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View Full Version : When was the last non-ironic use of the word "gay" to mean happy ?


griffin1977
01-05-2011, 02:29 AM
When was the last recorded time the word "gay" was used in popular culture (TV, radio, or mainstream print media) to mean happy, without any sexual connotations. I'm excluding deliberate attempts at humor or irony, or a quotation from some older source.

I'll start the ball rolling by suggesting the theme from the Flintstones ("we'll have a gay old time") from 1960. Can anyone beat that ?

penultima thule
01-05-2011, 03:23 AM
Well, still in current use in canine circles, a dog having a gay tail is a breed characteristic.

In some breed its mandatory, in others its considered a conformation fault.
A lot of dogs show gay tails when they are happy.

minlokwat
01-05-2011, 11:26 AM
A few Christmas songs use “gay” in the heterosexual sense.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (1943) features: “make the Yule-tide gay”.

Also the film Zorro: The Gay Blade (1963) used the word in the more traditional sense. (I think. Never did actually see the movie. Zorro's a straight guy right?)

RealityChuck
01-05-2011, 11:46 AM
Zorro, the Gay Blade was from 1981, and the title used "gay" as homosexual (Zorro had a gay brother who took his place).

The idea of gay = homosexual reached the mainstream around 1970. The definition of gay = cheerful and happy is still being used. The OED gives an example from 2003:

Village Voice (N.Y.) 22–28 Oct. 52/4 ‘There's no prizes for being happy and gay in a noir movie—that's failure,’ [Jane] Campion says with a shake of the head.(though, like "nice," you can't be 100% sure of the meaning).

kunilou
01-05-2011, 12:03 PM
The animated musical Gay Purr-ee (http://imdb.com/title/tt0057093/)was released in 1962. Obviously it was a pun on the older term "gay Paree," but still a non-ironic use of the word.

panache45
01-05-2011, 12:16 PM
"Gay" never meant "happy." It meant light-hearted, not-to-be-taken-seriously, even a bit silly or bubbly. A silly hat could be gay; feathers and sequins and glitter are gay. Butterflies are gay. Champagne is gay. None of these things are necessarily "happy."

And it should be obvious how this meaning shifted to meaning "gay men." We were considered to be outside the "serious" segments of society, "light in the loafers," and just flitting around from one gay party to another.

I don't have a cite for this, but I know Ayn Rand still used the original meaning in the 70s. And she used it correctly, not meaning "happy."

Ellen Cherry
01-05-2011, 12:16 PM
Thousands of us here in Kentucky regularly sing 'Tis summer, the people are gay ... (but rewritten from the original Stephen Foster lyric darkies are gay).

I think most people smile a little at it, but as far as I know we all mean it as "happy" when we sing. At least at horse races and basketball games.

Sampiro
01-05-2011, 02:45 PM
A bit off topic, but a bit related, so-

The 1960 movie Oscar Wilde (http://imdb.com/title/tt0053149/), starring Robert Morley, ends on a scene with the disgraced Wilde drinking at a sidewalk cafe during his self-imposed exile in Paris. Wilde has just been abandoned by one of his few remaining friends (who finds him a depressed drunken boor in his current state) and when the waiter brings the bill Wilde asks him

Will you ask the orchestra to play something gay?

then he guffaws with laughter.

Does anybody know if this movie- which dealt with his sodomy trial and rent boys- meant that in the present tense?

Mops
01-05-2011, 06:11 PM
I remember a young female character in the novel Dinosaur Planet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinosaur_Planet_%28novel%29) being described as gay, apparently in the old sense. The novel was published in 1978.

Spoke
01-05-2011, 06:20 PM
Twistin' the Night Away (http://youtube.com/watch?v=jSoPeZMHMf4) - Sam Cooke (1962)

Let me tell you 'bout a place
somewhere up New York way
where the people are so gay
twistin' the night away

Miller
01-05-2011, 07:20 PM
Also the film Zorro: The Gay Blade (1963) used the word in the more traditional sense. (I think. Never did actually see the movie. Zorro's a straight guy right?)

