Gay (Definition Essay) Essay, Research Paper
The word gay originated from the Old High German word gahi, which means ?rapid and impetuous.? In the twelfth century, the word gahi gave rise to the Middle French word gai, meaning ?merry and happily excited.? The English word gay was borrowed from the Middle French word gai in the fourteenth century. The word gay greatly reflects the cultural changes in English speaking countries. In English, the word was used to indicate excessive heterosexual activity. However, today, the word gay is often applied to male homosexuals.
Before the 1900?s, gay had been used as both positive and negative terms. Many authors used gay to indicate cheerfulness. ?Edward was the handsomest, the gayest, and the bravest prince in Christendom,? (1843 Lytton Last Bar. I. i.). In the seventeenth century, gay acquired a similar but more sinister meaning of ?addicted to social pleasures and dissipations.? In the eighteenth-century play, The Fair Penitent, Nicholas Rowe, the creator of the play, called the main character Lothario, ?Gay Lothario.? Lothario had become more generic for a seducer. However, this sense of gay had almost always been applied to men exhibiting vigorous heterosexuality.
After the 1900?s, the definition of gay has evolved to imply homosexuality. In the 1920?s, the ?devil-may-care? sense of gay gave rise to gaycat, a term originated in hobo slang, meaning ?a young and inexperienced tramp.? The young hobo needed to attach himself to a veteran in the community in order to survive. The relationship between the youth and the older man often turned into a sexual liaison. However, gay as an independent adjective meaning ?homosexual? surfaced in the early 1900?s. After World War II, as social attitude toward sexuality began to change, homosexuals applied the term gay to themselves openly.
Since the 1950?s, the understanding of the homosexual sense of gay had evolved greatly. Gay not only means ?exhibiting homosexuality? but can also apply to things that are related to or used by homosexuals, such as ?gay bar.? However, many female homosexuals tried to assert their independence from males of either sexual preference. They insisted that gay refers to males only, preferring the term lesbian for homosexual females. As a result, many people regard gay as a term for males.
Today, whenever gay appears on magazines or newspapers, teenagers often assume that it?s related to homosexual males. The word gay became a part of teenagers? slang. Anything that they dislike can be called gay, like ?gay song.? The inaccurate uses of gay are very offensive, and can often hurt people emotionally. It?s important for teenagers to know the history of the word gay and to realize that gay has additional meanings other than ?homosexual?, such as ?cheerful.?
the history of the word “gay”
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