“Oh No He Di’ent?” And Other Responses We’re Sure To Hear Next

The man who brought you rap for Jesus (“Jesus Walks”), Kanye West, went on record yesterday in support of gays during an MTV interview and that’s got to be a good thing overall but I couldn’t help but laugh during one part of the story. (I’m sorry but “yo” is as silly an expression as “yea” to me and very nearly as silly as “behold”, but you probably would’ve had to have been there.)

Realizing that “gay” has become an antonym to hip-hop, West contended that hip-hop has always been about “speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people.” He proceeded to clarify: “Not just hip-hop, but America just discriminates. And I wanna just, to come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, `Yo, stop it.’”

Certainly the term “gay” has come to represent any thing that isn’t hip and it is one of my least favorite popular expressions (I literally cringe when I hear someone use it.) It is a glib, pedantic, chronically over-used term and I am in total agreement concerning its negative effects on a hip-hopping-abbreviated-expression-seeking generation. Using the term “gay” in the pejorative sense is just another way to show what little command of the language you can achieve, and must only be appealing to small-minded, barely-motivated faddist followers. If your expression skills still are primitive, chances are you’ll find pleasure in rating something as “gay” but you’ll seem childish to me for doing so. As much as I hate to do this I must say that it is gay to use the term “gay”, okay? As desperate as that was, I needed to get my opinion across. Capeesh?

West says that when he was young, people would call him a “mama’s boy.”

That’s certainly the quickest and one of the most brutal ways to discover how hurtful labels can be. Though why do we need to experience repressions first-hand before we accept that they are wrong? Can we not use our imaginations?

“And what happened was, it made me kind of homophobic, ‘cause it’s like I would go back and question myself,” West says on the show, “All Eyes on Kanye West,” set to air Thursday night (10:30 p.m. ET)

According to West, he changed when he learned he had a gay cousin.

“It was kind of like a turning point when I was like, `Yo, this is my cousin. I love him and I’ve been discriminating against gays.’”

Sadly it has become cool to say something is “gay” and there’s a reason for that. When you have no respect for something you have no regret for reducing it to a one syllable put-down. Others consider your rash assessment and too often find it succinct and enviable. Soon all of your friends are saying “gay” this and “gay” that and if someone hears it who happens to be gay, mores the pity. Eventually they’ll get the message that everything “gay” is, by definition, bad. Everything! Even gay sympathizers must stop and wonder, for once and all, if their reasoning abilities are reprobate.

We help to popularize slang-terms and use them to communicate complex opinions and positions, as if any of them could ever prove adequate. One isn’t likely to seem articulate for offering mono-syllabic grunts of derision for the things s/he despises. Yet the myriad of feelings and fears we carry onward are each, all too often, summed up for us with that one cretinous epithet “gay” and it isn’t nearly good enough for any of the purposes it serves.

Props to Kanye for having the courage to take a stand, even when that stand could then take away from his ends.


22 thoughts on ““Oh No He Di’ent?” And Other Responses We’re Sure To Hear Next

  1. Well, I messed up somehow and posted this twice. Les, would you please remove one and I’m really sorry ‘bout that.

  2. Did South Park start the gay=lame thing, or did they pick up on what stooopid people were daying in the streets?

  3. Yup, and I doubt I’ll ever forgive Parker and Stone for it. Well, they made it popular even if they didn’t say it first.

  4. Yup, and I doubt I’ll ever forgive Parker and Stone for it. Well, they made it popular even if they didn’t say it first.

    My friends and I used to rather frequently use ‘gay’ as a pejorative back in grade school and high school.

  5. Mayne, Kanye really stepped up, but the radio down in Austin, Texas really took it the wrong way & said Kanye stated that he was gay! Kayne just took the stand that he thought that “gay” was an overrated term upon the “hip hop generation.” I understand! Im not gay or anything, and I admit I do said “gay” to tell how lame or stupid something is! I’ve never saw it the way Kanye put it!

