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Adventures in Lexical Fashion

by Jay Nordlinger

Today’s progressive term may become tomorrow’s slur

You may have noticed, as I have, that the word “homosexual” is becoming verboten. It is entering the territory of a slur. Last year, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote a widely noticed column that began, “I’m worried about the Supreme Court.” It continued, “I’m worried about how the justices can properly debate same-sex marriage when some don’t even seem to realize that most Americans use the word ‘gay’ now instead of ‘homosexual.’” Further down in the column, Dowd quoted a friend of hers, who said, “Scalia uses the word ‘homosexual’ the way George Wallace used the word ‘Negro.’ There’s a tone to it. It’s humiliating and hurtful.”

GLAAD, the gay activist group, has a “Media Reference Guide,” which includes “Offensive Terms to Avoid.” “Homosexual” is at the top of the list. “Please use ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word ‘homosexual,’ it is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered.” GLAAD goes on to say, “Please also avoid using ‘homosexual’ as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the word ‘gay.’” That’s vigilance. But, unlike most political language cops, they say “please.”

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