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UK Report: 'Gay' Now the #1 Abusive Word in Schools

A UK teachers group reports that "gay" is now the #1 most frequently used abusive insult at schools.

No doubt the words would be slightly different in American schools, but here are the words teachers report are being used abusively in UK schools (number indicates percentage of teachers who reported that word as a term of abuse).

BullyGay (83%)
Bitch (59%)
Slag (45%)
Poof (29%)
Batty boy (29%)
Slut (26%)
Queer (26%)
Lezzie (24.8%)
Homo (22%)
Faggot (11%)
Sissy (5%)

Slang lexicographer Tony Thorne, told the BBC: "'Every generation grows up with a whole lexicon of homosexual insults, in my day it was 'poofter' or 'bender'. They were used much more because they were considered more offensive than 'gay', which is more neutral. It's only in the last four years that I've documented it being used so much by young people. It's what we call a 'vogue' word, which is a fashionable word.' A reason for this recent increase in use could be because 'gay' has lost its sexual connotations among young people, he says. While still pejorative, for the majority of youngsters it has replaced words such as 'lame' and is no longer about sexual orientation. 'I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals,' says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. 'It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant.'"

How 'gay' became children's insult of choice [bbc]

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Comments

  1. "Gay" is such a dainty, limp-wristed word, anyway. I hate it. And "camp," "queer," "queen": who came up with those airy-fairy terms to describe homosexuals? Liberace?

    No wonder it's so hard for dudes to come out!

    What about updating the effeminate sounding "gay" with a word that echoes strength, confidence and bravery? Like, say, "Jedi"?

    "Mom, Dad... I'm... a Jedi": yeah, way more accepting.

    Posted by: PC | Mar 18, 2008 9:45:47 AM


  2. Probably true that in many instances "gay" is used not to connote sexuality, but undeniably true that in all instances anyone who's a secretly gay kid is being bombarded with a pejorative (and maybe even using it themselves) while at the same time knowing he or she is the literal meaning of that word. It's really inexcusable how many TV shows and movies use "gay" and "fag" almost as a joke in and of itself, like they know they're not anti-gay so can use these words, and yet words are not without meaning. If they are, let's pick another word that is a blanket way of saying something is worthless—like Christian or moral or kind or Italian and see if people go along with those being equally harmless.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Mar 18, 2008 9:47:50 AM


  3. You've got to love that the first comment is in defense of anti-gay words/attitudes. Never. Fails. And the same comment tosses in a few more gay pejoratives: "dainty," "limp-wristed" and "airy fairy." Try explaining the humor to a kid surrounded by those Top 11 negative words being used in schools in the UK—9 of which are explicitly anti-gay in origin. I think a lot of anti-gay words are interesting in that they seem to focus on men being too feminine—this is the ultimate negative. And this seems to be the ultimate negative for "PC," too, who just wants to be a "dude" with "confidence and bravery"—as if obvious queens don't have both in spades. Hey, you know what's really limp-wristed and airy-fairy? Letting a guy put his dick in your mouth and/or in your ass. Call it whatever you like to make the brand more confident and brave, but the people who hate gay people and who sit around inventing words to humiliate them will never get over those facts no matter how much of a chill dude you are.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Mar 18, 2008 9:54:42 AM


  4. I thought PC was just being funny. I mean, c'mon "mom, dad... I'm a Jedi." That's funny.

    Posted by: Joshua | Mar 18, 2008 10:02:49 AM


  5. I have 2 teenage sons, both straight, i'm gay and out.

    They use GAY incessantly, their friends do too. They use the word in front of me, and my partner.

    In the way they use it, and for their peers too, it NEVER connotes sexuality.

    For them, it means WIERD, stupid, dumb...pretty much everything BUT sexuality.

    These are kids from SF, who are literally SMOTHERED by diversity...and dont have a prejudiced bone in their bodies...

    GET OVER IT GUYS

    Posted by: tom | Mar 18, 2008 10:04:58 AM


  6. "'I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals,' says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. 'It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant.'"

    How many of those scores of school kids were gay, and, of those, how many would be open about their feelings to Mr. Thorne? For non-gay kids, the word may have nothing to do with sexuality--even tho I don't buy that--but for gay kids it's still a slap to be constantly associated with lameness, or whatever the word is supposed to mean now.

