The F Word

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Yesterday's South Park episode features an elaborate drama of grass-roots lexicography.  The wikipedia entry gives some details:

The boys and the citizens of South Park are troubled by a large group of Harley-Davidson riders frequently making noise in town. Numerous complaints are made to the bikers, but they disregard this, seeing themselves as getting attention, and continue to make more noise around town. Frustrated, the boys and other schoolmates assemble to defecate on the seats of the motorcycles and they spray paint "Fags get out" on several buildings around town as well.

The school board, the mayor, and local homosexuals become outraged by the graffiti and take it as an homophobic message. The boys push to town hall to recognize the word, "fag", is used nowadays for a contemptible person ("An inconsiderate Douchebag" as Stan puts it) who rides a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Much to the town's own surprise, they find the boy's argument makes a great deal of sense, and even the local gay community begins to put their support behind the changing of the word. An ordinance is passed in South Park, but is met with negative publicity from the rest of the nation, as well as heat from the bikers now being labeled as "fags" and drive off.

Facing pressure from the mayor, the boys decide to push to update the term with the help of the English Dictionary Officiates which is led by Emmanuel Lewis who is known for playing the character of "Webster" on television. An event is held in town, but the Harley-Davidson riders come together and riot to crash the event. After having inflicted a lot of damage to the town and scaring off the citizens, they corner the boys in an alley, but are then chased off and forced to surrender when South Park's gay men advocates turn their shotguns on them. In the end, the riders ultimately accept being called "fags".

Emmanuel Lewis, badly injured in the riot, declares the definition changed. The town rejoices and celebrates, and the show cuts to the updated definition of "fag", which reads: "Fag (făg) n. 1. An extremely annoying, inconsiderate person most commonly associated with Harley riders. 2. A person who owns or frequently rides a Harley."

Someone who is thinking about possibly buying a Harley is, of course, "bike-curious".

More on the substantive point can be found here.

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54 Comments »

  1. Mihai Pomarlan said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    Aww come on, that's it?

    I've read the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary definition of "fag" (you've got to love: "3 [C] (Brit) (formerly) junior boy at a public school performing certain duties for a senior boy") and "faggot" (the bundle of sticks thing is, amazingly, there), and the Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged, and Wiktionary (which includes the general "a jerk, an asshole").

    So for one, yeah the library scene with the bikers researching the word fag is surprisingly plausible.

    And for another, yes the whole thing about changing the definition of the word "fag" in the dictionary to make the "fags get out" signs ok is ridiculous. If anyone sees a "God hates fags" sign in real life (as opposed to this SP epsiode) it's obvious what's being said.

    However, the underlying point- language change- remains. When can we look at a word and say "yep, that word now means {}"?

  2. Edith Maxwell said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

    The way I heard the show told (I didn't watch it), one of the more interesting scenes was when the children told their teacher what they thought the word meant and were surprised when the adult told them differently. As we all know, kids often create their own meaning-interpretations of words they hear. Reminds me of when my goddaughter at age 3 was sitting with her father watching cars go by and was saying, "Look at that asshole," repeatedly. She usually drove with her mother (this in the Boston area) and simply thought that was the word for people behind the wheel. Now that she's 24, she probably still thinks so.

  3. Arnold Lazro said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

    I have never heard anyone use the word "fag" in America who wouldn't also use it to refer to homosexuals. To claim that the meaning is wholly independent of the anti-gay slur is just so totally preposterous and seems to be another example of Matt and Trey's intellectual myopia.

  4. Acilius said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

    "bike-curious": I'd bet money that the whole script was written as an elaborate setup for that pun.

  5. Mihai Pomarlan said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

    And it's not a bad one. Right?

  6. John Wells said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

    @Mihai: No kidding. When I was first at public (boarding) school (aged 12-14) in England I had to be a fag (do fagging) for older boys (under the supervision of the fagmaster). By the time I was a prefect myself (aged 17-18) I had a fag of my own and could require younger boys to fag for me.
    Fagging has now been abolished.

    I didn't encounter the "homosexual" meaning until I was an adult. We sort of know it now in BrE, but mainly as an Americanism.
    "Faggots" for me as a boy were a kind of rissole.
    So remember that English is more than American English.

  7. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

    South Park's Dictionary Officiates follow in the footsteps of imagined lexicographical gatekeepers depicted by MadTV and Sarah Silverman.

  8. tablogloid said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    What next from South Park? An episode that winds through the lexicomical labyrinth of the word "cock"?

  9. Mihai Pomarlan said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

    @John Wells:

    English is my second language so the "fag=homosexual" and "fag=cigarette" meanings were the ones I knew. Surprised to find out that this word also refers to tedious menial labour, or the exhaustion/annoyance resulting from such labour, or to bundles of wood, or to binding wood in such bundles. Apparently some of those other meaning were more important/common than the famous/controversial ones, because they ranked higher in the dictionary.