Here's a picture of the titular hero from that film. (http://zorrolegend.com/zorrogayblade/gayblade4.jpg)

Sampiro
01-05-2011, 07:21 PM
Contemporaneous with The Flinstones, the musical Camelot premiered in December 1960 and featured the song Lusty Month of May (lyrics (http://stlyrics.com/lyrics/camelot/thelustymonthofmay.htm)) that had "It's gay!" as a recurring line in the "carefree and jovial" sense. Apparently it wasn't drawing snickers in 1960.

I've wondered if the name of the titular nightclub La Cage Aux Folles, which premiered as a play in 1973, came from this 1940s Donald Duck cartoon (http://youtube.com/watch?v=6R53S0VHQ1s).

We're three caballeros
Three gay caballeros
They say we are birds of a feather...

SciFiSam
01-05-2011, 07:30 PM
Lionboy (http://amazon.co.uk/Lionboy-Zizou-Corder/dp/0141317264), a YA book published in 2005, used the word gay to mean brightly coloured several times. I only know this because I've read the book and my eyes widened when seeing the word used that way.

I could go and search through the book for a page number, but then it still wouldn't count as a cite because it wouldn't be online, and do any of us really want to Google 'gay lionboy?' I mean hell, even if you're into that, it'd take about 1400 pages before you found the right cite. This could, of course, be a nice valid excuse for any closeted gay furries out there. :)

TBG
01-05-2011, 08:15 PM
What about uses of Gay as a woman's name? Or even the alternate spelling Gaye? When was the last time that popped up in popular culture?

No, Gaylord Focker does not count.

BrainGlutton
01-05-2011, 08:33 PM
"Gay" never meant "happy." It meant light-hearted, not-to-be-taken-seriously, even a bit silly or bubbly. A silly hat could be gay; feathers and sequins and glitter are gay. Butterflies are gay. Champagne is gay. None of these things are necessarily "happy."

And it should be obvious how this meaning shifted to meaning "gay men." We were considered to be outside the "serious" segments of society, "light in the loafers," and just flitting around from one gay party to another.

I don't have a cite for this, but I know Ayn Rand still used the original meaning in the 70s. And she used it correctly, not meaning "happy."

As I understand it, "gay" to mean homosexual derives from "gay boy," Victorian slang for a male prostitute. Where that came from I don't know.

BrainGlutton
01-05-2011, 08:37 PM
Twistin' the Night Away (http://youtube.com/watch?v=jSoPeZMHMf4) - Sam Cooke (1962)

Let me tell you 'bout a place
somewhere up New York way
where the people are so gay
twistin' the night away

How about "Hey, Bartender": (http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZzP0GCILr7c)

I went balling the other night
I started drinking and got real tight
I blew each and all my friends
I felt so good I had to blow 'em again

I said, "Hey bartender
"Hey man, lookie here
"A draw one, draw two, draw three, four glasses of beer!"

("Blow" once meant "to treat," "to buy for," as in, "Sure, Mike, if you'll blow me to a pail of suds!")

Sam A. Robrin
01-05-2011, 08:48 PM
People who spent their time drinking and club-hopping, with concomitant sexual adventurousness were said, a hundred years or so ago, to be living "the gay life." It would necessarily have included homosexuals, and eventually evolved to only that singular meaning.
My only complaint is that there is no other word to mean exactly what "gay" once did.

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
01-05-2011, 09:13 PM
I've wondered if the name of the titular nightclub La Cage Aux Folles, which premiered as a play in 1973, came from this 1940s Donald Duck cartoon (http://youtube.com/watch?v=6R53S0VHQ1s).

We're three caballeros
Three gay caballeros
They say we are birds of a feather...I don't know, but here's an old thread (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showthread.php?t=319232&highlight=bird%2A) that mentions numerous gay/bird references.

