laugh. They became quiet while everyone else around them did laugh. I was confused until someone finally called me out on it. I then stopped.

Most of my friends can be rather cruel with one another. We make jokes at our own expense, at the expense of others (racial, sexual, nationality, religious, etc and nothing is really a boundry until someone says something. Since this is bothering you, say something. That might sound cliche but just approach your friends and go "hey, it really annoys me when you say that word" and if you must, relate the phrase 'gay' to something that would bother them. You'll be amazed at the level of empathy and understanding people gain when they can relate to something on a personal level. I'm not gay but, as a minority, I do know what it's like to be discriminated against. I don't tolerate racist jokes from people I don't know because I don't know how tolerant they really are.

Your friends will listen to you though don't be surprised if they rip on you a bit. But stick to your guns and they will gradually respect your choice and those phrases will gradually fall out of their vocabulary. If they don't, then maybe it's no longer a question about their homophobia but more about their respect for you.
posted by Stynxno at 6:57 AM on March 27, 2007


I have several friends who use the word "gay" a lot, to mean - you guessed it - stupid, lame, pathetic, etc. They tend to do similar things with words like "fag", "queer", and "retard(ed)". Extremely typical 14-year-old behavior, but these guys are 20-25. I have no doubt that this kind of thing is prevalent among the college crowd, and, for that matter, lots of people.

I use terms like these all the time, but I use them as words with separate definitions to their other meanings. It's pretty common for people to say something is "retarded" without actually having any ill-will towards the handicapped. This is not a bad thing!

There's an amazing cultural ambivalence to this. Even here on MetaFilter people will bitch about these things ('bitch' not meaning 'woman' in this case) but then whine when people are being too up-tight, conservative pussies ('pussies' meaning no offense to cats or female genitalia in this case).

People need to wise up and realize when speech actually has disrespect or malice behind it (such as that dude from Frasier), and when it's just being used for effect. Using the term 'gay' to define something is rarely homophobic, and I'd almost be inclined to find it offensive someone wants to call normal language use by such a harsh name.

In fact, 'gay' and 'queer' were descriptive words stolen from our language in the first place to relate to homosexuality.. so claiming them back for non-homosexual descriptive meaning is no crime.
posted by wackybrit at 7:00 AM on March 27, 2007


So: what the soldiers heard was 'me gook! me gook!' - i.e. 'I am a gook' - and so was born the pejorative slang using the sound 'gook' to refer to Koreans, and later all Asians, in an insulting and derogatory way. But the Koreans were actually saying 'beautiful! beautiful country person!'

Er, I know in Chinese mei-guo means beautiful country, and is the proper name for America. This isn't because the Chinese think America is beautiful, or that the people are beautiful, but that the first consonant sound in "America" is "me"
posted by delmoi at 7:04 AM on March 27, 2007


Would you accept "casual" racism?

Confront it in a way that suits your style, by all means, but please confront it, for your own sense of self-respect.
posted by Morrigan at 7:17 AM on March 27, 2007


Sarcasm usually works for me, ex: "Oh, yeah, that's gay. Because it's so bad to be gay." That usually gets the point across, although I do tend to hang around people who a) get sarcasm and b) would be ashamed if they realized their choice of words hurt other people (but who are just careless sometimes).
posted by AV at 7:33 AM on March 27, 2007


This has worked for me:

Dude: That's so gay!
Me: Do you mean gay in a good way or a bad way?
Dude: Uh...what's the good way?
Me: Hot sex with men.

Alternatively:

Me: Wow. That is so...
Dude: Gay?
Me: Yeah! And not in the good way either!

At the very least this gets people thinking about word and the possibility that it means something more than "stupid" to a whole lot of people. I don't think it enlightened anybody who was dead set on their homophobia, though. If it's the homophobia that's bothering you, I'd say focus on the disease and not the symptoms. Bring up stuff in the news that bothers you, make fun of homophobes, get involved in equal-rights activism and invite your friends, etc. Let it be known where you stand and your friends will learn to respect that or at least not bring it up around you.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:33 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dude: That's so gay!
Me: Do you mean gay in a good way or a bad way?
Dude: Uh...what's the good way?
Me: Hot sex with men.


I am so using this next time. Alternating with "hot girl-on-girl action," depending on the audience.
posted by desuetude at 7:52 AM on March 27, 2007


Couple three things:
First off, gay has long been associated with homosexual, at least according to the Straight Dope (but I can't find the article. Do you know how hard it is to search the internet for the etymology of "gay"). It was an in-group homosexual theater slang that associated being overly happy with homosexuality. Kind of like the association of campiness with gays, only camp has gone on to have a meaning of its own.

Second off, I do see a distinction between "gay" and "retarded." Retarded has much more of a connotation, deservedly, of stupid. And while it's transgressive, I kind of feel that it's mildly so, and that the context in which it is used has largely divorced it from talking about people of medically diminished capacity.

Third, one of the problems with "gay" is that it does fill a linguistic niche. While it traffics in offensive stereotypes, it's largely replaced "fop" as an insult, and that's generally what it signifies— a dandiesh over-sensitivity. I've been trying to cut out "gay" and "fag" from my vocabulary, both because I know they're hurtful and I don't want to sound like as much of a douchebag, but the derth of other words as good for connoting a fairly specific feeling makes it hard. I realize it's laziness, but when, to give a recent example, my communications prof tried through an exercise to force intimacy in our class (everyone had to hold hands and look into each other's eyes while talking about themselves), I understand why after class everyone immediately called it "gay." There's a pejorative tone towards forced niceness and social politeness that the word "gay" rebels against.
And, granted, that doesn't exactly map to the "fop" or "dandy" or "sissy," but that's why "gay" has gotten such a foothold.
Combine that with the fact that many of the people who argue against the terms seem to believe that no one should ever be offended by language, and you understand the infeasibility of the task.
That doesn't mean that it's not worth chastising people over, just that the argument shouldn't be that it's offensive, but rather that it's lazy and makes the speaker look like a moron.

