Monday, October 4, 2021





Howard Richler is a Montreal-area word nerd and author of these seven books on a variety of language themes: Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes, Take My Words, A Bawdy Language, Global Mother Tongue, Can I Have a Word With You?, Strange Bedfellows and his most recent book Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit ( May 2016, Ronsdale Press, Vancouver).

As I write both books and columns on language and give speeches with language themes to many groups, I am asked many questions; but if I had to single out the question I am asked most often it would be, “How did the major sense of the word ‘gay’ change from 'happy'?” Here’s the explanation.

Actually, the first recorded sense, early in the 14th century, was ‘noble, beautiful,’ or ‘excellent,’ and often the term was employed poetically to praise exceptional women. The word surfaces in the late 14th century to refer to something bright or colourful, and before long this sense was extended to people who were considered carefree, lighthearted or cheerful.

But those who are cheerful might be engaging in some form of pleasure and by the 15th century it could also refer to one virtually addicted to social pleasures just a ‘gay dog’ was term reserved for a man given to revelling or self-indulgence. In 1630, William Davenant in The Cruel Brother and Nicholas Rowe later in 1703 in Fair Penitent unveiled libertine characters they dubbed ‘Lothario.’ As a result, in the 18th century the term ‘gay Lothario’ was used to refer to such a character. The same sense of a lack of moral rectitude is seen in the expression ‘gay abandon’ that refers to actions taken that are not considered with the consequences that might ensue. In the 19th century, the word was sometimes applied to a woman deemed to lead an immoral life, such as a prostitute. Also, the term ‘gaycat’ may have influenced the semantic change of the word gay. By the turn of the 20th century, this word gaycat was used by hobos to refer to a tramp’s companion, usually a young boy, and often his catamite.

The word is first used with the homosexual connotation in the 1920s by American expatriates living in Paris. The first OED citation with this sense comes from Gertrude Stein's Miss Furr & Miss Skeens found in Geography & Plays (1922): “Helen Furr and Georgina Keene lived together then. They were together then and traveled to another place and stayed there and were gay there . . . not very gay there, just gay there. They were both gay there.”

There is evidence that the word was used before this date. Hugh Rawson reports in Wicked Words that in 1889 during “the Cleveland Street Scandal (involving post office boys in a male brothel in London's West End), a prostitute named John Saul used gay with reference to both male homosexuals and to female prostitutes when giving evidence to the police and in court.” Gay's first dictionary appearance in its homosexual sense is in Noel Erskine's Underworld& Prison Slang (1935) : “Gaycat . . . a homosexual boy.”

Although the word still possesses the sense of ‘merry,’ the homosexual connotation is the dominant one notwithstanding the acceptability of ‘donning gay apparel’ during Yuletide festivities.

Incidentally, ‘gay’ is still evolving and is used by many teenagers to designate what they regard as socially inappropriate, what is often labelled as ‘lame.’ In 2001, the Washington Post reported, “Today, they [teenagers] often use gay as an adjective meaning ‘stupid.’ A gay movie is a stupid movie or one that makes no sense or one with a lame plot or all of those things. But soon after gay people started to protest this usage and I’m happy to say it is not used as much nowadays.

The journey of ‘faggot’ from sticks to a very derogatory one for a homosexual is a rather peculiar odyssey. The word is found in its original sense in English in the 14th century but by the 16th century it is used to refer to kindling wood used for burning heretics and the expression ‘to fry a faggot’ meant to be burned alive and ‘to carry a faggot’ referred to those who renounced heresy. The bundle sense was not lost altogether and the term by the 16th century could refer to miscellaneous bundles, and in particular, a bundle of iron or steel.