    And, Matthew, well said, dude! :-)

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 18, 2008 10:07:23 AM


  7. The use of gay as a pejorative stems directly from society's perception of homosexuals as a negative or bad thing. For example, "lame" and "retarded" are insults used to describe something undesirable, because it is obviously undesirable to be crippled or mentally challenged. When people call something "Jewish" to mean "cheap," it stems directly from society's perception that Jews are stingy. When people say "gypped" to mean "ripped off," it stems directly from society's perception that gypsys are con artists and swindlers. Therefore when people say "gay" to mean "bad" it stems directly from society's perception that homosexuals are bad. Remember that every time you use 'gay' not to describe something actually related to or identifying with gay culture, but merely to insult or degrade something.

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:08:41 AM


  8. "For them, it means WIERD, stupid, dumb...pretty much everything BUT sexuality."

    Weird, stupid, dumb? Where do you think it got that connotation?

    I won't get over it because I remember what it felt like growing up gay and constantly having to hear the word that describes what I am to describe anything and everything that is undesirable and unwanted. It is extremely intimidating and detrimental to gay youth, and there are many growing up who cannot make the distinction you can when they hear it every day. It makes it that much harder to come out, to accept yourself, to be happy, when everyone around you thinks "gay" is the worst thing something could be.

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:14:10 AM


  9. Gay (83%)
    Bitch (59%)
    Slag (45%)
    Poof (29%)
    Batty boy (29%)
    Slut (26%)
    Queer (26%)
    Lezzie (24.8%)
    Homo (22%)
    Faggot (11%)
    Sissy (5%)

    Anyone notice the majority of these words are insults used to describe some form of homosexuality?

    Oh yea, there's no homophobia going on at all. Its just a coincidence all these words have "multiple meanings."

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:16:24 AM


  10. It's generational, cultural slang, whether here or in the UK. It is not being used to connotate sexuality. It is lingo. It's not important when one considers the plethora of other problems and issues the UK (probably) has to deal with.
    As someone else said, "get over it."

    Posted by: NowItMatters | Mar 18, 2008 10:20:49 AM


  11. "I think a lot of anti-gay words are interesting in that they seem to focus on men being too feminine—this is the ultimate negative. And this seems to be the ultimate negative for "PC," too, who just wants to be a "dude" with "confidence and bravery"—as if obvious queens don't have both in spades."

    I agree, much of the hate stems not even primarily towards homosexuality per se but effeminacy. Even many gay men are prejudiced against those who do not conform to 'gender roles' (i.e. hating 'fems'). The irony, of course, is always that to be shamelessly effeminate in this world is possibly one of the most confident and brave things you can do. Sometimes effeminate men are the most bad ass, and we can thank that segment of the community for much of the gay rights movement. It wasn't the socially obedient, walking on eggshells so as not to offend, down-low homos who rioted at Stonewall, it was a bunch of pissed off drag queens who had taken enough and decided to do something about it.

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:26:07 AM


  12. "For them, it means WIERD, stupid, dumb...pretty much everything BUT sexuality."

    And you never challenged them on that use? That's what seems weird, stupid, and dumb to me. The kids don't notice that, say, "gay" (lame) and "gay" (gay) are homonyms? That's kind of surprising.

    Students at my college claimed not to know that "pansy," which they used in a similar way, had anything to do with gay people.

    In Russian I've had several people tell me that their term for "faggot" (pidar') is used without any sexual-orientation meaning.

    This happens in language, but it takes a long time for etymology to be totally lost. Check the etymology of "bad" for an interesting case. (apologies to the intersex folks)

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Mar 18, 2008 10:26:21 AM


  13. Call me out of the loop, but, what's a "batty boy?" Name calling is part of school in every country on this planet, its wrong, but, when kids hear thier parents spew slurs, they are bound to do the same, and, schools need to take action, but, I don't think it will ever stop.

    Posted by: Sebastian | Mar 18, 2008 10:28:23 AM


  14. Whether or not "gay" as a pejorative is offensive to some, it is always juvenile. Every time I hear an adult say it I lose a little respect for that person, and think they would be more appropriate in the halls of a junior high school.

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:31:18 AM


  15. Sebastian, "batty boy" or "batty man" is a Jamaican pejorative term for gay, it's made its way into UK lingo because there's quite a substantial Jamaican immigrant population in the UK. Beenie Man who is a homophobic Jamaican dancehall artist who has been criticised by gay activists for "murder music" has a song called "Batty Man Fi Dead".

