Bullying | Education | Gay Youth | Great Britain | News

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. Holy crap, I stand corrected. 7 other anti-gay terms.

    To RC (the first post): You know who shows the most masculine level of bravery? Effeminate queens who can not hide who they are. Who can not "pass" for straight. Who are visible and audible targets of hatred and abuse every day, and survive and thrive. You know who is "dainty", "limp-wristed", and "airy fairy"? Undercover homos like YOU, for not being able to stand for gay equality on your own merits. Sooooo concerned what others think, you poor delicate flower RC!

    Posted by: Strepsi | Mar 18, 2008 12:28:52 PM


  2. Thanks Derrick. Back at ya! :)

    Posted by: Wes | Mar 18, 2008 12:33:55 PM


  3. Any teacher (especially an english teacher) who doesnt at least make note of the actual definition and its proper use to the students that they teach is simply feeding into the intillectual lazines that propogates many schools. I personally don't believe that any person using "gay" to mean negative is on the same level as evangelical bigots who are devoted to seeing gay people burn in hell sooner than later. Ignorance, however, isn't an excuse because the damn dictionary is right there!
    I just cannot see the difficulty with using the proper term to describe what your feeling. It is especially confusing to hear the term "gay" because I don't always know if people are describing something that is stereotypically rainbows and glitter (Cher, The Village People, Clay Aiken*joke*) or a personal definition of the word. I once asked some straight classmates why they used the word instead of something more accurate and they simply replied that it has more of an edge because it can also be an insult. They said it was because it could send an uncomfortable twinge in everyone around not only homosexuals.

    Posted by: Toto | Mar 18, 2008 1:29:10 PM


  4. hmm, they didn't list

    "Nancy-boy" or "girlie-man".

    Just sayin'. I personally like Homo, latin for man. It's like saying "Hey man" to me.

    Reminds me of a joke: Some jerk said I was a stupid cocksucker, so I just looked right at him and said "I am NOT stupid!".

    Posted by: johnny | Mar 18, 2008 3:37:13 PM


  5. STREPSI, try 8 other anti-gay terms and it could be 9 (I don't know what "slagger" means).

    Besides "gay", at least seven of the top 11 insult words in England are DIRECTLY linked to homosexuality but TOM and others believe that "gay" has no connection whatsoever to homosexuality.

    Well TOM, I have a teenage son too and I've explained to him why the word "gay" in the pejorative is used rather than just saying "stupid", "weird" or "lame". He understands that the reason people use "gay" to mean these things is because it is widely believed that gay IS weird, stupid and lame otherwise people would have used “weird”, “stupid” and “lame” or would have come up with new word. My son, presented with this information, has enough respect for his dads to not use the term and to educate others on why the use of "gay" as a pejorative is wrong and offensive to most gay people. I'm really sorry that you don't understand the connection between the “that’s so gay” , following your lead, feels comfortable using the term around you and your partner.

    What I find most annoying is the way people like you, who not only dismiss homophobia with labored word parsing and mind acrobatics but also go one step further to belittle those who do take offense at and exception to homophobia, even when it's subtle or disguised. Then, like CLOCKWORK, you close your comment with the ever popular, GET OVER IT! That line seems to be the boilerplate for people making such arguments that gay people are just a bunch of over-sensitive sissies when they have the audacity to complain about something such as this.

    Contrary to popular misconception, being a gay person who is "cool" with homophobia doesn't make a gay person "cool" and it doesn't make them any more masculine or any less gay.

    Posted by: Zeke | Mar 18, 2008 4:12:48 PM


  6. I don't know what happened there. Let me try that sentence again.

    TOM, I'm really sorry that you don't understand the anti-gay connection made when someone says "that's so gay". It's really very simple; people who came up with this use of the word did so because they thought being gay and gay people were weird, stupid and lame (I don’t think there any disputing that) and in an environment where 8 of 11 of the top insults are homosexual slurs it’s clear that the mentality is still there even if the kids don’t immediately make the connection between “gay” and it being a gay negative expression. That’s why it’s important that adults have the discussion with kids and teenagers instead of writing it off and laughing at it without giving it full consideration. Have you ever ASKED your sons why they use this term instead of others? Have you had a discussion of the possibility that there might be a homophobic underlayment?

    I bet that if rather than encouraging your sons to use this term you actually had a serious discussion with them about why "gay" equals stupid/weird/lame you might find out that there is more of a connection than you might think.

    Regardless of how you chose to address, ignore or promote this issue, I think it’s inappropriate for you to tell other gay people who are concerned about it to get over it.

    Posted by: Zeke | Mar 18, 2008 4:36:07 PM


  7. Zeke, "slag" is like "slut" or "whore", it's a pejorative term applied to women in the UK. I think it says pretty much everything that all the terms on the list are either anti-gay or anti-women. Fucking straight men.

    Johnny - the "homo" in "homosexual" actually comes from the Greek meaning "the same" (not the Latin for "man") just as "hetero" comes from the Greek meaning "the other". Hence why lesbians can technically be referred to as homosexuals too.

    Posted by: Sasha | Mar 19, 2008 9:54:16 AM


  8. The Irish/Gaelic words for homosexuals are "buachailli bana"... the white boys or the boys that shine. It is not a pejorative expression. Thought you'd like to know. RickT.

    Posted by: RickT | Mar 19, 2008 10:32:14 AM


  9. "And not in the good way"

    It's what I said every time I heard a friend use "gay" as a synonym for "lame". Its a passive reminder of the unintended consequences of such statements. Over time it sunk in and now the only time i hear the word from my friends is when we are actually debating sexual orientation.

    I highly recommend giving it a try.

    Posted by: Mark | Mar 19, 2008 12:41:03 PM


  10. So nine out of the eleven words used as insults are related to Gay identity, and this usage has nothing to do with heterosexist hatred? Who does Tony Thorne think he's fooling?

    This list of pejoratives is proof positive that our ill-conceived attempts to "reclaim" sexual slurs has not changed the meanings of these words in the public mind. They are considered as derogatory as they ever were, and since "queer", "faggot" and "dyke" are now used interchangeably with "Gay", they're all thought of as insults!

    It's time for us to reclaim the word "Gay" and actively oppose efforts to turn it into something ugly. Unlike most of other terms we use, its neither its etymology nor its core meaning is derogatory. The Gay father who allows his kids to throw "Gay" around as an insult should be ashamed of himself. Where is his sense of pride? Or is shame the name of his game?

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Mar 19, 2008 1:00:33 PM


  11. Anyone who thinks that top-10 list isn't way over the top hate speech is so very full of it.

    Posted by: SoVery | Mar 19, 2008 7:34:50 PM


  12. When I was a kid I remember people from my grandparents generation (people born between WWI and WWII) saying that "homosexuals ruined the word Gay, back in our day it mean fun and merry" (now we don our GAY apparel, the "GAY 90's" - the 1890's).
    Apparently the word kept the same meaning for almost a thousand years - but sometime in the 70's the word suddenly denoted flamboyant homosexuals. I never noticed another word have such a quick change in meaning. Now the word means "lame" or "Sucky", as well as applying to homosexuals. Maybe it's time for GAY's to adopt a new and better word. Maybe the word is a bit too feminine for many of the more macho-types who don't want to use it. I'm bisexual and I never identified with the word GAY. I don't like the word "bisexual", either. As a matter of fact, I hate labels all together. It's so American to need to label everything and everyone. I think people are better off when they don't need to hide behind a label. Why limit yourself?

    Posted by: Charles | Mar 22, 2008 5:27:34 PM


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