Anorak News | Lord Hylton says through his beard that homosexuals and ‘poofs’ stole the word ‘gay’

Lord Hylton says through his beard that homosexuals and ‘poofs’ stole the word ‘gay’

by | 4th, June 2013

Lord Hylton gay

Lord Hylton and his beard

LORD Hylton, a parliamentary crossbencher is upset that homosexuals “stole” the word gay. Says he to the House of Lords:

“I regret very much that the fine old English and French word ‘gay’ has, in my lifetime, been appropriated by a small but vocal minority of the population.”

He adds:

“The result is that it can no longer be used in its original and rather delightful meaning. Now, under the pretext of securing equality, Her Majesty’s Government are proposing to change the meaning of marriage. It is surprising that the leaders of the Conservative Party, who might be expected to uphold traditional values, should lend themselves to this attempt.”

When did it change?

Jeremy Thorpe, the former Liberal leader, is said to have used the word gay to mean homosexual in the early 1960s. Lord Hylton was born in 1932. Might it have been that he was late to see what gay meant? The OED tells us:

The present work reviews all of the older senses of the word (noble, bright, light-hearted and merry, dissolute, etc.) from the Middle Ages onwards, and then looks in particular at borderlines: in particular, the shady border between pre-1940s use in homosexual contexts and post-1940s use when gay was used explicitly with reference to homosexuals. The entry presents (in parentheses) a number of early usages of the word in contexts where a present-day reader might jump to the conclusion that the sense ‘homosexual’ was intended, but where from consideration of the overall history this cannot be confidently asserted. The entry also finds the noun use as early as 1953 (previously 1971).

The British Library says the word is changing:

The 2003 addition records the new slang sense which is now commonly used by many UK teenagers in informal colloquial contexts, where gay is used as a synonym for socially inappropriate or disapproved of. There is anecdotal evidence that gay in this new slang sense has been diffusing through UK schools for ten years, but the first citation here, from the US, is from 1978.

In trying to make words stand still and own them, Hylton looks ridiculous. Our patron, Old Mr Anorak, has a poof in his chambers. He’s delighted that the word has now been reclaimed from the illiberal anti-homosexual jokers of the 1970s. He sits on his poof with ease.

In Kingsley Amis’s guide, The King’s English, the writer considers the word gay:

The use of this word as an adjective or noun applied to a homosexual has received unusually prolonged execration. The “new” meaning has been generally current for years. Gay lib had made the revised Roget by 1987 and the word itself was listed in the 1988 COD under sense 5 as a homosexual . . . And yet in this very spring of 1995 some old curmudgeon is still frothing on about it in the public print and demanding the word “back” for proper heterosexual use . . . [O]nce a word is not only current but accepted . . . no power on earth can throw it out . . . The word gay is cheerful and hopeful, half a world away from the dismal clinical and punitive associations of homosexual.

The OED entry for Gay traces its changing definition from light and carefree to homosexual and, more recently, feeble (see playgrounds).

In time, homosexuality may well need a new word. We’d suggest Hylton or the snappier Hyl as in ‘He’s bit Hyl’. Or why not look to m’lord’s de-pomped name, Raymond Jolliffe. Maybe Ray could be the new gay? Best to play around with the words, try them out and see which one catches on. And ditch the beard.

Photo: United Kingdom’s House of Lords Member Lord Hylton, left, and Qatar’s Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs minister Faisal Al Mahmood attend the opening ceremony of The Fourth Conference on Dialogue between Religions held in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday, April 25, 2006. Eye to the front, m’lud. Eyes to the front.

Posted: 4th, June 2013 | In: Key Posts, Politicians Comments (2) | TrackBack | Permalink