    Posted by: Sasha | Mar 18, 2008 10:36:14 AM


  16. "Call me out of the loop, but, what's a "batty boy?""

    It is yet another term to describe gay men. Its used often in the carribbean, I believe. At least all those homophobic reggae artists use it when they chant "kill the batty man!"

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:39:52 AM


  17. Apparently the same BBC decided that using "gay" this way was OK for its DJs: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/jun/07/bbc.gayrights

    It's not as new as people think, at least in the US -- I remember calling a student on using it in front of me, and she graduated in 1992. It's known as a "teaching moment." People should be made aware that their unreflective use of homophobic language can be harmful. Even gay people. THINK!

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Mar 18, 2008 10:46:13 AM


  18. Having the context of all the other homophobic slurs used in UK schools, how can anyone seriously argue that the prevalent use of "gay" as a pejorative is likely to have nothing to do with homosexuality?

    Oh yea all those other insults are homophobic, used by homophobic children, but when they say 'gay' to mean the same thing, believe us when we say they mean nothing anti-gay by it.

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 10:46:17 AM


  19. wow, sexist and homophobic terms completely make up the list. surprise surprise.

    Posted by: ian | Mar 18, 2008 11:00:46 AM


  20. Sebastian & Sasha: I've been told by Jamaicans that "batty" means butt or ass, hence, "batty boy" I guess means a guy who gives up the booty.

    Wes, Ernie & Matthew: Thank y'all. Gay MEN like y'all are the reason why I have not totally given up on gay men. Too many gay men feel the way to get rid of the "effeminate" stereotype is to exterminate effeminate males: WRONG. Just show your fuckin' non-fem self to the world to offset the fems if it's so important to you (well, some of you might be butch enough to accomplish that--but not all, babies). Sometimes, I feel like I never want to speak to another homo for the rest of my life; then, a gay man will say something intelligent and truthful, and I have faith in homos again...for a while.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 18, 2008 11:05:21 AM


  21. When hetero-centric society has such a tenuous, repressive, grasp of their own sexuality and sociality, is it surprising that these words are used to denounce and alienate anything that is "other"?..

    Posted by: Dave | Mar 18, 2008 11:06:28 AM


  22. whether or not "gay" is used to denote sexuality, its root is derived from a gay term (where historically "gay", is alluding to a gay person, was bad.) the fact that SOME kids don't use the term to mean "homosexual" doesn't mean the word is not an insult to gays. it just means that, one, kids today are stupid (or, to be a little kinder, ignorant), and that homophobia has kind of unconsciously been accepted. clearly (and more importantly), this list shows that 8 of the top 10 pejorative words in school relate to gay people. so the fact that kids do not mean "gay" to be "homosexual", seems to be pretty much a delusion. kids have accepted that the biggest insult is still to be considered gay or affiliated with homosexuality.

    truly, we have overcome... very little (in this regard).

    Posted by: macguffin54 | Mar 18, 2008 11:08:39 AM


  23. I'm a Jedi, too!

    Posted by: Dan B | Mar 18, 2008 11:19:59 AM


  24. Dave got it right. I am an high school student and where I go to school the word "gay" is rarely used to describe sexuality; however, it's most common uses are as adjectives to words like "weird" or "stupid", words that describe feelings towards people. Today a kid will describe a test they don't want to take as "gay." This is still homophobia, an evolved form of it that clearly shows many teenagers' attitudes toward gay people, and should be treated as if it were used to address, directly, a child's sexuality or behavior, because it is just as hurtful.

    Posted by: Seth | Mar 18, 2008 11:45:08 AM


  25. Glad "gay" has lost its anti-homosexual connotation - NOW WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 6 ANTI-GAY TERMS? Oh my God. And I am terrified that "batty boy" is on the list. Batty Boy is WORSE than faggot. Many Jamaican dancehall singers actively advocate the killing of Batty Boys, as in the song "Boom Boom Bye Bye" - i.e. "shoot faggots". One has even been charged in physically assualting a gay couple himself. BOYCOTT JAMAICAN MUSIC. BOYCOTT JAMAICA.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Mar 18, 2008 12:19:21 PM


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