There's also the problem that many people who use it would never think of denying homosexuals rights, and use it to make fun of homophobia. By linking "gay" with absurd things, they're using it ironically, and arguing against an ironic usage is harder. They know that the chair isn't homosexual, and it's the disjunction between the applied language and the actuality that makes it funny.

Oh, and the guys I know who call things "gay" most often? The two gay office mates that I knew last year. I don't think I heard them say a single sentence that wasn't about how "gay" the computers were, or someone's clothes, or whatever else. These were college-aged gay guys, who worked in the campus LGBT office (as well as the newspaper), and who related EVERYTHING to butt sex and homosexuality ("Dude, you put that gay letter right in the envelope's ass!" "I know, they're totally fags!").
I recognize that my language usage has more constraints socially than theirs (I'm not one of those white guys who complains about not being able to say "Nigger,") but I want to counter the idea that it's only straight guys who say "gay" pejoratively.
posted by klangklangston at 7:58 AM on March 27, 2007


realize it's laziness, but when, to give a recent example, my communications prof tried through an exercise to force intimacy in our class (everyone had to hold hands and look into each other's eyes while talking about themselves), I understand why after class everyone immediately called it "gay."

Excellent point. I hereby propose replacing "gay" with "emo." Gets across the same vibe.

I know this will be offensive to those who lurve themselves some emo, but hey, they'll be okay. In the early-eighties the disco-lovers had to deal with the disco-haters, but the disco-lovers eventually rose again triumphant.
posted by desuetude at 8:25 AM on March 27, 2007


It annoys me too. Just make fun of them about it. If you belittle people enough about how they are idiots eventually they'll stop saying stupid shit around you. It's the only way they'll learn.
posted by chunking express at 8:33 AM on March 27, 2007


Admitting I was gay was incredibly hard, because the word was rancid in my mouth, having only ever heard it used as a slur or a joke. If I could pick another term to identify as that would be handily understood by people, I would. But since I'm stuck with reading it in headlines and seeing it in every imaginable medium and knowing it includes me, then I also cannot help but feel included when I hear it attributed to something embarassing, stupid, or undesirable. Even if it's just a chair.

Think about a word that makes you, personally, cringe with discomfort. Now imagine you have discovered that this word is what you are, and is something that you will be henceforth using to describe yourself for the rest of your life. Additionally, entertain the thought that this word is a source of humor, hatred, and denigration for the majority of the population.

There is certainly some ironic use of it that doesn't bug me, usually by my friends or people whose hearts I know. And a carefully selected use for impact can be really funny. But once it creeps into broad casual use, that's different, and in public when I hear it I assume the worse. And why shouldn't I, considering the percentage of the population that would be delighted if I would just dry up and blow away?
posted by hermitosis at 8:34 AM on March 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


Retarded has much more of a connotation, deservedly, of stupid. And while it's transgressive, I kind of feel that it's mildly so

It's not, and you might read Michael Berube's Life As We Know It if you'd like to know why. Which goes to the heart of this issue: your personal connotations are just that, personal. There are a lot of elaborate justifications here for calling people fags and retards as if intent is of primary importance in communication, when what's truly important is being understood. Either consider other common connotations of what you are saying or risk pointlessly causing offense, perhaps without even realizing it.
posted by melissa may at 9:09 AM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


This may only work because I'm gay, but when people say gay-as-in-stupid around me, I shoot them a glance and say "Excuse me?" They usually look at the ground and mumble an apology, and never say it again. I actually managed to eliminate it at my high school in my time.
posted by awesomebrad at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


You say they're your friends. If these guys are generally good people who are just a little ignorant, then just tell them that it makes them sound stupid. Like someone said before, a good friend will tell you if you have spinach in your teeth, a good friend will hopefully also tell you if you continually make comments that make you look like an idiot. Alternatively, if these guys are deeply committed to being homophobic, and won't respond well to some friendly advice on not being jackasses, why are they your friends?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 9:28 AM on March 27, 2007


I really don't think it's used only to represent the foppish aspects of the gay male stereotype. Here in CA at least, the best corollary word choice would be "weak." Things that are "gay" but not even close to stereotypically gay could include: CBS comedies, Any unwanted class participation exercise, curfews, heelies. I think this is the use people are defending as non-bigoted. Lazy and careless and stemmign from bigotry, but whatever, not bigoted if you say so.

Using it to replace faggy, foppish or queer really isn't a change in meaning and isn't less than bigoted.

Furthermore, overdetermined and obvious use of gay to mean homosexual or positively fabulously queer and proud, in the case of inanaimate objects or other things where at first the insulting, "Weak" form might be assumed, is a great way to combat its more lazy or homophobic use. It's not perjorative if the letter is actually fucking the envelope and then you start licking it too and calling it Glue Daddy. It's a reclamation, a tip of the balance back into that use's popular favor. It's fine to call a spade a spade.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:39 AM on March 27, 2007


I realize it's laziness, but when, to give a recent example, my communications prof tried through an exercise to force intimacy in our class (everyone had to hold hands and look into each other's eyes while talking about themselves), I understand why after class everyone immediately called it "gay." There's a pejorative tone towards forced niceness and social politeness that the word "gay" rebels against.

