Thursday, September 17, 2009

The word 'gay'

The word ‘gay’ is a perfectly good English word meaning a person who is carefree, happy and light-hearted and has been used in poetry and song. In earlier days it has no connection at all with homosexuality or lesbianism. I will admit it is an irritation to me that I can no longer use the word ‘gay’ in its original sense (I would not use it very often, but it is a useful word to have around). I mean if I had to say to my wife or friends that “Today I am feeling gay”, they would make some rude or disparaging comment about my sexual orientation. And yet I could quite legitimately say that – meaning I am feeling carefree, happy and light-hearted - which is a wonderful feeling.

Apparently round about the 1950s (according to my ‘ word bible’ the Oxford English Dictionary) things changed and the word ‘morphed’ into meaning what it does now – with homosexual connotations. The way these things happen is very mysterious.

This all came to my mind as, out of the blue (which frequently happens to me), I recalled that the British Royal Navy, in the 1950s, named some experimental Motor Gun Boats with the word ‘Gay’ as part of their name. One I seem to remember was called the “Gay Bombardier”. These were experimental in that they were the first (and possibly the last) boats to run entirely with gas turbine engines. They were very fast and, before the age of guided missiles, relatively heavily armed.

How things have changed! No one, today, would dream of calling a war ship ‘gay’ would they? I mean, Jeez, what is the world coming too?

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