By the late 16th century a sea-change in the meaning of the word occurred and it becomes a term of abuse or contempt for a woman. This probably occurred because a broom could be fashioned from a bundle of sticks and in the process of metonymy whereby a word associated with another word substitutes, for e.g., ‘wheels’ to replace ‘car,’ faggot became a stand-in for woman. As a broom is not a highly-prized object and is associated with domestic chores often saddled on women, the term faggot became a pejorative term for a woman. This usage may also have been influenced by witches being associated with brooms and the burning of witches in the Middle Ages. Interestingly, the word ‘besom’ was used since the eleventh century to refer to a pile of twigs or a broom but the 19th century, it too became a contemptuous, if somewhat jocular, term for a woman Even in the early part of the 20th century we see ‘faggot’ used in this manner. For example, in James Joyce's 1922 Ulysses, the character Molly Bloom refers to “That old faggot Mrs Riordan,” and three years later in D.H. Lawrence's Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine a character is described as “fractious, tiresome and a faggot.” We even see this usage as late as 1961 in Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphin: the young heroine admits to singeing her hair “with a faggot.”

The process of the transformation of the major sense of faggot from woman to homosexual occurs in the early part of the 20th century. The first citation in the OED in 1914 makes it clear that the word is hardly mainstream as we see this entry from L.E. Jackson and C.R. Hellyer's A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang: “Drag, Example, All the fagots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight.” The homosexual sense of the word was much more common by the 1930s and in J. Dos Passos' The Big Money, we read, “The first thing Marge thought was how on earth she could ever have liked that faggot.” Faggot, is hardly alone in having its primary meaning shift from a description of a woman to a homosexual. Any derogatory word for a woman, or associated with the distinctive parts of a female, can be applied to homosexuals, or for that manner for any male perceived as effeminate or not ‘man enough.’ Examples abound, such as ‘pussy,’ ‘douchbag,’ ‘pantywaist,’ ‘nancy boy’ and other terms too lurid for print in a family newspaper.

Increasingly today, we see the word faggot being used with no imputation of sexuality as a generalized insult to describe a male regarded as a ‘jerk.’ Although some commentators suggest that an increased use of the word ‘faggot’ will render the word innocuous, (e.g.,’gay’ was once used primarily in an insulting manner, but nowadays is used merely as a descriptive synonym for a homosexual) it seems unlikely. The word ‘faggot’ still has a powerful sting to it and as we still see many gay adolescents have committed suicide being so labelled. In other words, we are not at a point in time when it is likely that this word's sense can be rehabilitated.


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Saturday, November 21, 2020





3201-Commonality       squash-station-dung  

3202-Split Definitive    in favour of oversight (l)  (8)

3203-Convergent   rock-plunged-tail   golden-war-eye    rock-carrier-post

3204-Commonality        innate-scored-sing

3205-Words in a Word      sick trip                                                             (v)    11

3206-Convergent      fly-farming-fry    bracelet-hard-land   spot-cold-pie

3207-Anagram   major league baseball team didn’t have an increase in covid 19 cases  (looking for 3 words that are anagrams to each other)

3208-Split Definitive      prisoner sequence of events   (c)  (9)

3209-Convergent       call-sea-butcher    drum-ale-wood     ices-liver-piece

3210-Anagram   President of Western Asia country uttered a mournful sound  

3211- Words in a Word          stroke with a whip air trip                                     (l)    10

3212-Convergent       clenched-slack-gossip   black-function-aqua      back-backs-out

3213-Commonality      rant-sties-rue

3214-Split Definitive       disregard  atom that gained electrical charge   (m)  (7)

3215-Convergent       winged-well-work  salt-saw-some   beat-it-right

3216-Anagram    Creative work broth   

3217- Words in a Word          outstanding wet dirt                                            (s)    7

3218-Convergent   table-tablet-talks     aha-boiled-candied     up-ante-double

3219-Anagram   Embroidered person who makes reparations for sinning  

3220-Split Definitive     vigor stream  (p)    (7)

3221-Convergent   broken-brace-bow    bump-nudge-pad   noodle-off-office

3222-Anagram   Tricks guardians into doing something bad            

3223-Words in a Word          restaurant bill  electric   terminal                             (t)    7

3224-Convergent   mountain-tape-western    jump-horned-tape    quarter-salt-thief