Yeah, the gay people I know are always so polite and nice to a fault. It's hard to get those pansies to cut the crap and say what they really feel.
posted by contraption at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've always been annoyed by this -- the slang of gay, retarded, using "pussy" as a synonym for wimpy, "don't be such a girl" directed at straight men, etc. It's perpetuating & reinforcing shitty societal thinking and unacknowledged individual prejudices through sheer laziness.

The pejorative 'dick' is conspicuous in its absence in your comments. It seems to me to be the exact parallel to the term 'pussy'. Yet, I think hardly anyone takes it as an attack on men in general. If we can't even call our friends 'dicks' anymore, we're gonna have to give up arguing altogether. Rather, I think we should hold that neither 'pussy' nor 'dick' are misogynistic or.. whatever word means 'man-hating'.

And though it's been repeated throughout this thread, I cannot figure out how using any of these pseudo-forbidden words is 'lazy'. How is 'That's so gay' lazier than 'That's so stupid'?

As for the OP, I'd suggest simply repeating it back to them slowly and quizzically (Gay, huh? Wow.) to lightly imply your surprise/bemusement that they would use it in such a context.
posted by bluejayk at 10:09 AM on March 27, 2007


You'll notice a lot of guys do these online, especially while in voice chat during games such as World of Warcraft. The choice words seem to be "gay", "fag", etc., usually preceded with "fuckin' ".

One of these days, I'll just ... snap ... and verbally attack my roommate during one of his game sessions. My theory is, everyone above the age of 16 and fluent in English knows for sure that these words mean more than just one thing. Shoot, probably even age 10.
posted by Xere at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2007


And though it's been repeated throughout this thread, I cannot figure out how using any of these pseudo-forbidden words is 'lazy'.

It's intellectually lazy for a non-homophobe to call something "gay" because it indicates a lack of thought about the meaning of the language being used. Such a person is either not bothering to think about what they're saying, or not bothering to break what they realize is a bad habit.
posted by contraption at 10:20 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


This Andrew Sullivan post is about a stronger term, but I think much of what he says is relevant for this discussion.
posted by umbú at 10:59 AM on March 27, 2007


"Excellent point. I hereby propose replacing "gay" with "emo." Gets across the same vibe. "

That's a pretty good suggestion, and I'll be trying to do so.

"It's not, and you might read Michael Berube's Life As We Know It if you'd like to know why. Which goes to the heart of this issue: your personal connotations are just that, personal. There are a lot of elaborate justifications here for calling people fags and retards as if intent is of primary importance in communication, when what's truly important is being understood. Either consider other common connotations of what you are saying or risk pointlessly causing offense, perhaps without even realizing it."

Well, frankly, I'm not likely to read that book just to decide whether your point is well-supported. I've already got a stack of reading. But that point about personal connotations can be reflected back upon you— if it's not seen as de facto offensive in informal contexts, then it's YOUR personal hangup when in those contexts. Further, being offensive isn't "pointless." Every communication serves a goal, and offending you may be the point. Again, it allows for ingroup bonding, and gives the user a mild thrill. Everyone knows that "gay" is one of those things you're not supposed to say. Everyone knows that "fuck" is not something you're supposed to say. And you can be regarded as less intelligent or erudite for using either of them, just like you can be for using "y'all." Sure, it's lazy to use those words as default without regard as to how you'll be perceived, but that doesn't make it wrong and it doesn't make it pointless. Knowin' how to roll a "y'all" or a "fuck" off the tongue, or even knowing when to call something "gay" does have social benefits in some situations. Now, you may not like those situations, but they exist.
Which means that, in the vast majority of times when "gay" is used, I bet it IS understood. You just don't like what it means. And many of the suggestions here seem to offer only a disingenuous response of misunderstanding.

"Yeah, the gay people I know are always so polite and nice to a fault. It's hard to get those pansies to cut the crap and say what they really feel."

Stop being so emo. As has been pointed out many, many times, "gay" as pejorative has very little to do with homosexuality, though if you need the stereotypical example— Big Gay Al from South Park. (Which is why "emo" isn't perfect, but it's good enough for for a chunk of my usage that I think I can come up with other ways to express my feelings aside from "gay.")

"There is certainly some ironic use of it that doesn't bug me, usually by my friends or people whose hearts I know. And a carefully selected use for impact can be really funny. But once it creeps into broad casual use, that's different, and in public when I hear it I assume the worse. And why shouldn't I, considering the percentage of the population that would be delighted if I would just dry up and blow away?"

Well, and that's part of the problem— context determines meaning. And that's part of why I'm trying to stop saying "gay" so often. (Retarded, I feel, is a lost cause).

Though, as an aside, the usage that's been creeping up in my circle is to use "queer for" (though "gay for" is gaining traction) to mean a deep attraction. Instead of "Man, I loved that Departed movie," it's "Man, I'm totally queer for that Departed movie" or "I'm totally gay for this new cereal! It's got nuts and honey!" While still probably ignorant and stereotypical, I thought it was a funny moment of that "bad means good" sort of thing. Something else that happens in groups of straight guys, which always seemed a little odd, is that there's a nearly constant level of pseudo-gay flirting which disappears when actual gay folks are around, and that flirting might have something to do with the odd dual-sense of "gay."
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on March 27, 2007


I'm gay and I usually just settle for the response, "Man, calling things gay is totally retarded."

