1907 Theater Poster
Over time, the meanings of words can change drastically. In my lifetime, one word whose meaning has changed more than just about any other is gay.
When I was growing up, the word had nothing at all, as far as I knew, with sexual preferences. There were other words that were used for that, words that could be — and were — used as verbal weapons. Gay, on the other hand, implied joy, happiness, pleasantness — in other words, it had positive and pleasant connotations.
Today, when someone refers to another individual as gay, they are not implying anything about positive emotions, but neither are they, necessarily, saying anything negative. In many ways, the transformed word has supplanted other words that, in their own way and the way they were used, were twisted and nasty.
And that’s generally a good thing.
But the old words are still there, along with the hate and bigotry. And that’s unfortunate.
Definitions of gay on the Web:
- cheery: bright and pleasant; promoting a feeling of cheer; “a cheery hello”; “a gay sunny room”; “a sunny smile”
- full of or showing high-spirited merriment; “when hearts were young and gay”; “a poet could not but be gay, in such a jocund company”- Wordsworth; “the jolly crowd at the reunion”; “jolly old Saint Nick”; “a jovial old gentleman”; “have a merry Christmas”; “peals of merry laughter”; “a mirthful …
- given to social pleasures often including dissipation; “led a gay Bohemian life”; “a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies”
- brave: brightly colored and showy; “girls decked out in brave new dresses”; “brave banners flying”; “`braw’ is a Scottish word”; “a dress a bit too gay for her years”; “birds with gay plumage”
- offering fun and gaiety; “a festive (or festal) occasion”; “gay and exciting night life”; “a merry evening”
- homosexual or arousing homosexual desires
- homosexual: someone who practices homosexuality; having a sexual attraction to persons of the same sex