Things Used To Be Queer

May 11, 2010 · 5 comments

My mother embarrassed me to death at a funeral one time. She remarked to a friend that when I was a young lad I used to have a lot of boyfriends at the house. My brother picked this up and laughed like a jackass, knowing full well that Mom didn’t understand what she was saying in context of the language today. To her way of thinking, I had friends who were boys, thus I had boy friends.

Certain English words have morphed, all in a single generation into language my mother and her peers wouldn’t understand.

When I was a kid it was not a social or moral issue to be gay. In fact we had fagots piled behind the woodshed. My mother often said that my uncle Dan was queer. Dad agreed and said,
“Well, he does act a little queer sometimes, like the time he sold his boy to the Gypsies.”
Every morning as she sipped her black coffee, she would tap a fag out of the pack, light up and take a drag on it. If she smiled I knew she was going to have a gay day.

Certain English words have morphed, all in a single generation into language my mother and her peers wouldn’t understand.

Of course my father used words that would “weird out” some people if they heard it today. When he told me, “Go get me a hoe” I didn’t hit the street looking for lusty women. Dikes (or Dykes) held back water and butch was a style of haircut for men.

Walt Disney made fairies come to life, fruit was what we picked off trees. Often my dad would say a man was “light on his feet” referring to a boxer. A queen ruled a country, drag usually referred to racing a car or pulling something along.

We sang Christmas carols such as “Deck The Halls” with a line that goes, “Don we now our gay apparel” and ate fruit cake during the holidays. The only thing I remember that sucked was the vacuum cleaner. And only the wind “blowed.”

I wonder why the language has taken so many words regarding sexual preference and redefined them? Is there any other group that has brought about such a transformation of language? I don’t think so. Everyone is pigeon-holed into a class whether they like it or not. And every class has its pejorative slang, some from the outside, some self imposed.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

mari May 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

just a note ~~ did you know that your rss feed is apparently set to “summary”?

my mom still goes on and on about her “girlfriends” and it makes me giggle. i keep telling her it doesn’t mean what it used to. she’s just sixteen years older than me, but there may as well be a thirty year gap there some times.

drag usually referred to racing a car or pulling something along

one of my favorite one-liners: “the only thing i can’t stand about the drag races are the high heels.”
.-= mari´s last blog ..favorite phrase of the day =-.

Hal May 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

Hi Mari,
Thanks for the comment. Yes, I always set the feed to summery.

Karen May 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Hi Hal,

I was smiling throughout this post because it brought back a lot of memories for me, too. I’m not from the UK, but here in Canada we said a lot of the same stuff and it had the same meanings (Not anymore!).

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I have no answers as to why the words have been hi-jacked to mean something else, but I guess that’s just part of the English language evolution.

.-= Karen´s last blog ..How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing – Guest Post =-.

Kissie May 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I promise you I thought my mother was the only person in this world who used that word, queer. I understand her using it when I was a kid but um, …… it’s like (at least) forty years later! Doesn’t she know yet? I won’t be the one to break the news.

There is absolutely no other language like the English language (and trust me, it’s the only one I know how to speak – so I know it’s true.)

Nowadays one of my favorite bookmarked sites is Urban Dictionary because my son (who is graduating from high school tomorrow) comes home with a word that means one thing but I have the hardest time trying to comprehend his usage of it. (They’re not always related to or tied to sex….. I think that’s “our” generation … you know the people who only THINK about it.)
.-= Kissie´s last blog ..In Appreciation =-.

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