If it's one of my close friends, usually just a raised eyebrow on my part will be enough to make them realize what they've said, and then hopefully their guilt is enough to make them shut up and find a new synonym for "stupid".
posted by Zephyrial at 11:35 AM on March 27, 2007


Now imagine you have discovered that this word is what you are, and is something that you will be henceforth using to describe yourself for the rest of your life. Additionally, entertain the thought that this word is a source of humor, hatred, and denigration for the majority of the population.

Ok. I'm entertaining that thought. Let me imagine I'm a geek and/or nerd. Further, let me imagine that these words are a source of humor for the majority of the population. Steve Erkel anybody? I could take on a crusade to rid the world of these words, or I could turn them into a badge of honor. In fact, as everyone on here no doubt knows, these words have become trendy. Now you're more likely to hear geeks complaining about non-geeks appropriating/diluting the word.

Whether we like it or not, the word "gay" has taken on a meaning different than either of it's original meanings (happy or homosexual) as shown by klangklangston's example. And when people use the word, chances are they aren't being hurtful. They're also not being "intellectually lazy." Language is lazy, and they're just taking the shortest route to their point.

All of this gave me the idea for a new t-shirt logo: "I am totally gay" Co-op the word back from the masses. Yeah, it's probably a stupid idea, but I'd wear the shirt with pride.

I think our language would be a lot poorer without such wonderful terms as geek, nerd, gay, retard, freak, jock, moron, punk, spaz(tic), lame, etc. Although they're offensive, they also serve a linguistic role that would be empty without them.
posted by formless at 11:51 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


As has been pointed out many, many times, 'gay' as pejorative has very little to do with homosexuality

You can say it as many times as you like, but that won't make it more true. It's still a pejorative based on a stereotype of homosexuality. It's not a made-up word, it's a word that already had exactly one contemporary definition, and has been appropriated for negative use. Again, compare "jewed".

On preview: formless, I'm fairly certain I saw that exact shirt for sale somewhere recently.

*leaves for lunch*
posted by contraption at 11:59 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a disabled person, I know people who have learning disabilities and use "retarded" pejoratively. I'm fine with it. In fact. I would prefer if it were used solely as a slur. "Retarded" carries with it connotations of stupidity, which is something a great many people with learning disabilities are not. Allow me to demonstrate:

"Teasing someone with learning disabillities is so retarded."

Or, in alternate form:

You're making fun of a disabled college student and you're a dropout? Retard.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:23 PM on March 27, 2007


Let me imagine I'm a geek and/or nerd.

Forgive me for thinking this is a relly facile example of the thought-experiment I suggested.

or I could turn them into a badge of honor.

Honor? I'd settle for equal rights.

Whether we like it or not, the word "gay" has taken on a meaning different than either of it's original meanings

This doesn't get truer the more straight people say it.

I'd wear the shirt with pride.

Of course you would-- because you'd get to take it off at the end of the day.
posted by hermitosis at 12:30 PM on March 27, 2007


"This doesn't get truer the more straight people say it. "

Well, OK. So we're gonna let outrage and victimhood replace honesty. "Gay" as used now is a similacra— a reference without a referent.
So no matter how many times homosexuals say that "gay" only means homosexual, that's not true either.
You can either argue like a noble martyr or like you're actually engaged with the issue on a rational level, and all the ad hominem about how straight people can't recognize that the word only means one thing is totally bullshit.
But hey, I'd bet all of this is gonna get nuked from orbit once some flags accumulate.
posted by klangklangston at 12:37 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


A reference without a referent?

If you asked almost anyone in the nation what the meaning of "gay" was, what do you think their answer would be?

They probably would not ask to clarify whether you meant it in an ironic or postcontextual way.

And in all sincerity I hope you will pardon me my arguments sound ennobling or like an exercise in martyrdom. What can I say, the country I live in seems to keep finding its foot on my neck. It makes a person touchy.
posted by hermitosis at 12:47 PM on March 27, 2007


"Duuude, that was totally a Black-Street Boy move".
"Sha - I can't believe he pussied up and totally nigged out like that."
"What are you bitches whining about?"
"That kyke ninja'd me out of the fat lootz, and now I'm a total War-Amputee with no gear!"

See - those words aren't perjorative at all! I'm just being linguistically lazy.
posted by matty at 12:57 PM on March 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


I am not all that shocked anymore to hear educated adults use "gay" to mean "stupid," but I am really surprised at how many people here are insisting that the pejorative use has nothing to do with actual gay people. It absolutely does. Decide to be ironic and un-PC if you want, but at least be honest about the effects of your choice: It makes most gay people and some straight people uncomfortable to hear you say it...and at the very least, it doesn't say anything positive about your opinion of gay people. If you're okay with that, great, but I sort of can't believe anyone is seriously trying to argue that the two are unrelated.

OP, since this is clearly bugging you, I do think it's worth saying something, as others have suggested, in a passing and non-confrontational way.
posted by Siobhan at 1:11 PM on March 27, 2007


Hey formless, Here's that T-shirt

sorry about the cafepress-ness
posted by contraption at 1:17 PM on March 27, 2007


All this talk about the meaning of the word having morphed into something else reminds me of when I lived in Texas and encountered the phrase "nigger-rigged." From what I was told, it meant something had been repaired in a lazy, half-assed way. It wasn't, I was assured, a racial slur -- just a way of describing how something had been repaired. Nothing offensive about it. No harm done. Yeah, um. Sure. Right. I believe that one.
posted by treepour at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


And so "lame" only refers to cripples? Even when it wouldn't make any sense? Or do we take a moment and realize that analogies only take us so far?

But if you ask a kid what he means when he says "That's so gay" I'll take your dollars to doughnuts that he won't answer "homosexual."
It is a muddy area, which I thought I made clear above, but yelping about being oppressed isn't addressing why the word is being used or providing any help in answering the original question.

