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Mama Deb
.:::.:....... ..::...:
Mama Deb [userpic]
No, I'd think she'd not be

This can be filed under how language has changed since the late 19th C:

"Katy is a nice girl enough," pronounced her mother, "but not of the
sort to attract a gay young man, I should fancy."

From What Katy Did Next.

I'm reading 19th Century women's domestic fiction on Gutenberg just for something to DO.


You post this just as I'm starting to read a book on Medieval oral poetics. What timing. :)

The real question, for me at least, is when the word "gay" started to refer to homosexuals. I would think it hasn't been terribly long.

From the OED:

c. Of a person: homosexual. Of a place: frequented by homosexuals. slang.
1935 N. ERSINE Underworld & Prison Slang 39 Geycat,..a homosexual boy. 1951 E. LAMBERT Sleeping-House Party vii. 74 In a way it was an odd threesome. It occurred to me that Esther rather hung round our two gay boys. 1955 P. WILDEBLOOD Against Law I. 23 Most of the officers at the station had been ‘gay’..an American euphemism for homosexual. Ibid. III. 105 The place [sc. a prison] is packed with gay people who are in for something else. 1960 [see BENT ppl. a. 5c]. 1963 A. HERON Towards Quaker View of Sex iii. 24 These may form the ‘queer’ society; these will frequent ‘gay’ bars.
absol. 1966 A. FIRTH Tall, Balding, Thirty-Five xv. 194 Would he ever dare, even if he wanted to, join the shrill freemasonry of the London gay? 1968 Globe & Mail Magazine (Toronto) 13 Jan. 6/1 A coffee shop frequented by the gay.

So from about 1935ish or so. I'm not sure when or why the usage came into being.

I'm being long-winded here, but it's interesting stuff. And I want to go read "What Katy Did Next" now. :)

Two books I have put it significantly earlier than that, but only in New York City and only among certain groups: as early as 1890, "gay" was used as a noun to describe prostitutes, and within ten years it was used exclusively to describe male prostitutes.

The problem with slang before World War I is that it sometimes took years if not decades to make the transition from spoken word to print.

Although Gutenberg has a great many texts in text format, try the books at


for full text, public domain books with their original illustrations and photographs. You will never be bored again. Also, I read the Jane Austen books, online at:



Oh, I was reading it online (yes, Gutenberg) on Friday because I was bored!

I don't know about the USA, but a little later in the UK the usual locution for what is now described as "gay" was "safe in taxis" (ie Katy or her successors would not be raped or even molsested because he was Not That Way Inclined)

Given that Katy later married the young man in question, I'd say that was not the case. :)