3225-Anagram     commence life

3226-Split Definitive       rusted womanizer, gambler  and drinker      (r)   10

3227-Convergent   race-pack-train          race-catcher-her           race-box-woman

3228-Commonality       core-envied-lane      

3229-Words in a Word          no longer fashionable evergreen tree                                       (o)    7                                                                                                       

3230-Convergent   beetle-film-horn   weed-wash-heaven  dried-saw-ladder

3231-Anagram    Greek goddess wasted away   

3232-Split Definitive      restrict the availability of a particular songbird   (r)    (9)

3233-Convergent   road-old-away      grass-whole-gold  finger-forward-French

3234-Anagram   French Mississippian chicken    

3235-Words in a Word          make sound of pigeon marauder                       (c)     

3236-Convergent   back-wrong-pad   cavity-protector-deep     joint-check-hop

3237-Anagram  Indian driver 

3238-Split Definitive         janitor headwear   (v)      (10)

3239-Convergent   wooden-up-hamper   camp-jack-up   alligator-Easter-car

3240-Commonality     hover-mate-orgy   

3241-Words in a Word        move composure downward                          (d)    11

3242-Convergent   favor-house-powder   case-chest-job   bran-golden-meal

3243-Commonality      coats-posse-reverse   

3244-Split Definitive     rocky peak guide   (m)     (9)

3245-Convergent   tree-complain-sand   group-hem-elope   blue-duck-lac

3246-Anagram   Lines up indication  

3247-Words in a Word        was jealous of decline                                      (s)    9[HR1] 

3248-Convergent   fog-teaser-bird      life-sugar-test          band-empire-panty

3249-Anagram     Ford flop found in Yorkshire  

3250-Words in a Word                consuming gaseous substance                         (e)   11

3251-Convergent  guard-shower-banger   flask-pie-friends     colts-pad-cubic

3252-Anagram        Tainted arbiter    

3253-Split Definitive         untidy conditions getting older     (m) (9)

3254-Convergent   lace-leg-lick  sweat-wind-hop  safety-rein-in

3255-Commonality    pend-supped-spy   ORT

3256-Words in a Word    tolerate excursion                                            (s)  11

3257-Convergent   pat-lick-mad   stuck-Lain-mental    flying-monkey-red

3258-Commonality   consume-creed -pale  

3259-Split Definitive            exist owning  (h)    (8)

3260-Convergent    ball-jar-sweet    musk-rock-water     tenderizer-thermometer-white

3261-Anagram    Three part very funny happening   

3262-Commonality        mistake egg-shaped                                        (o)   8

3263-Convergent   sitting-shelter-license     busy-ping-keeper    pose-hydraulic-blue

3264-Special Word     Name a word with 3 consecutive letter pairs    

3265-Split Definitive               obvious cutting tool  (o)     (7)

3266-Convergent     long-copper-count       stiff-let-weapon   crew-flower-framework  

3267-Palindrome  Before  getting someone to write an exam for him at Wharton, what palindromic question did DT ask himself?

3268-Words in a Word          in favour of money paid back                     (r)    9

3269-Convergent   man-ion-cinnamon   on-pickled-blue    diet-double-penis   

3270-Commonality        less-lint-predict

3271-Split Definitive                  barer punctuation mark  (b)  (9)

3272-Convergent       sucker-lion-tail      man-may-no    grumble-black-us

3273-Anagram    Refuse to notice area   

3274-Words in a Word                      prepare for publication; had sex                   (m)     9

3275-Convergent   thin-communion-silicon       custard-skin-egg   spot-sour-sweet   

3276Anagram    Initial arguments after honeymoon period ends  

3277-Split Definitive                  each harsh    (s)  (9)

3278-Convergent   lower-ox-pays    alive-art-banana   deep-cut-clearing

3279-Commonality    audited-regally-vacated   

3280-Words in a Word                 no longer fashionable toss                                               (f)      8

3281-Convergent   motel-reap-rep     antelope-for-pin       bush-cow-ears

3282-Commonality    hideous-rabbis-asses 

3283-Words in a Word                           hooter implored                                             (b)      9

