Choosing language wisely

By Jason Dafnis

This is not a PSA. It’s not outcry from an equal-anything advocacy group. It’s certainly not part of anyone’s agenda. This is a desperate appeal to common sense.

In the past, using the word “gay” as a derogatory term for just about anything was, shall we say, en vogue. Frequenters of the term wrote it off as yet another harmless word used to convey dissatisfaction, equivalent to calling something “stupid” or “lame”. There’s one glaring flaw with that ideology—nobody, including the “offended”, truly takes it to heart when they’re arbitrarily referred to as “stupid”. If somebody attempts to offend another person by calling them stupid without true reference to their intellect, no third party will step in and assert, “I consider myself stupid, and I’m offended that you would use the term so loosely!”

The fact is that terminology and vernacular is contingent upon era context. Once upon a time, you might really ruffle someone’s feathers to call them a “square”. Do it in your next argument and you might get a chuckle or two, or it’ll be received with deadpan stares. Offensive terms are always context-sensitive, and when homosexual advocacy was “all the rage” a number of years ago, some less-tolerant groups attempted to adopt the word to their own previously-mentioned ends.

Today, although the homosexual community is far from admonished, tolerance has become a multi-sided issue as opposed to the binary butting of heads it used to be. Whole media are devoted to at least a condensed portrayal of the homosexual community (though often for comic effect and not always in a positive light). Excluding radical groups on either side, concessions are made and tensions have somewhat loosened.

This in mind, the derogatory use of the word “gay” has little offensive grounding anymore, even to the homosexual community at large. It’s lost whatever potency it may once have possessed. Its use is marred by an absence of creativity; it suggests a latent, herd mentality. There’s no persuasive tendency behind it; “gay” possesses no rhetorical value anymore. Ultimately, it shows a loss for any better words. When your trump card is debasing something by implying that it has sexual predisposition toward members of its same gender, the sentiment is already lost on the person or thing you were trying to offend.

The bottom line is that language is convenience. Nobody expects you to cut your jib like Shakespeare. But when you seek to offend someone or something, you want a convenient, quick-witted jab relevant to the situation at hand. Sorry, folks—“gay” just isn’t that word anymore.


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