Date: Thu, 29 Feb 1996 22:04:36 -0500


Subject: Re: gaycat, gay

1. I think it extremely unlikely that GAY 'homosexual' is related to the term

GAYCAT that Al describes; and

I notice that Ron offers no evidence besides his own belief on this.

He doesn't dispute that gaycat was a term used for homosexual (albeit

a special type of homosexual), but he feels that any connection

between gaycat and gay is unlikely. Why is it unlikely? The

quotation below explains that the term was not part of the

subculture, perhaps, but that doesn't mean there isn't a connection.

Terms often take on different connotations once they enter the

lexicon of a subgroup. "Gaycat" may not have been part of the

"homosexual" lexicon and thus wouldn't appear in cult novels, but it

was a term used by criminals to refer to homosexuals. It doesn't

look like much of a stretch to clip it back to "gay." Maurer collected

"gay" in the 40's within the drug subculture. I am curious as to why

Ron feels that the two terms have separate etymologies.

"Gay" has a long history of being a term of derision with sexual

overtones. A "gay house" has long been a brothel. Grose (at least

the 1811 rewrite) has a "gaying instrument" for penis. Henley and

Farmer list several uses of "gay" in the 19th century, all of which

relate to venery, including "avoir la cuisse gaie: to be addicted to

the use of men." Clearly, some uses of "gay" refer to women, but

always to women of questionable morals (strumpet, prostitute,

mistress). In that regard I would note that the underworld used the

term 'gal-boy' and 'gaycat' to mean the same thing. A gaycat was a

passive pederast, much like a "punk" is in prison, and performed a

task not unlike that which prostitutes perform. It is not

surprising that the term would NOT be used by the homosexual

community, but it seems quite surprising that given these uses of

"gay" and "gaycat" that in the 20th century we would conclude no

common history....

I confess that I haven't done a full scale search for the term, as

Ron may have, and I certainly haven't studied it in a context that he

write about, but what little I know about it seems to suggest to me

that "gay" and "gaycat" have some common roots.

2. Even written transcripts of likely conversations from the 1930s and

earlier do not use GAY 'homosexual'--nor do any of the gay cult novels of the

1920s and 1930s--though they do use GAY often in other senses. (RANDOM HOUSE

DICTION ARY OF SLANG lists one possible cite from such a novel, but I dispute

it and it is at gesrt ambiguous.)

Al Futrell - al[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

University of Louisville - Department of Communication