The French Academy, founded by Richilieu, restored by Napoleon, populated by 40 self-styled “immortals,” decides which words are to be officially recognized as French and which are to remain terms of slang, argot or jargon, from whence they came.
Of course no one can put words in anyone’s mouth so this prestigious institution is limited to an advisory role and frequently not followed in cases where the people are using terms imported from English and won’t abandon them for the newly coined words given them by the immortals.
Israel has a similar institution called The Academy of the Hebrew Language and its decisions are binding on government. What happens is that many official documents include words seen nowhere else forcing the ordinary citizen to ask not infrequently, What does that mean?
The British, the originators of English, did not go down the route of a language supervisor. Nor did any of the anglo family of nations that followed. Change comes up from the bottom. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a Canadian you become sensitized to spelling very early. In Grade 1 the teacher put “wagon” on the blackboard and then added also this, “waggon.” Why two? Canada is caught between the British and Americans whose orthography, the big word for spelling, differs for many words. You actually pick up three sets of spellings as you grow up; the first from the formal lists you must memorize in school; and the others by osmosis through constant exposure to American magazines and British books. They tend to get mixed up in your mind as you go along.
I suppose for most adult Canadians spelling never was a big deal. People in the past just muddled through and then the computer spell-check arrived and made things easy. But working for a newspaper as I did back in the day you had to know exactly when to zig and when to zag. The general rules were if you can shorten it as in “harbor” and “odor,” go American, and if it’s like the French, our other official language, as in “centre” and “theatre,” go British. I’ll spare you the rest of the details but I once saw two newsmen nearly come to blows over whether it was “skeptical” or “sceptical.” When in doubt, go British, said one. Not in this case, said the other. After rummaging through drawers all over the newsroom they finally found a style book and the winner was “skeptical.” This question has never been resolved. Someone posted a survey done recently and found on government sites the frequency of sceptical to skeptical was 304 to 99 but on CBC sites the result was reversed 180 to 45.
“Gay” is a word that came out of the slang of homosexuals and established itself as a noun and an adjective meaning primarily “male homosexual” but also on occasion “female homosexual” in which case it becomes a synonym for “lesbian.” You can’t blame them for wanting a short term in general use in place of a five-syllable tongue-twister. The problem is that they misspelled the word. The correct spelling is “gey.” It will take some time since there are no immortals out there ready to issue a proclamation from above but “gey” will eventually appear and entirely supplant “gay.” The issue is unambiguity.
Before we can talk about the word we have to talk about the thing.
During the past decade homosexuals have been pushing to boldly move into the mainstream of society. Since the dawn of history in most places either they have been kept at arm’s length or squelched. This is how it was in the ancient world.
Vern Bullough and James Brundage: “Roman society was never vitiated by homosexuality.”
Immanuel Velikovsky: “In Persia, Babylonia, Judea, and Egypt homosexuality was thought contemptible.”
In Sparta, the most powerful state in Greece, homosexuality was not allowed. In the constitution Lycurgus wrote that it was an “abomination tantamount to incest.” Xenophon and Aristotle confirm that the society was clean. (Israel later made a blood-brother pact with Sparta. Israel would not have done it had they not been fellow homophobes.)
The current thrust of the homosexuals is to achieve the right to marry. They’ve already got it in a dozen states around the globe including Canada but no one outside them cares what these countries do. The prize is America. If they manage to run the table there the influence will be felt world-wide.
Same sex marriage is one social phenomenon that will not be arriving any time soon in Israel. Orthodox rabbis hold a monopoly on marriage here. The Torah prohibits male homosexuality. End of discussion. Okay, ask the logical question. “What about females?” The response you would get: “What word in the phrase ‘end of discussion’ do you not understand?”
“Gay” established itself in previous centuries as an adjective meaning merry or joyful or even bright and is related to the noun “gaiety.” Frankie Lymon in the 50s sang in “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” — “Why do birds sing so gay?” meaning joyfully. The Platters sang in “The Great Pretender” — “Just laughin’ and gay like a clown” meaning merry. Hank Thompson in “The Wild Side Of Life” about a wayward wife, sang, “The glamor of the gay night life has lured you to the places where the wine and liquor flow where you wait to be anybody’s baby.” That also means merry. (Note: Kitty Wells who brought out the woman’s response to this song in “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” one of the biggest country hits ever, died last week. RIP.) An entire decade was called the “Gay Nineties” conjuring up pictures by the painter Toulese-Latrec of the high-stepping cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge. The expression “having a gay old time” meaning having a lot of fun was often heard especially when applied to situations of kittens rolling around in balls of yarn or toddlers throwing their lunch all over a wall.