  6. Did South Park start the gay=lame thing, or did they pick up on what stooopid people were daying in the streets?

      I kept waiting for someone to comment on the obvious irony of this, viz, “lame” originally referred to some sort of physical infirmity.  I guess that it has passed into such common usage for that meaning that no one even thinks about it these days.  So basically, on one hand it is considered “okay” to use lame as a synonym for stupid, dumb, what have you, but not okay to use gay. 
      I think this also illustrates how being overly “politically correct” almost ends up the same as being bigoted.  By treating a member of whichever group differently than you would a “normal” person, you are in effect saying that they need to be treated differently.  In effect, even though it is meant with the best of intentions, by being overly sensitive to the issue, you have demonstrated a form of bigotry.  I try to judge people by their actions and words and not by skin color, sexual orientation, physical impairments, etc…  I guess that it is similar to when one of my friends calls me his “nigga” and I do the same to him (although much more rarely).  I am about as white as they come and he is black, but the term is meant as a show of solidarity and not a reference to a particular skin color.  It is the same as “boy”.  This can be one of the worst insults to a southern black man, yet it is now incorporated as meaning a close friend.  The same guy also calls me his “boy” and I more readily exchange that term with him than “nigga”, but if I were to use that term to someone unknown to me, it would be taken as an insult.  I just found it somewhat interesting that while everyone could see the harm in using “gay” as dumb or stupid, no one seemed to twig on “lame” being the same.  Hell, “gay” used to mean happy, especially in a carefree manner.  I believe that the homosexual culture actually hijacked it for the newer meaning, although I am not positive about it.  I do have to admit that in high school I did use “gay” and “lame” as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” (which puts its usage in that meaning at least back to the early 80’s).  These days I try to be a little more exacting in my speech and generally stick with either stupid or dumb although “lame” occaisionally slips in.  By the same token, I do not consider myself “politically correct” for the mere sake of being pc.  I don’t go out of my way to be offensive (unless someone really annoys me!  lol), but I don’t walk on eggshells around people.  The bottom line is that if you treat me fairly, I’ll do the same.

  7. Thank you, Warbi.  Working in academia I see political correctness magnified.  It is poisonous to relationships and discourse.

    If you are not up on the latest euphemism, you can be accused of horrible intentions.  Many people are scared they might lose their jobs for some slip of the tongue even if they intend no offense.

    We have people here of all ages and from all over the world.  For this reason if someone uses a word that is out-of-fashion or might be taken in an offensive way, I wait for their intentions to become apparent.  They might be using irony, or just be a little out-of-date.  I can’t remember the last time it turned out they really meant to inflict harm or pain.

    And Brock, just in case you’re wondering; no offense meant.  Really.

  8. We also need to realize that “dehumanizing” the enemy is one of the tricks taught to infantrymen. It is very difficult for a normal person to kill another person, but to kill a (insert perjerative term here) is easy. “They came after the Jews, but I wasn’t worried because I was not a Jew. They came after the blacks, etc, etc.” Every tyrant and every infantry commander has use this tactic since Adam & Steve. It still works. Using inclusive terms makes you more vulnerable, but more compassionate and more human as well. But this takes courage, a commodity that seems to be in low supply these days.

  9. And Brock, just in case you’re wondering; no offense meant.  Really.

    No offense taken DOF. Thanks for saying what you feel. By offering my views on a term (gay) that can’t seem to settle, I was hoping to hear varied opinions.

    It might be that I’m just a bit dizzy from the rapid changes this word has gone through so far. First it was a term meaning happy, bright and social, then it was a derogatory term meaning “sexually other than normal”, then it was the kindest way to describe someone as “sexually other than normal” and now it’s an epithet again. If we had this dynamism with every other word in the English language, communication would be nearly impossible.

    Perhaps it beats making up an entirely new word every time, but words can only suffer so many variations of meaning before they suffer as tools of prose.

    As for when gay became a pejorative for places or things, I still say it didn’t become widely spread in usage until Southpark. Though if I didn’t have to share the word with undesirable things, it’s rampant usage probably wouldn’t bother me so much.

    Yes, there’s such a thing as being too politically correct. I don’t expect individuals to be legally prosecuted for things they say but I have no problem with them being pErsecuted if the words they use are considered insulting enough to a social group or individual.

    We each have certain words which we consider hurtful if they are used to express things blithely and dismissively. Terms such as “geeky” is a good example of my point. If this word diverged tomorrow from meaning intelligent and able to understand complex systems, etc and primarily meant something that is highly undesirable to be or do, some would lament this now prevalent definition because it would be an insulting term again. There are always better descriptions for us to use than the derogatory ones. Well, except for the times you really need a depreciative one and how often can that be, really?

    If you want to sound sullen and antagonistic; verbally deducing something as “gay” will do that for you just fine, so I doubt you would respect a professor for using it as a mere put- down.

    PS: If this comment submission turns up twice, it’s because the first time I submitted it, the page completely ignored it and so I entered it again.

  10. No offense taken DOF.

    That’s a relief.  Discussing racial and minority subjects on-campus always has that “put the pin back in the grenade without releasing the handle” feeling to it.

    I have no problem with them being pErsecuted if the words they use are considered insulting enough to a social group or individual.

    Depends what kind of persecution you mean.  I have seen this really backfire.  Sometimes I get the feeling we’re being baited by others who want to set us up for the label, “intolerant”.  Then they have free reign to be as intolerant as they wish in ways that really matter; discriminatory ways couched in language of religious freedom, etc.  Their jobs are made easier by the fact that genuinely intolerant people dot the political landscape from sea to shining sea.