BrotherCadfael
01-05-2011, 09:32 PM
The song "Glitter and be Gay" from the musical Candide was very clearly using the term in the classic sense. The heroine, forced into a life of prostitution, was attempting to put on a happy, antic disposition to cheer herself up. It's been a long time since I've seen it, so there could have been some punning reference buried in the lyrics, but, overall, it has nothing to do with the modern sense of the word.

By the way, Dick Cavett used the melody of "Glitter and Be Gay" as the theme song of his old talk show.

Baker
01-05-2011, 09:34 PM
What about uses of Gay as a woman's name? Or even the alternate spelling Gaye? When was the last time that popped up in popular culture?

No, Gaylord Focker does not count.

I'm 56, and a woman who would be a couple of years older than me lived next door when we were kids. Her name was Gay. That meant she was born and named in the early 1950's.

An Gadaí
01-05-2011, 09:46 PM
What about uses of Gay as a woman's name? Or even the alternate spelling Gaye? When was the last time that popped up in popular culture?

No, Gaylord Focker does not count.

Well there's the popular Irish talkshow host, Gay Byrne (short for Gabriel). Supposedly when he went to try make it big in America somebody suggested he use a different name, so he was asked his middle name. It's Mary.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Byrne

Mahaloth
01-05-2011, 09:54 PM
Uh, Cecil did tackle how gay came to mean homosexual some years ago.

How did "gay" come to mean "homosexual"? (https://academicpursuits.us/columns/read/517/how-did-gay-come-to-mean-homosexual)

Spoke
01-06-2011, 12:43 AM
I think the 70s were still transitional. I recall a sitcom scene (can't remember which show) where a visitor in a family's home announced "I'm gay!" to which the clueless mother replied "That's wonderful! We love happy people!"

panache45
01-06-2011, 12:48 AM
My only complaint is that there is no other word to mean exactly what "gay" once did.

I totally agree.

jackdavinci
01-06-2011, 02:22 AM
People who spent their time drinking and club-hopping, with concomitant sexual adventurousness were said, a hundred years or so ago, to be living "the gay life." It would necessarily have included homosexuals, and eventually evolved to only that singular meaning.
My only complaint is that there is no other word to mean exactly what "gay" once did.

I think 'party-boy' and 1000 other slang example on urban dictionary will get you where you need to go, although that's a pretty specific use of the word gay.

I'd say the more general meaning can be covered by whimsy and whimsical, or in the extreme, fabulous.

Sigmagirl
01-06-2011, 08:20 AM
I'm 56, and a woman who would be a couple of years older than me lived next door when we were kids. Her name was Gay. That meant she was born and named in the early 1950's.
I have a friend whose middle name is Gay, and she is younger than your friend, so it was being used later than that.

Sam A. Robrin
01-06-2011, 08:27 AM
I'd say the more general meaning [of "gay"] can be covered by whimsy and whimsical, or in the extreme, fabulous.

But those words are so ... gay!

RealityChuck
01-06-2011, 08:36 AM
As I understand it, "gay" to mean homosexual derives from "gay boy," Victorian slang for a male prostitute. Where that came from I don't know.From "gay woman," a female prostitute.

Sampiro -- it certainly could have meant it as "homosexual." The term, of course, existed, and was used until the 1960s by gays as a shibboleth to identify other gays. If you saw a stranger who you were attracted to, you could ask him if he knows any places where you can have a gay time. A gay man would know what that meant, while a straight man would not. Since Cary Grant knew the term in the 1930s, it's likely that someone else in Hollywood knew the term by 1960.

The movie title that most amusingly affected by the change is The Gay Falcon (http://imdb.com/title/tt0033650/). It introduced a series of detective films about the Falcon (first played by George Sanders, then by his brother, Tom Conway, who played the Falcon's brother and took over his detective practice. The title of the film derived from the fact that Saunders's character was named "Gay Lawrence," with "Gay" being his actual name. In any case, the film title sounds nowadays like a very strange sequel to a well-known Bogart film.

billfish678
01-08-2011, 08:01 PM
There was a previous thread here on the SDMB (past year or so IIRC) regarding the cultural use of the word "gay" and its change in meaning.