Homosexuals have been called by a multitude of slangs for a long time, all of them pejorative and some obscene — “fruit” was probably the one most often heard back in the day and the least derogatory. Besides the slangs and the clinical term “homosexual” that came up in the 19th century as a label for a specific type of sexual deviant they were referred to by two much older words: “sodomite” which is related to the verb “sodomize” and the act of “sodomy;” and “bugger,” related to the act of “buggery,” a synonym for “sodomy.”
Saddled with a brand name like this was a public relations nightmare for the homosexuals so if they wanted any chance of improving their image they needed to come up with a new positive and upbeat label. They found it in by appropriating or misappropriating as the case may be the word “gay.”
When I started working at the newspaper, writing obituaries, the editor said, “we never use euphemisms. The person dies, he does not pass away.” Telling it like it is the sine qua non of the journalist’s trade and without that, there is nothing. Euphemisms are taboo. And you can understand why. When you use a euphemism you force the reader to think twice; he sees what you are saying but then has to figure out what you mean although the process may take only a sliver of a second.
The biggest knock against euphemisms is that in the end they don’t work. Do-gooders at one point were distressed that people called the place where the mentally ill were sent the “nut-house.” So they labelled it an “asylum,” a place of refuge. The stigma migrated to “asylum” and the word became an exact synonym for nut-house until it was abandoned.
The Bolsheviks added a new twist, mass production of euphemisms. Every word had to be employed in a politically correct manner, harnessed to the objective of making the regime, its policies and its ideology look good and its designated enemies look bad. This required the constant fiddling with labels. They did so much damage that when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wished to express his truth he practically had to reinvent the Russian language. When the crunch came the experiment simply demonstrated that brainwashing like crime does not pay. The regime teetered, the people did not rise up as one to try to save it; they knew precisely what they were losing and what they had to gain. All the regime had done over the years was force people to think twice but think, at least enough of them, they did.
There is always an element of disingenuousness among those who resort to euphemisms. They are trying to fool you for one reason or another. At some point pimps came up with the word “escort” to describe their business associates, the whores. At first it worked splendidly. In Israel an “escort service” became one of the sponsors of a pro basketball team in one of the smaller towns. Placards were posted around the arena advertising the various sponsors of the team. Their crowds are Hebrew-speaking; this was an ad in a foreign language. For a few games no one reacted. Then someone called a radio station. All hell broke loose.
In 2003 the government threatened to expel CNN and BBC from our cable networks if they did not cease and desist engaging in anti-Semitism. One incendiary lie after another. At that point Fox News appeared. They were doing something unheard of. For the first time in 2,000 years a foreign TV network was reporting on Israel in a fair and balanced manner. That became my default foreign news channel.
Print journalists were always held to very high language standards. Every word in an article outside of direct quotations had to be found in a dictionary. Then TV journalists began setting the language standards after the round-the-clock news channels appeared. TV journalists are actually hybrids, part newsman and part entertainer. To them the most important thing is to appear on screen bright eyed and bushy tailed. Their medium is the spoken word. No one is going to check any element of their composition. They are not bound by dictionaries; they just go with the flow. The result is what happened the night the story broke that New York governor Elliot Spitzer had been consorting with a prostitute. For the next several hours that night and into the next morning whenever I had a chance for a few minutes I turned on Fox News. Every broadcaster without exception referred to Spitzer’s woman as an “escort.” Finally Gerardo Rivera , the old warhorse, from my generation, came on and solemnly reported that Spitzer had been found with, roll of drums, a “prostitute.”
If the language standards in TV journalists are so low they rely on pimps to supply them with their lexicon, with the advent of the Internet, standards literally vanished overnight. Into this vacuum jumped the word “gay” and within a few micro-seconds it went from being an obscure slang term employed in a sub-culture to recognition as a word by all the dictionaries of the world. No question but that the time was ripe for a short new term for homosexual especially with homosexual aspirations becoming major political issues. The problem is that there was a rush to judgment. A word that works facilitates communication in an emotional neutral manner. The word “gay” is a euphemism and completely disconnected from all the other words throughout history in all other language that honestly addressed the nature of the thing. It is a rogue word designed to obfuscate not enlighten.
Perhaps far in the future scientists will be able to produce formulas that describe precisely the activity engendered by the sound or sight of each word on the receiving organism, us. Neurons after all have voltage levels and employ ion pumps; the data is there. But meanwhile obtaining the essence of a word is an art; at the deepest level a special talent of poets.
Paul Valéry: “Every word is a bottomless pit.”
A large swathe of people, large enough to constitute a considerable political force if not a majority, regards homosexuals as sexual perverts or to use the Freudian term “inverts,” whom they don’t want around their children. The ambience of “gay,” because the word is tethered to gaiety and not to sodomy, is that of normal behavior. When those in the swathe hear it, they smell a rat because they regard homosexuality as abnormal behavior which is the original message of that clinical word. They look in their mind for the word’s meaning in another word equal in emotional voltage. Here they enter a minefield; all they can find are about a dozen pejorative terms which if they expressed them out loud would make them sound like crass boors. The word tongue-ties them and makes it difficult for them to present their case in all the political battles that are raging over same-sex marriage and a lot else.
