This awful thing happened to the word Gay. Somehow, in the playground, it became a substitute word for ‘naf’ or ‘dumb’ or ‘crap’, crushing in one foul kiddy swoop the beauty and joy of the adjective. I don’t know if that’s just an Australian thing – possibly. It’s shameful.
In the old days, to say something was gay was to say it was lovely, joyful, fun. ‘How was your outing Susan?’ ‘Indeed, it was gay!’ ‘What a gay time we’re having at this wonderful party!’ ‘Where have you been John?’ ‘Out having a gay old walk with Ralph.’
Of course, gay also refers to homosexuals. And I realised with horror when I worked in a shop with a lovely big gay man called Neil that the silly schoolyard version of gay had nestled deep inside my grown-up vernacular.
“What did you think of this picture with this frame?’ he asked one day.
“Ew,” I said. “Gay.”
And I wasn’t saying it was homosexual, I was saying it was naf, thus involuntarily criticising the sexuality of poor old Neil. He winced slightly but said he didn’t mind, he knew the expression all too well. But I remember thinking – god – what happened to Gay? How did such a wonderful word been so negatively aligned? It seemed, like the prune, to have been the victim of a vicious smear campaign.
The Love and I were talking about language last night over dinner, and the thwarting of Gay came up.
“Gay got robbed,” said The Love. “Gay is lovely.”
“So true!” I said.
“Let’s bring Gay back,” he said, with determination. I heartily agreed.
“This is a deeply gay meal,” I declared, and we both giggled ashamedly, looking down at our plates.
“That’s wrong,” he said. “I think it only refers to time. Occasion. Spirit.”
“Right,” I said. “What a gay time I’ve had enjoying this lovely meal.”
“Precisely!” he said. “It’s indeed been gay to spend time with you conversing, supping.”
“What a gay apartment this is, in this gay, gay town.”
“What gay hours can be spent finding new ways to say gay.”
We clinked glasses.
And we actually found that when you start to use the word Gay in its proper context you had the added bonus of suddenly becoming more eloquent and refined with your speech, returning to an olden time where words like Indeed got thrown in a lot. It’s great. It’s Gatsby.
It does take practise, and I’m hardly fluent in it yet, but leading a more Gay-filled life is a positively delightful pursuit in itself, I must say old chap, in-deed. Now, what say you to a jolly old stroll?