"If you're okay with that, great, but I sort of can't believe anyone is seriously trying to argue that the two are unrelated."

Uh. That's because no one is seriously arguing that they're totally unrelated. But the link grows more and more tenuous as gay is used more and more in situations where it has been decouples with the primary meaning of "homosexual." (Which is why I used similacra above).
posted by klangklangston at 1:38 PM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


klang, Baudrillard is rolling in his grave. Simulacrum is singular, simulacra is plural. A word with multiple and evolved meanings is no simulacrum, any more than every word is. And so if your argument isn't just badly formed, you must be claiming no words have meaning.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2007


But if you ask a kid...

Sure then, let's just go along with what the kids do.
posted by hermitosis at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2007


I'm another vote for responding with

You sound like a 14 year old. Why do you still call things gay?

It's a great response. It doesn't necessarily force the homophobia issue, but it does point out to your friend that his language is not making him look good. It also serves as a light-hearted warning to your friend that his slang is out of date.

Followups for subsequent responses, to remind the guy that he needs to find some new slang that's millenium-appropriate:
'Gay'? Really? I had no idea it was 1988.
Oh, yeah, like totally gag me with a spoon.
'Retard' is so 5th grade. Aren't you on board with 'asshat' yet?
Nice language, 14-year-old Joe. Do you need my sock so you have something to masturbate into?
*

If you think it's appropriate to address the homophobia issue with these guys, and you think they'll listen and appreciate the issue, then I think it's worth bringing up. But it sounds like they have blinders on about this issue.
The truth is, their slang IS out-of-date. Its inappropriateness is exactly what makes it dated. It's a sad state that they'll be more receptive to taunts regarding being behind-the-times, but it sounds like that's the more effective way to address this.

*OK, that one's kind of out there, but once I came up with it, I had to include it.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 2:15 PM on March 27, 2007


Okay, I have a question.

It was an in-group homosexual theater slang that associated being overly happy with homosexuality. Kind of like the association of campiness with gays, only camp has gone on to have a meaning of its own.

Assuming this etymology is true, the homosexual community took a word meaning "happy" and co-oped it for their own use as part of an inter-community slang. And this link tells me that "gay," not "homosexual" is now the preferred term, though I don't know if that's true.

Now, a new generation wants to take the same word and change it's meaning again, and people are objecting. Especially the people who changed the original meaning of the word. This is what I don't entirely understand. Yes, you can make arguments that it offends and denotes homophobia, but, as with the term "gook," the original word was not offensive.

In cases like "nigger-rigged" or "Jewed" or "gypped," these are obvious attempts to associate a behavior with a class of people. But when a frat boy (or whoever, whatever) says "That computer game is so gay" he's not saying "That computer program wants to have sex with other men."
posted by Brittanie at 3:25 PM on March 27, 2007


Assuming this etymology is true, the homosexual community took a word meaning "happy" and co-oped it for their own use as part of an inter-community slang.

That's the first I've heard of such an etymology, and I certainly wouldn't assume that it was true. To the contrary, the OED seems to think it is derived more directly from a sense that has been associated with immorality for hundreds of years:
2. a. Addicted to social pleasures and dissipations. Often euphemistically: Of loose or immoral life. Esp. in gay dog, a man given to revelling or self-indulgence; gay Lothario: see LOTHARIO.

   b. Hence, in slang use, of a woman: Leading an immoral life, living by prostitution.

   c. Of a person: homosexual. Of a place: frequented by homosexuals. slang.
So I think the rest of Brittanie's analysis is out of place.
posted by grouse at 3:37 PM on March 27, 2007


I think there's an element of nostalgia in this use of the word "gay." Back then, we used "gay" to describe things that were effete, effeminate, and "fey" (whatever the hell "fey" means) because we had been taught that gay men were effeminate.

Well, we've grown up and we realize that gay men are generally not any more effeminate than any other man, yet our schoolyard use of gay has persisted. The use of the word gay has branched off from our attitudes toward gay people.

The fact that the word gay, at bottom, references the chosen sexual behavior of a class of people, the use of the word is further complicated by people's perpetually amused attitude toward sexual acts that are foreign to them. Even if they have the utmost respect toward, and solidarity with, gay people, some people just seem amused by gay sex. Compare that with the use of the word "nigger" --- it's been used, for fifty years, primarily as a term of loathing and oppression. By contrast, the term gay is often bandied about by people who are amused by gayness, but don't loathe gays.
posted by jayder at 3:45 PM on March 27, 2007


But when a frat boy (or whoever, whatever) says "That computer game is so gay" he's not saying "That computer program wants to have sex with other men."

No, I think he's basically saying "that computer program is as ridiculous and worthless as a gay person."
posted by treepour at 3:49 PM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Whatever you do, don't say you want them to stop because the words are offensive, or that you're offended. Offensive and offended have completely lost all meaning in the backlash against "PC" - it's cool to offend people now.

Words like "gay" and "retarded" have an innocent charm - that is I feel why people are so attached to it. But many people do get hurt by them, with good reason. And I think there are two kinds of people: the first who thinks, "Okay, these people seem hurt. It's just these one or two words that are not that important to me, and there are plenty of good subsitutes. They have hard enough lives already, and if I can make it a little bit easier, make the world a little bit more welcoming for them by not using a couple of words - why the hell not?" Then there's the other kind of people who would think, "these people seem hurt. Well I never intended to hurt them, so they should just fucking well get over it. These words don't hurt me, why should it hurt them? These people are fucking stupid - maybe I'll use these words even more, just to piss them off."

