The wussiness about words seems to be catching

English language needs to take a step back

If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to have the word ‘gay’ back.

Well, not “back” in a snarly Archie Bunker sense — but I’d appreciate if we could all agree to at least share the word again.

I grew up in an age when ‘gay’ was a simple adjective that meant cheerful, merry, jovial, sprightly or blithe and carried no sexual connotations. Our hearts were young and gay.  A night on the town was having ‘a gay old time’.  

Our grandparents regaled us with tales from The Gay Nineties. We could sing the lyrics “but I feel so gay, in a melancholy way…” — without a trace of irony or a leer of double entendre.

Elderly straight pensioners would cackle into their beers and call each other ‘gay old dogs’.  I had an uncle who was fond of romancing the ladies.  My mother tsk-tsked and called him ‘a gay blade’.

I don’t know what a gay blade would be nowadays — a bisexual hockey player, probably.

Sometime around the middle of the last century, ‘gay’ became sexual and exclusive. I still miss the other kinds of gay we used to have.

While we’re at it, I’d like to rehabilitate the word ‘beaver’ before its original sense is lost to us forever.

When I was a kid the word referred to a doughty little rodent with buck teeth and a pancake tail that liked to build dams in the hinterland. We loved the beaver. True, we turned him into hats for European fops, but we loved him too. We put him on heraldic charts and statuary.   We honoured him on flags and postage stamps. There are four beavers on the Hudson Bay Company Coat of Arms and a big fat shiny one squats on the back of every Canadian nickel in our pockets. We even named Canada’s oldest history magazine in honour of the noble beast.

For a while.

Then, last winter the folks who ran The Beaver magazine out of Winnipeg announced that they were changing the title.  Deborah Morrison, publisher of the magazine said in a press conference, “Unfortunately, sometimes words take on an identity that wasn’t intended in 1920, when (The Beaver) was all about the fur trade.”

She had a point. Ninety years after the first issue, market research was showing that most women and people in general who were under 45 reacted negatively to the name of the magazine. Not only that, but e-mail spam filters were increasingly blocking any messages — even The Beaver’s own e-newsletter.

The Beaver’s new name?  

Canada’s History.

Yeah, that should fly off the magazine rack.

I wish the brains trust behind The Beaver had displayed the spunkiness of their namesake and stood up for their original name, but they didn’t.

And this wussiness about words seems to be catching.  

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has just published a new translation of the Bible. 

The latest edition of the New American Bible jettisons the words ‘booty’ and ‘virgin’ from the Biblical text. ‘Virgin’ becomes ‘young woman’ while ‘booty’ is replaced by ‘spoils’ — presumably because young people can’t hear the word ‘booty’ without being moved to shake theirs.

All is not lost. At least the citizens of Fort Wayne, Indiana have what it takes when it comes to recognizing and celebrating a strong name and sharing it with history. The city fathers of Fort Wayne ran an online plebiscite asking the citizens to come up with the best name for the city’s brand new government centre.

The vote was overwhelming.  Thousands upon thousands of citizens made it clear that the building should commemorate the name of a much-loved former mayor of Fort Wayne.

It remains to be seen if the city fathers have the, um, gonads to accept the wish of the citizenry and name the centre The Harry Baals Civic Center.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

PQBeat Podcast: Ed Mayne talks COVID-19, potential pool for Parksville

Mayor returns to ‘PQB News’ studios to detail summer plans

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

Consultant presents two options for Ravensong pool expansion project in Qualicum Beach

RDN committee defers decision until more information available on Parksville pool plans

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

Seven-foot-tall Nanaimo resident helps man in distress in Departure Bay

Peters able to wade out far enough to help ‘frantic’ man in the water

Most Read