    In recent years I’ve been experimenting with the personal freedom that comes of being very selective about when I take offense.  But it takes a lot of practice and unlearning deeply ingrained sensitivity of my childhood years.

    It might be that I’m just a bit dizzy from the rapid changes this word has gone through so far.

    I’m not sure Gay has changed meaning so much as it has acquired new meanings, and each are determined by context.  This is a frustration to everyone but linguists, who find it entertaining.

    Could be worse – gays could be caught in “this year’s euphemism” that makes racial relations such a minefield.  Martin Luther King was comfortable saying “colored people” but if I say that I could be in big trouble.  I am supposed to say; “people of color”, which is so very different after all.  And heaven forbid I refer to another person as a “negro”.  All very silly as I would have hoped we’d be long past that arbitrary division.  Apparently, we’re not.

    The bad part of word-based offense is that it undermines real discussion of cultural values. 

    Good topic – I hope more people will contribute thoughts on it.

  11. It was definitely good of Kanye to get up there and show his support for gays—something the hip-hop world is sadly lacking.

    I know people who still use “gay” as a synonym for “stupid” or “dumb,” and I admit that I’ve used it in the past, but these days I choose not to.

    As for political correctness, it all too often gets carried away. But then, those of us who have never been called a stinging epithet can’t really know what it feels like. But like DOF said, it’s best to train yourself to be less sensitive to words. We’d all do a lot better if people could find the balance between sensitivity and insensitivity.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents.

  12. And how about that bundle or bundle of sticks thing. (faggot or fagot) In England it has also been used to mean cigarette. Even the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary claims ignorance of where this term came to be used deragatorily for homosexual men. I’ve known some who use the title proudly. Very confusing.

  13. “Gai” as a french word means happy. It also means homosexual. We all know that.
    My mother’s family name is “Guay”. And by looking it up on the internet there are a lot of “Guay’s” out there, and not just french people.

    So I was always careful not to use that word with bad intentions.

  14. My favorite is the example of “jewed” and “gyped”. I forget where the debate was taking place but people were talking about how offensive it was to say “Man, I got jewed” or something similar. Someone else said that the person should have used “gyped” instead. But doesn’t gyped come from Gypsies?

    Sort of like “lame” and “gay”

  15. leguru:  Even the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary claims ignorance of where this term came to be used deragatorily for homosexual men.

    I remember reading somewhere once that it was related to the fact that homosexual men were burned at the stake back in the good ol’ days of the Dark Ages.  I just googled faggot + heresy and found this pagewhich says (in part):

    After hearing this epithet hurled at me for the hundredth time I decided to look it up in my 2000 page Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary to find out just what this volatile word means. I encountered the following: faggot n. tHE. fagott; OFr. fagot, a bundle of sticks, prob. from L. fax, facis , a torch.

      1. A bundle of sticks. twigs, or small branches of trees, used for fuel or for raising batteries, filling ditches and other purposes in fortification; a fasc~ne.

      2. A bundle of pieces of iron for remanufacture, or of steel in bars.

      3. A person formerly hired to take the place of another at the muster of a military company or to hide deficiency in its number when it is not full. [Eng.

      4. A term of contempt for a dry. shrivelled old woman. [Eng. slang.

      5. The punishment of burning at the stake, as for heresy.

      6. A badge representing a fagot, worn on the sleeve in the middle ages by those who had recanted heresy, to show the punishment they had so narrowly escaped.

    (emphasis mine)

    A connection to religion… whodathunk?

    Sepharo:  Someone else said that the person should have used “gyped

  16. So right Leguru about the infantry taught to dehumanise thier enemy – when I arrived at basic army training at 17,the movie “Full Metal Jacket” had just been released,and the dopey drill instructors (or section commanders,as they’re called here in Aus) liberally blurted out quotes from that movie to bastardise and intimidate us.Yep the army was the first place I heard such foul terms as Gook,Charlie etc…
    Unfortunately,the aus army seems to attract the type of racist fuck-wit that responds to such “motivation techniques”

  17. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see someone’s face when they think they’ve called you a name that’ll hurt you and you laugh at them.  Priceless.

  18. some ultra pc gay friends of mine insisted (previously – who knows, they may have flip-flopped again since) on being identified as queer, not gay. they hated the word – this was years before it became a slang term.
    i find it’s the attitude beneath that can give innocuous words negative power. u go around referring to straight culture as “hetero” in a mean enough way and people will take offense real quik. the band “the breeders” was named after a variation on this practice, if memory serves.
    my own personal cringer (circumstances depending) is the variations on “crying like a little girl” that haunt popular culture. mebbe “crying like a potential young male suicide” would even things out. i don’t mean to go on like a big girls blouse…

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