I like the first kind of people more.

Try this: "There's enough shit in the world, especially for people who are gay, or for people who are mentally retarded. Would it kill you to give them a couple of words, so that parts of their identities are not associated with negative things?"

In fact, 'gay' and 'queer' were descriptive words stolen from our language in the first place to relate to homosexuality.. so claiming them back for non-homosexual descriptive meaning is no crime.

"Stolen?" "Claim back?" Man, those evil gay people. Stealing YOUR WORDS just to have something to call themselves.
posted by Ira.metafilter at 5:54 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


In all things gay, I defer to Dan Savage:

Officially, FWFR? It's so not okay to use "gay" as a synonym for lame. When you use "gay" like that, you're reinforcing a cultural prejudice against gay people--I mean duh, right? You may not be a homophobe, but using that expression is homophobic, and when you use it you're helping to sustain the prejudice that deprives your gay friends of their civil rights and marriage rights.

Unofficially, FWFR? I don't care what you do. Most of the gay people I know use "that's so gay" the same way you do, and the few times I've overheard strangers using the expression, people who may or may not have been gay, I had to concede the point: The thing they were tagging as so gay was, in fact, so gay.

posted by Neiltupper at 5:58 PM on March 27, 2007


It's still a pejorative based on a stereotype of homosexuality.

I'm sorry, but it is definitely not certain that someone who says "gay" to mean "stupid" is even thinking about homosexuality, or any sort of sexuality. To claim otherwise presumes knowledge you cannot possibly have.

This doesn't get truer the more straight people say it.

You're right, but only because it is already true. You can't get truer than true.

Sure then, let's just go along with what the kids do.

Well, that would be the accurate thing to do. If you feel you have to teach a native speaker what a word means, you're wrong and they're right.

To offer a parallel example, the Russian word for German people is немцы. This means, in essence, deaf-mutes, and to me, implies that any speaker of Russian who refers to a German is insulting that person's ability to communicate verbally. I eagerly await an explanation as to how this is different from the example cited in this question.
posted by oaf at 6:02 PM on March 27, 2007


I think delmoi is right, by the way, but it's still a good story:

So: what the soldiers heard was 'me gook! me gook!' - i.e. 'I am a gook' - and so was born the pejorative slang using the sound 'gook' to refer to Koreans, and later all Asians, in an insulting and derogatory way. But the Koreans were actually saying 'America! America!'
posted by Ira.metafilter at 6:13 PM on March 27, 2007


Though the exact number is disputed, more than 70 percent of Korean nouns (particularly abstract ideas and the like) are, historically, loan words from Chinese. Chinese characters were used to write spoken Korean until (and after, up to today, although it's rapidly fading) the invention of hangeul in the 15th century.

So, yeah. My deep linguistic knowledge here is lacking. The story remains the same, though, even if one can't interpret the mi- (미-) syllable in this context to mean 'beautiful'. 'Gook' still derives from language collision.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:21 PM on March 27, 2007


Well, that would be the accurate thing to do. If you feel you have to teach a native speaker what a word means, you're wrong and they're right.

I don't think anybody's made the claim that people who call things "gay" are claiming that those things are literally homosexual, especially the OP's friends, who are clearly using the word out of habit and not thinking much about the connotations in the moment. I do think that anyone who uses "gay" pejoratively would acknowledge that it originates from a term for homosexuality, regardless of how they just used it in a particular sentence. It's not like the term just appeared out of nowhere and happened to coincide with an existing word.

To offer a parallel example, the Russian word for German people is немцы. This means, in essence, deaf-mutes, and to me, implies that any speaker of Russian who refers to a German is insulting that person's ability to communicate verbally. I eagerly await an explanation as to how this is different from the example cited in this question.

I have no idea how this term evolved and can't really compare it to the question at hand. I do think it's strange that you went so far afield (Cyrillic!) when there's an excellent, well-known English example upthread. How is "that's so gay" different from "You got jewed"?
posted by contraption at 6:55 PM on March 27, 2007


No, I think he's basically saying "that computer program is as ridiculous and worthless as a gay person."

Couldn't it mean that he doesn't understand it and isn't really interested in it? I don't think you can assume hatred there.
posted by almostmanda at 7:26 PM on March 27, 2007


I have no idea how this term evolved

And there we go—it doesn't matter how these terms evolved. All that matters is how the people who are saying it acquired that word in a sense that is pejorative and not even remotely sexual. Any use of the word prior to these speakers' acquisition of language is irrelevant. You cannot assume malicious intent just because you don't like the word.
posted by oaf at 7:37 PM on March 27, 2007


I'm not assuming maliciousness, I'm assuming laziness and indifference.

Any use of the word prior to these speakers' acquisition of language is irrelevant.

"Gay" is still in use today to describe sexuality, and the connotations of the pejorative "gay" match negative stereotypes that are still widely held about gay people (of course its meaning isn't sexual, very few negative gay stereotypes are specifically sexual).

oaf, the fact that I don't know anything about your weird, underexplained Russian "parallel" doesn't have much to do with it. In fact, I suspect you might have picked such an obscure example specifically so you could jump on anyone who didn't know the etymology with it doesn't matter how these terms evolved. "Gay" means "homosexual or having aspects of homosexuality". Used pejoratively, it means "having negative aspects associated with homosexuality."

No matter how the speaker feels about gay people, the word is built on a negative stereotype that is still widely held. If anyone can define the word in a way that has nothing to do with stereotypes of gay people (and more specifically than "bad"), I'd like to hear it.
posted by contraption at 8:16 PM on March 27, 2007


OP, here. Thanks for all the insightful answers and discussion, and thanks mods for not deleting what could have been construed as chatfilter. I tried to be generous in marking best answers and favorites, but I probably missed some.