3284-Convergent  bar-mushroom-pear    butter-cupcake-not   acorn-racket-winter

3285-Commonality  clog-divest-lag 

3286-Words in a Word                    absolute short affair                                          (f)   10

3287-Convergent    biter-bracelet-deep    band-bar-bone    bet-to-dig

3288-Anagram    August stony stare      

3289-Words in a Word                make holy precipitate                                         (b)       9

3290-Convergent   a-bot-boy    beetle-race-shell    whip-wood-worm

3291-Anagram    Agitate  a young woman actor

3292-Split Definitive                   in favour of seeing something in a trance  (p)    (9)

3293-Convergent   craft-line-back     button-cap-magic     clock-coconut-under

3294-Commonality   reign-sing-page 

3295-Words in a Word                insolence leader  (l)    7

3296-Convergent    bowl-print-lady   en-lymph-sweat     art-ball-be

3297-Commonality   broom-bot-gantry

3298-Words in a Word                       thread or fluff reputation                                (n)   8

3299-Convergent   bag-ball-bar   paper-pancake-cap   beer-lout-phone

3300-Commonality     trial-arched-salary      













Wednesday, September 30, 2020



WORD PUZZLES-3101-3200


3101-Convergent     gold-gear-comb   bone-cap-fracture     velvet-fight-close

3102-Commonality         use-carol-sins     

3103-Words in a Word          most appropriate privilege                            (r)       9

3104-Convergent     borne-brooms-off     sea-lonesome-plunge       march-sea-times   

3105-Anagram     attributes a bad action force    

3106-Split Definitive- hand over sweet fortified wine  (p)   (8)

3107-Convergent     roe-mule-skin         evade-wood-down       con-tail-led

3108-Commonality   barter-defer-offing

3109-Words in a Word                  donkey spies                                                (m)    8

3110-Convergent    blood-rubbing-wood      he-master-ski      dark-belly-money

3111-Commonality   loon-rage-shoo       

3112-Split Definitive   connection, dog, can    (i)    (9)

3113-Convergent    packer-support-cash      white-blower-tin      backbone-compressed-less   

3114-Anagram     believe something to be true above all others    

3115-Words in a Word                   rogue circumstance                                            (c)   7

3116-Convergent     blind-eon-out    brain-bag-circus    blue-pose-operator

3117-Anagram  Teutonic trough  

3118-Split Definitive records endeavors  (t)   (10)

3119-Convergent     beer-pin-hair    white-cinch-rust      lacy-less-id

3120-Anagram    savage sudden blaze of light   

3121-Words in a Word               equip man with weapons                                          (g)   7

3122-Convergent    maker-paint-bone   green-cobbler-big   eating-eyed-man

3123-Commonality   old-lack-land-rash-right   

3124- Split Definitive little child friend   (t)   (7)

3125-Convergent     stick-leaf-borne    pose-pole-call     mountain-tape-western

3126-Commonality   double-mule-pole

3127-Words in a Word               get rid of debtor                                              (o)    8

3128-Convergent     seed-mustang-nuts     seed-yellow-gas      ice-milk-shell

3129-Anagram    Protection of valued resources discussion 

3130-Split Definitive     restrain company   (r)   (15)

3131-Convergent    monkey-ground-case      crisp-bin-monkey     standing-park-line

3132-Anagram    Ship officer’s extra pay

3133-Words in a Word            storage spaces get older                                     (a)   11

3134-Convergent   sour-faced-rye    vine-gallery-stand        vacillate-maker-Belgian

3135-Anagram    salt tribe

3136-Split Definitive person who devises LSAT exam

3137-Convergent     home-diamond-cover   turkey-tie-cloth     tap-tar-pad

3138-Anagram    Arenaceous room where analysis occurs 

3139-Words in a Word               quoted at one time                           (c)     9

