LETTER:”Gay” has many meanings

Nancy E. Suby-Bohn

It is nice to hear a person of the press talking against the freedom of speech (“`Gay’ shouldn’t be tossed around loosely”).

We all want our rights to free speech, but when do our rights take away the rights of someone else?

I also support Des Moines public schools in the pursuit to remove all name-calling when used in a mean and abusive way.

However, when researching the word gay, normally one does not use just one current form of reference. As the article states, Webster New World Dictionary does define gay as being: 1. Joyous and lively, 2. Bright, 3. homosexual.

But if you look back in time to see what the current definitions replace, you will notice according to Webster 1964: 1. Excited with merriment, merry, 2. Bright in appearance; brilliant in color, 3. Given to social pleasure or indulgence; hence, loose, licentious; as in a “gay” life.

Or how abut 1962 Oxford Illustrated Dictionary, “full of or disposed to or indicating mirth; light hearted, sportive; airy, off-hand. Cheeky, impertinent, dissolute, immoral, living by prostitution; showy, brilliant, bright-coloured, finely dressed.”

As you see by doing research, Webster’s, “joyous and lively” replaces “excited with merriment, merry” – I would say means the same; “bright” replaces “bright in appearance; brilliant in color” – I would also say means the same. How about “homosexual”? Does it replace “social pleasure or indulgence; hence, loose, licentious; as in a `gay’ life”?

So when we call something “gay,” are we using it in an inappropriate slang, or are we using it according to the dictionary’s definition? Just because a dictionary decided to shorten the wording of a definition doesn’t mean the definition has changed.

Now this raises a question. Is one who acts gay a homosexual or is a homosexual one who acts gay? And if “gay” in an inappropriate word, then why are we calling homosexuals “gay”?

Nancy E. Suby-Bohn

Des Moines