Forgive me for gypping you all out of your well-deserved praise... ;)
posted by rossination at 8:56 PM on March 27, 2007


Er, fine, but phaedon quoting me and then adding "fucking great derail" being marked as a best answer doesn't make a lick of sense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:12 PM on March 27, 2007


On the topic of derails— Every time I look at the title of this, I think of that goddamned Disney show "That's So Raven."

Maybe I'll start bringing that up instead of "gay."
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 PM on March 27, 2007


rossination: that's white of you.
klang: that is going to kill when i unleash it on my teenage sibs.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:24 PM on March 27, 2007


the fact that I don't know anything about your weird, underexplained Russian "parallel" doesn't have much to do with it.

Correct. You don't need to put that word in quotes; it is indeed a parallel.

What you seem to be missing here is the underlying principle: when someone learns one particular meaning of a word from context, it doesn't matter what other meanings the word has—that meaning of that word is still a valid use, as long as other speakers of the language understand it to mean that. (Whether it's a completely separate entry in the mental lexicon, I'm not sure.) It's not laziness or indifference on the speaker's part; the word actually cam have that meaning among the speakers in this group.

It's entirely possible to use the word bitch in either of its common meanings (only one of which you can say in polite company) without even having it register as the same word, because it isn't, really. Similarly, you can call someone an "asshole" without the anatomical reference ever coming to mind. There's no laziness or ignorance involved.

If anyone can define the word in a way that has nothing to do with stereotypes of gay people (and more specifically than "bad"), I'd like to hear it.

The only way I've heard it used pejoratively, it does mean "bad" or "annoying" and has nothing to do with stereotypes. Granted, I think I managed to get out of high school before it became too widespread, but I have never heard it meaning anything involving exhibiting traits that are supposedly common among homosexual men.
posted by oaf at 12:55 AM on March 28, 2007


A lot of my gay friends will to refer to things being gay as a pejorative term, but the difference between their use of it and my straight friends use, is that the things my gay friends refer to as "gay" generally -are- "stereotypically gay".

For example, they would see an immaculately dressed, perfectly groomed guy mincing down the street lisping into his cell phone (gay stereotype, I warned you!) and say "oh my god, that's SO GAY!" as an insult. If something is ugly, stupid or pointless, they probably wouldn't use the term gay.

My straight friends would use the term "gay" in the way the OP describes— which really bugs me sometimes. I'm gay, and they don't seem to think of it as something that could offend me (possibly because they're not using the term "lesbian")... and they seem surprised when I pull them up on it.

I've got a few comebacks, depending on how sarcastic I'm feeling:
- "Yeah, it truly is homosexual, but you know in this homophobic climate, a lot of [insert supposedly gay object]'s are afraid to come out."
- "How do you know that? Did you sleep together? Does your mother know?"
- "You keep using that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means... what it really means is that you're an idiot."
posted by indienial at 1:04 AM on March 28, 2007


Language evolves, get over it. I get so angry at shit like this and maybe it's a cultural thing. I mean, I use words like gay, cunt, fuck, retarded, spastic all the time.

That's mighty white of you.

The only way I've heard it used pejoratively, it does mean "bad" or "annoying" and has nothing to do with stereotypes.

Oaf, you're deliberately being an oaf here. Gay came to mean homosexual. An implicit assumption that homosexuality is bad made it a simple transition to using "gay" to mean anything bad. However, gay has also kept its definition as a signifier of homosexual identity, which every person who uses the word in contemporary contexts is aware of. There is no one who says "that's so gay" who doesn't know that the word also means homosexual, and that's why it's offensive. It's equating homosexuality with something bad.

Your defensiveness in this matter is your own attempt at defending your privilege of choosing to be offensive to whomever you'd like to. Leaning on irrelevant discussions of semantics and etymology will not justify your being thoughtless, and will not excuse your defense of those who are thoughtless like you.
posted by anildash at 2:56 AM on March 28, 2007


Your defensiveness in this matter is your own attempt at defending your privilege of choosing to be offensive to whomever you'd like to. Leaning on irrelevant discussions of semantics and etymology will not justify your being thoughtless, and will not excuse your defense of those who are thoughtless like you.

I'd be insulted if it weren't glaringly obvious that you have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by oaf at 3:15 AM on March 28, 2007


It's so not okay to use "gay" as a synonym for lame.

What about using the word 'lame' to describe something as being undesirable? Which, as we all know, is a word to describe a physically handicapped person. I take offense to that. What about calling someone a 'dick'? As if a penis is an automatic indication of something bad, thus implying that all men are bad. Same goes for 'bastard', a word for a child born out of wedlock, in sin.

I'm not disputing your right to take offense to certain words and their etymological implications, but please be aware that this is a slippery slope. All the power to you if you can stay internally consistent in you moral outrage. Just be aware that your friends are probably going to get tired of hanging out with you when every (admittedly immature) curseword is going to be offensive to you. Not everyone shares your frame of reference.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:30 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do think that anyone who uses "gay" pejoratively would acknowledge that it originates from a term for homosexuality, regardless of how they just used it in a particular sentence.

