Sunday, May 13, 2007

Are we talking the same language here?

I just knew I was too old for this Facebook stuff! In a previous post I made reference to a group called “the word ’gay’ is not a synonym for ‘stupid’”. Now I have been known to get the odd brain cramp now and then, but with that name and an accompanying rainbow logo (I didn’t misunderstand the meaning of that!), I naturally assumed that this group had something to do with gay activism. And it does, sort of. But jumping to that conclusion was, to use the expression that the group is protesting, pretty gay of me.

It turns out that some of today’s younger generation have started using the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘stupid’. And it further turns out that the gay community has an issue with that because it is felt to demean and belittle homosexuality. Now I don’t think for a minute that we should be looking for ways to intentionally demean and/or belittle any group, but don’t people see the irony in this? It wasn’t that long ago that the male homosexual community appropriated the word ‘gay’ to define themselves. I also seem to recall that, at the time, lots of people were quite offended at this new use of a term which previously meant ‘happily excited’, ‘bright’, or ‘merry’ – not adjectives that would naturally come to mind when describing a person’s sexual orientation. In fact, straight people who are naturally happy-go-lucky and lively should, by rights, be up in arms because by that logic they too are now being labelled as stupid, but I expect they aren’t quite as sensitive.
So now there’s a veritable firestorm raging on the pages of Facebook, with competing points of view, flame wars, and new groups popping up like dandelions in spring (now there’s a gay image – a field of dandelions in full bloom). Where will it end? Who knows? Languages evolve, and this is either a fad that will fade in time like the beatnik language common among younger folks in the 50’s or it will become an established part of the English language and the homosexual community will co-opt some other term to use as a label. Either way, I’m still not going to join any group which has as its only focus an objection to the way in which some people use the English language, although I might make an exception for a group that advocated making the use of the word ‘like’ by anyone under the age of 21 illegal.

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