Lots of debate and personal observations.

Then somebody comes along and gives data on how many children in the US were given the name Gay. The number dropped like a rock in a few short years. To me that was pretty damn solid and good evidence of when gay shifted to one major meaning to another.

I'll let somebody else with better search foo find the actual thread.

RealityChuck
01-08-2011, 10:28 PM
You mean the Baby Name Voyager (http://babynamewizard.com/voyager#prefix=gay&ms=false&exact=true). Though "Gay" for a male had died out around 1900.

I don't think anyone disputes the fact that the term "gay" for sexual orientation entered the mainstream in the early 70s. However, it is still used in the meaning of "carefree" even now.

TruCelt
01-08-2011, 10:54 PM
My Mother's hometown is called "Gay." It's a very small town, and I'm fairly certain that the older inhabitants still don't know why their name makes people giggle.

Markxxx
01-09-2011, 12:11 AM
In 1981 Diana Ross reached #7 with her version of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," which asks the question, "Why do birds sing so gay"

fuzzypickles
01-09-2011, 01:11 AM
There's always Gay Rosenthal (http://imdb.com/name/nm0742756/), producer of Behind the Music and many other TV shows.

And, to my surprise: "Throw another faggot on the fire" (http://daveandthomas.net/2010/08/30/throw-another-faggot-on-the-fire-video/) is not unique to Tolkien! :eek:

Little Nemo
01-09-2011, 01:27 AM
This predates several of the other mentions already made, but I was watching the trailer for the 1947 movie The Ghost and Mrs Muir today and it non-ironically called the movie "a gay romantic comedy".

The movie was later made into a sitcom that featured Charles Nelson Reilly and I assume any gay references at that point were intentionally ironic.

RachelChristine
01-09-2011, 11:27 AM
I had a student who graduated a year or so ago named Natasha Gay. She'd be about 20 now. She was extremely embarrassed about it, but it was a family name.

There is also a town here in WV called Fort Gay. There was a big deal last year when a guy from there got kicked off xbox live for using such an inappropriate word in his profile. It was eventually rectified, but if I remember right he had to fight them on it for awhile.

Clothahump
01-11-2011, 11:29 AM
In 1997, Loreena McKennitt's album The Book Of Secrets had a song called The Mummer's Dance (http://youtube.com/watch?v=KqKc_8ZtuAY) (one of my personal favorites). It contains a refrain:

We've been rambling all the night
And some time of this day
Now returning back again
we bring a garland gay

Annie-Xmas
01-11-2011, 11:36 AM
In 1981 Diana Ross reached #7 with her version of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," which asks the question, "Why do birds sing so gay"

The song was written in 1956 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Do_Fools_Fall_in_Love_(song)). Big hit for Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. Lymon was 14 when the song was released!

I know a 30 year old woman with the name of "Gai Spann."

Lasciel
01-11-2011, 11:48 AM
And, to my surprise: "Throw another faggot on the fire" (http://daveandthomas.net/2010/08/30/throw-another-faggot-on-the-fire-video/) is not unique to Tolkien! :eek:

One of the crowning moments of my utter clueless dorkitude was being informed of the current meaning of faggot.

I knew from really young that it was firewood (from Tolkien and other old fantasy and historical fiction), and I knew that a fag was a cigarette (from slightly newer fiction), and I even knew that "fagging" was something that British younger school boys did for their older classmates in a sort of hierarchical/hazing pecking order thing (from Enid Blyton's "5" series, Jules Verne's "The Long Vacation," and others).

Needless to say, I did NOT know that it was a term for gay men until I was in college.

The progression makes sense, understand, but I never would have gotten there without a kind (and a bit bemused) friend telling me point blank what it meant.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
01-11-2011, 12:04 PM
In 1997, Loreena McKennitt's album The Book Of Secrets had a song called The Mummer's Dance (http://youtube.com/watch?v=KqKc_8ZtuAY) (one of my personal favorites).