Adults, perhaps. I know plenty of kids (myself included, when I was a wee lad) who learned the word "gay" to mean "stupid" or "bad" or "lame" before they had any idea what a homosexual was. Not that I'm trying to make excuses, but I think a big reason for why this usage seems so innocuous to so many of us straight folk is because we learned the word as just another synonym. This doesn't make it right, of course, but I think for most people (at least of my generation, folks growing up in the 80's), using gay in this connotation just doesn't have any connection to homosexuals in the brain. The same way I have different meanings for their, they're and there in my head that are in no way connected, I have no connection between "gay, as in lame" and "gay, as in homosexual". I still try not to use it, as I'm aware of the offense that it causes, but I can completely understand the confusion of folks who get called on it as well. The first time I was ever called out on it (unsurprisingly, when I was working in San Francisco), I was baffled because I had honestly never even made that connection in my head. My response was "OMG, so THAT'S how the connection between those two meanings came about... DUH!"
posted by antifuse at 3:46 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


My response was "OMG, so THAT'S how the connection between those two meanings came about... DUH!"

A leap that others seem to be having a hard time with, apparently.

It seems that people are bringing up a lot examples involving youth culture or noting that their own use originated innocently in youth. The point is that part of growing up means being responsible for your actions and your words. When you discover that the banal slang of your youth actually refers to sore spots in culture and has the power to hurt people (or make you look foolish), that is an opportunity to grow up a little and consider your role in-- and impact on-- society, however modest.

Clinging to these vestiges of peurile innocence because of an unwillingness to conduct oneself as an adult is one thing, and should be acknowledged as such. Okay, we get it, you're untameable (and peurile). Attempting to legitimize and validate them for safe adult real-world use is another. I'm no shining example of adulthood by any means, but I do try to make sure that if someone is harmed or embarrassed as a result of my caprices, it's just me-- not whoever is unfortunate enough to be within earshot of me wherever I go.

In other words, as most people have essentially recommended the OP say to his friends: Grow up.
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 AM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed -- METAtalk or email please, for continuing discussions of white bread and who is or is not an asshole.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:08 PM on March 28, 2007


OK, a little more bout the Russian term for Germans, which it turns out is really not a good parellel. After a bit of research (try googling "немцы"), I learned that "немцы" is a word that means "mute" and was originally applied to all non-Russian-speakers.

Since it doesn't seem to trade on any particular stereotype about Germans and didn't arise at a time when they were a persecuted minority in Russia (so far as I can tell), and also because it's a descriptive word being applied to a group of people (rather than the name of a group of people used as a general pejorative), it doesn't really have much in common with "gay." BTW, I used the quotation marks around "parallel" to express dubiousness about the claim of comparability, a perfectly legitimate use whether or not my suspicions were warranted.

Meanwhile, the extremely apt parallel "jewed" goes unaddressed. Is it okay to tell a stingy friend not to be so jewish? Clearly you don't mean they should quit celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday and keeping a kosher kitchen, so it's a different word and should be fine, right?
posted by contraption at 1:32 PM on March 28, 2007


It's mighty humble of you to call your own parallel "extremely apt," but "jewed" has nothing to do with this. The dudebros do not use "gay" to refer to something purple or whatever. Usually it's--
"Dude, Travis doesn't wanna go to the game tonight because he wants to go fuck Stacy."
"That's so gay, bro. What a faggot."

In other words, a generic synonym for "lame" or "bad," not a specific reference to a stereotype.

I am one of those people who used to be all PC about this shit, but now I think it's ridiculous. The point of swear words is that they're fucking taboo, okay? If you PC assholes get your way, we'll all have to go back to saying "gee willikers" and "my gosh."
posted by nasreddin at 1:57 PM on March 28, 2007


contraption, the history of a word is still immaterial to its acquisition. I would not use "gay" except to mean "homosexual," or, in rare cases, use it in the sense of having a good time. I would not use it in the pejorative sense that this question is about, and would prefer that no one else does, but that does not mean that I can assume that anyone who does use it as a pejorative is thinking even a single thing about homosexuals. Neither can you.

The bottom line is that there's no way to eradicate something from language that you find objectionable (just ask the language police). That's why we still have curse words.
posted by oaf at 2:01 PM on March 28, 2007


nasreddin: Not my parallel (Ctrl-f "jew"). Full disclosure: she does happen to be my girlfriend, so maybe I was sucking up a little.

So, the only actual argument I see here is that "Gay" as commonly used is too vague to be construed as referencing stereotypes of gay people. In my experience, people who call things gay may sometimes be using it to mean "generically bad" but they also use it to mean weak, ineffectual, touchy-feely, effeminate, etc. Travis, for instance, sounds kinda pussy-whipped to me, or at the very least not strong enough to buck up, master his desires, and go to that fuckin' game like he told his bros he would. In fact, he probably does wish Stacy was a dude.

On preview: oaf, as I said upthread, I don't think everyone who uses the term is thinking about gay people every time they use it. I do think every adult who has heard of gay people should be able to figure out that it's the same word, and that it would suck to be gay and hear people using something you identify as in a pejorative sense all the time.


rossination, if you're still reading this mess, I think I'm changing my opinion. You should mention it one time, and if they aren't receptive, maybe consider hanging out with those guys less.
posted by contraption at 2:37 PM on March 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Full disclosure: contraption is a Jew.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:47 PM on March 28, 2007


phaedon - my bad. Stray mouse clicks.

contraption - yes, I am, and ok, noted.

Ambrosia - I knew it! That explains why he was arguing about the price of the kosher wine last time I saw him at the supermarket.
posted by rossination at 7:40 PM on March 28, 2007


Supermarket? You must be thinking of someone else, I never buy retail.
posted by contraption at 8:23 AM on March 29, 2007


stavros, rossination: i have no idea what the hell you guys are talking about. sorry :)
posted by phaedon at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2007


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