Gay Information

The term gay was originally used, until well into the mid-20th century, primarily to refer to feelings of being "carefree", "happy", or "bright and showy"; it had also come to acquire some connotations of "immorality" as early as 1637.

The term later began to be used in reference to homosexuality, in particular, from the early 20th century, a usage that may have dated prior to the 19th century. In modern English, gay has come to be used as an adjective, and occasionally as a noun, that refers to the people, practices, and culture associated with homosexuality. By the end of the 20th century the word gay was recommended by major style guides to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. At about the same time, a new, pejorative use became prevalent in some parts of the world. In the Anglosphere, this connotation, among younger generations of speakers, has a derisive meaning equivalent to rubbish or stupid . In this use the word does not mean "homosexual", so that it can be used, for example, of an inanimate object or abstract concept of which one disapproves, but the extent to which it still retains connotations of homosexuality has been debated.

The word "gay" arrived in English during the 12th century from Old French gai, most likely deriving ultimately from a Germanic source. For most of its life in English, the word's primary meaning was "joyful", "carefree", "bright and showy", and the word was very commonly used with this meaning in speech and literature. For example, the optimistic 1890s are still often referred to as the Gay Nineties. The title of the 1938 French ballet Gaîté Parisienne , which became the 1941 Warner Brothers movie, The Gay Parisian, also illustrates this connotation. It was apparently not until the 20th century that the word began to be used to mean specifically "homosexual", although it had earlier acquired sexual connotations.

Wikipedia, Gay, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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