Posted: 19 July 2014
The words ‘hashtag’, ‘selfie’ and ‘tweep’ were among 150 new words added to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary this year; and with selfies being taken by everyone from Barack Obama to Pope Francis to Kim Kardashian, it’s little wonder this word is among those making the list. While the evolution of language has, with technology, become all the more rapid, language remains one of the most vital tools underpinning a society. It is language that shapes reality for the members of a society, allowing us to attach meanings to things. Words convey reality and the better a language is used, the more precisely concepts can be understood. Inversely, the poor use of language can misinform a person or a whole society, about a particular truth.
Enter the word ‘gay’. Originating in 12th century England the original meaning was ‘joyful’ or ‘carefree’. By the end of the 20th century, the word gay became the recommended and preferred term for persons experiencing homosexual feelings. While I am not losing sleep that a word once meaning joy has become the key identifier around homosexual actions, what does concern me greatly is the usage of the word gay in direct reference to a person. “My friend is gay” or “He was born gay” are two of the most common examples. Even in talking to people who consider homosexual actions wrong, (and note that judging objective moral action is always different to the subjective judgment of an individual person), they will still refer to a particular ‘gay’ person as if that term is completely descriptive. In fact, this usage has become so normalised that the nuance is not often understood, so allow me to be more specific. Read the rest of this entry »