The solution is to change the spelling to “gey,” producing an unambiguous emotionally-neutral term meaning just one thing, a homosexual. This, it could be argued, would benefit both sides. The nomenclature issue disposed of, they could move on to a dialogue of the issues. Otherwise the two sides are stuck in perpetuity in a situation akin to that facing the Americans and the Vietnamese for a short time when they opened peace talks, disagreeing over the shape of the table and never getting to a discussion on how to resolve the war.
How do you invent a word in a society where everything must come from the bottom? Just do it. At first writing “gey” will seem like an affectation but as it picks up in frequency it will take on a life of its own. It can’t lose. The word endowed with the greater clarity always wins.
One other issue needs to be dealt with. The Torah, a compendium of laws, has guided the Jews for 3,500 years. It rests on an axiom, that humans possess free will. The laws are promulgated but it is up to every individual to decide which he will obey. Some Jews go whole hog, others pick and choose, still others turn away. The prohibition on males engaging in homosexual sex is one of the Torah laws. Since there is no asterisk beside it marking it as an exception to the axiom, it means that when men violate this law, they have done so by free will. The geys come along and say as I understand it that resisting their sexual predilection is beyond their power. All is determined, all is kismet, all is fate. Someone is lying. If there is one law in the Torah that is beyond the ability of a mortal to implement then the whole book has to be chucked out. One question to the geys can expose the liar very quickly. This determinism, this kismet, this fate, does that govern all aspects of your life or just those zones where you find pleasure? If their answer is just the pleasure zone, and I know it is, then the Torah stands vindicated.
Here are the ramifications of this. The geys wrap themselves in the mantle of a civil rights movement. They make it sound as they are the successors to the historic civil rights movement of US blacks. That is false. The geys constitute a one-issue community of choice. Their main disability they harp on is not having the right to marry. This is an artificial issue they created and it pales in comparison with the struggles of the blacks for equal opportunities in jobs, education, and even the right to vote. But let’s compare their situation with a contemporary group pretty much in the same box that US blacks were 60 years ago. Reviled and downtrodden. These are the Gypsies of Europe.
They may be 10 million of them in Europe. Outside of Spain which has provided them with safe haven and makes an honest effort to help them at every turn, their treatment is sickening. About 70 per cent of adult Gypsies are unemployed due to discrimination. How many geys are unemployed due to discrimination? Large numbers of Gypsies are forced to live in stinking ghettos due to discrimination. How many geys are forced to live in stinking ghettos due to discrimination? The Americans fought a war to liberate Kosovo. As soon as NATO troops entered, Albanians fell on the Gypsies, torching 14,000 homes in 300 communities after looting them. NATO troops looked the other way. The British located the survivors on a toxic slag-heap. They all developed lead poisoning. The UN looked the other way. Some are still living there today after dozens of deaths and many children who suffered brain damage. This is outright persecution. How many geys have had their homes looted and torched and then forced to live on a toxic slag-heap due to persecution? In many places Gypsy children are placed in sub-standard segregated schools due to discrimination. How many geys, those who are guardians of children, have had them placed in sub-standard segregated schools due to discrimination?
If the answer to those questions shows that the geys have not suffered at the levels of Gypsies, then they have no basis to claim to be a human rights movement. They are a special interest group with a lot of political clout but they are not suffering hardship, the requisite requirement to be entered in the lists of the downtrodden.
America has helped every nation in Europe except the Gypsies. If it weighed in with a bit of arm-twisting and incentives it could do a lot of good. But the geys with their long-running phoney “civil rights” movement suck all the air out of the room. MSNBC in on there bemoaning the plight of the geys five times a day. What plight? Only two prominent Americans have even bothered to speak out on the Gypsies. The first is a guy I never thought I’d ever find a good word to say about. George Soros. Here is it. He’s out there blasting France and Italy for their policies, providing scholarships, funding cultural projects. Every dog has his day, as my father used to say. The other is Madonna. During a concert in Romania she began lecturing her audience on the need to end the discrimination against the Gypsies. She was jeered but stuck to her guns.
Geys are wont to castigate their critics as “bigots” and “homophobes.” I’ve got news for them. All species throughout the animal kingdom including humans are homophobes. It helps orientate them in the necessary processes of courtship, mating, and reproduction, without which they do not survive, or at least flourish. For our species you might even file this under the headings of determinism, kismet, fate or better still, try, human nature. But resorting to the insult “bigot” just shows how ignorant the geys are of the motives of the masses who are arrayed against them. They are visible defending the sanctity of the institution of marriage but their noble cause goes far beyond that. These are people who are trying to arrest the proliferation of sexual perversion in the world. Future generations will thank them for their efforts.