Also from 1997, Bob Dylan's "Standing in the Doorway" contained the lines:

I'm strummin' on my gay guitar
Smokin' a cheap cigar...

Like many of the lyrics on Time Out of Mind, the "gay guitar" line was alluding to an old folk song, but I think it counts as a modern usage.

cochrane
01-12-2011, 01:11 PM
Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O'Sullivan, 1972.

To think that only yesterday,
I was cheerful, bright, and gay.
Looking forward to,
Well, who wouldn't do
The role I was about to play?

Freddy the Pig
01-12-2011, 04:06 PM
Well there's the popular Irish talkshow host, Gay Byrne (short for Gabriel).And of course the American (male) writer Gay Talese, born in 1932. I don't believe his Gay is short for anything.

ministryman
01-12-2011, 04:37 PM
OMG!

I can't believe no one said this:

"West Side Story" - the movie

"I feel pretty,
Oh so pretty
I feel pretty and witty and Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay"

And that Sam Cooke song is ironic, since he *could* have been talking about Greenwich Village......

"Let me tell you 'bout a place
somewhere up New York way
where the people are so gay
twistin' the night away"

JThunder
01-12-2011, 11:20 PM
Here's a more recent one. The musical number Happy Working Song from the movie Enchanted contains the following stanza:


And you'll trill a cheery tune in the tub
As we scrub a stubborn mildew stain
Lug a hairball from the shower drain
To the gay refrain
Of a happy working song

Markxxx
01-13-2011, 12:43 AM
The song was written in 1956 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Do_Fools_Fall_in_Love_(song)). Big hit for Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. Lymon was 14 when the song was released!

I know a 30 year old woman with the name of "Gai Spann."

Exactly my point, note I said HER version. Diana still felt comfortable enough with the word to release the song. You will note back in the 70s even the Flintstones specials changed the word "gay" to "grand" for a few of the specials, before giving up and going back to the original lyrics.

In the 80s gay basically became synonymous with AIDS. Though usage of the word gay was sporadic at best in the 70s, it became very difficult to use in the age of AIDS.

Of course till gay today which has taken on a new meaning as Gay=Lame

JThunder
01-13-2011, 09:43 AM
BTW, my example from Enchanted is from the year 2007. I think it wins.

Hal Briston
01-13-2011, 09:56 AM
I'm have here my childhood copy of The Charlie Brown Dictionary (c.1973), which now resides on The Littlest Briston's bookshelf.

It's a simple thing, really -- for most words, it's just

"Word in question"
"Word used in a sentence"
"Alternate sentence giving contextual definition"

According to Schultz:
gay
Snoopy is gay.
Snoopy is happy.

Contrapuntal
01-13-2011, 10:00 AM
Here's a picture of the titular hero from that film. (http://zorrolegend.com/zorrogayblade/gayblade4.jpg)If he's all titular and shit he ain't gay. Just sayin'. Tits Rule!

One And Only Wanderers
01-13-2011, 10:13 AM
nm someone got this one

Don Draper
01-13-2011, 11:12 AM
I think the 70s were still transitional. I recall a sitcom scene (can't remember which show) where a visitor in a family's home announced "I'm gay!" to which the clueless mother replied "That's wonderful! We love happy people!"

I think you're thinking about the movie Next Stop, Greenwich Village (http://imdb.com/title/tt0074963/). Specifically, the scene in which the main characters' mother (played by Shelley Winters!) accidentally crashes a party he's holding in his GV apartment.

Mother (Winters): Who are you?
Black gay guy: I'm Leonard Bernstein.
Mother: YOU'RE jewish?
Black gay guy: No, darlin', I'm gay!
Mother: Well, I don't care how you feel, but you're a real good dancer.

Movie was released in '76 (though it takes place in the early 50s.)


I happen to know a guy named "Gaylord." He's in mid 60s though, so he'd have been born in the late 40s/early 50s.

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