3140-Convergent   bean-punch-stone   hook-hold-open     club-path-crow

3141-Commonality   bang-peer-ring

3142-Split Definitive in favour of seeing something in a trance  (p)    (9)

3143-Convergent   call-on-finger     away- lock-air      dear-crisp-bunch

3144-Commonality   served-proving-mote-cent-gal   

3145-Words in a Word              stove jargon                                                       (c)    8

3146-Convergent      wood-striped-ale     bear-bill-bed     coat-farrm-oil

3147-Anagram     aromatic plant substances of the Zodiac  

3148-Split Definitive   strap for controlling horse released emotions     (v

3149-Convergent   screw-nail-print   top-victory-wing     ally-armor-ate

3150-Anagram     assists brutal person    

3151-Words in a Word            suggest lassoer                                                (i)     10

3152-Convergent  spring-sweet-Swiss    bird-quick-juice     root-garden-stock

3153-Anagram    Asian President spoke  

3154-Split Definitive    in favor of Mussolini

3155-Convergent   boy-bottle-paper     naked-oaf-imitate    halt-irate-ire  

3156-Anagram      military trainee pretended 

3157-Words in a Word              delay more disgusting                                                (l)   8

3158-Convergent    freeze-left-lizard    red-ups-nut   rimmed-shoe-air

3159-Commonality       grape-west-wish    

3160-Split Definitive back mountain chain    (r)  (9)

3161-Convergent    Yankee-field-string    floss-bar-man     tap-can-rye

3162-Commonality   mice-pate-pity

3163-Words in a Word                vomit undercover operation                            (r)     10          

3164-Convergent   agent-audacity-impulse    roll-fondle-line      snub-brown-pig

3165-Anagram    suppress witches   

3166-Split Definitive   concept tabulation     (l)     (8)   

3167-Convergent       baby-bean-doughnut     racket-lemon-acorn   unused-pepper-condition

3168-Anagram     malevolent face covering 

3169-Words in a Word          encircle tube to open blocked passageway       (r)    0

3170-Convergent      drop-wood-dropping   tail-desert-squirrel   apple-late-oil  

3171-Commonality  team-reap-horse

3172- Split Definitive      prisoner line of ancestry  (s)   (9)

3173-Convergent   whole-work-young   piercing ring-shield   south-nee-print

3174-Commonality   pate-pity-mice

3175-Words in a Word              say sharp pain                                                (s)    10         

3176-Convergent   clock-crazy-bird   skin-spirit-spray    fire-flu-frigate

3177-Anagram  messy benign body growths    

3178-Split Definitive       (o)    (11)   

3179-Convergent   safety-steel-tin   adult-bonnet-boy     balloon-out-patterns

3180-Anagram  speckled horse found in North Africa

3181-Words in a Word          vomit undercover operation (r)  10  

3182-Convergent   black-beret- bush      thermometer-sweet-dog    tiger-boat-butterfly

3183-Anagram  change what you eat  

3184-Split Definitive   overdue account       (o)     (9) 

3185-Convergent   catcher-no-weight       mountain-tape-western     bin-winner-black     

3186-Commonality  Convergent  cured-reads-lop

3187-Words in a Word          hooter implored     (o)   9

3188-Convergent  stick-gold-lady       doctor-shade-my    knocker-board-cap

3189-Commonality shower-test-scion 

3190- Split Definitive   gamble glimmer      (r)   (6)   

3191-Convergent  stick-gold-lady      doctor-shade-my  knocker-board-cap

3192-Commonality land-bed-begged   

3193-Words in a Word              piece of carpet statement of beliefs                 (m)    8

3194-Convergent   rice-black-stick   oxygen-death-ball     bowler-ass-rain

3195-Commonality ball-cling-shed 

3196-Split Definitive    prisoner category   (s)   (7)

3197-Convergent  seed-sheet-short   seed-nuts-concord    roast-relish-row

3198-Commonality           mint-render-sped   

3199-Words in a Word       blemish item                                                   (w)  9

3200-Convergent  root-rush-relative   sleepy-snake-soft    open-broken-warmer