    As for "faggots"="kind of rissole", this is almost like pasties. The Cornish variety. Where can you say "fanny pack" and not get stared at for being indecent?

  10. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

    So which public school did you go to, John Wells? Mine was Epsom College. My father was a doctor and hoped (vainly) that his sons might become doctors too.

    And I too was, and later had, a fag (i.e., a junior boy performing menial services for a prefect).

    The word "gay", too, had a different meaning in those days. Gay Paree and all that.

  11. M. Nestor said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

    I guess next they'll see it's just a coincidence of the fluid, totally not homophobic, not gay-insulting linguistic culture that 'homo' and 'gay' are used as a general insult just like 'fag' is. Any gays or gay-sensitive folks who are offended by those insults are just so behind the times and PC, dude.

  12. Mark F said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

    Mihai — Many dictionaries, including the OED and Merriam-Webster, list definitions in chronological order, not based on importance. The "bundle of sticks" definition appeared earlier because it was older.

  13. Mihai Pomarlan said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

    @M. Nestor:

    Not knowing what the authors of Southpark are thinking, we can only speculate, but when you see Father Makey holding a "God hates fags" sign towards the bikers, it is obviously a joke that is aware how in the real world, "fag" really is used as a derogatory term for gays.

    But just like gay was something different, when if ever will be able to see "fag" as just another name for an insensitive douche-bag?

    Is it in no way plausible that newer generations might use a word in imitation of their parents, while losing some of the connotations? A beautiful example was given just above by Edith Maxwell.

  14. Bobbie said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    Mihai said: Where can you say "fanny pack" and not get stared at for being indecent?

    I didn't know that the thing tourists wear around their waists (to eliminate the need to carry a purse, and to prevent pickpockets….) was indecent… Must have another meaning somewhere else in the world, heh?

  15. Mihai Pomarlan said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    Mark F.: you know, I learned something today.

  16. Mihai Pomarlan said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

    @Bobbie:

    A bit lazy and time is short but according to wiktionary:

    (British, Irish, Australian, New Zealand, vulgar) The female genitalia.

  17. M. Nestor said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 6:55 pm

    @Mihai – Ignorance of a word's history and alternate uses only works until you have to explain that you 'were' (past tense) ignorant of those ongoing meanings. Given the context in which 'fag/homo/gay/queer' etc. is used as an insult, I imagine such an awareness would happen fairly quickly. After that point, it's an individual's choice to continue applying those words or not despite who might be insulted. If someone could demonstrate that this usage didn't perpetuate stereotypes and bias in that the derisive usage is part of a continuum that originated with and feeds back into specific identity-based bias, and instead helped supplant that bias by diffusing the meaning ("Hey homosexuals, why do you place 'homo' in front of your name or call yourselves 'gay', don't you know those words are for douchebags? Stop hitting yourself."), I'd be willing to accept such decisions as strategically sound rather than apathetic and/or selfish (or deceptive).

  18. Aviatrix said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

    I've heard the cigarette meaning quite recently from British people and I remember hearing "fags" for chores not associated with schoolboy servitude, twenty years ago.

    I think it's great that the same word maintains different meanings in different parts of the world, and that its use as a slur in one country does not invalidate it as a word in another.

  19. Rubrick said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

    This seems as good a point as any to link to the recently popular reclaiming 'douchebag' video.

  20. John Burgess said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    Now perhaps it's a result of growing up in New England, in a city that was of predominantly Irish origin, but 'fag' as 'cigarette' and being 'all fagged out' as 'exhausted' were definitely commonplace.

    As I played the bassoon, I also learned that 'faggot' and derivatives were synonymous with that instrument. 'Faggot' as 'rissole' came a bit later as they'd been mostly supplanted in that mental space by meatballs.

  21. mollymooly said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

    US "fanny pack" and UK "bum bag" are terrible names even without their potential for inter-dialect confusion. I propose we abandon both and adopt the Italian name: "marsupio".

  22. Katherine said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

    mollymooly, I've never heard that before, but it is so awesome that I'm going to have to adopt it!

  23. ChrisB said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    Mind you, I did blink somewhat when some years ago reading an English naval war novel where the plucky Cockney steward brought up a steaming fanny of hot tea for the captain.

    "Sir, I've brought up your dinner.'
    'Well, you shouldn't have eaten it in the first place.'
    That from the Goon Show.

  24. Suleiman Razumovsky said,

    November 5, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

    @Arnold Lazro:

    In my demographic, I have very seldom heard the word fag used to refer to homosexuals, and almost exclusively as a general deprecative term.

  25. empty said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 12:04 am

    Edith, very much the same thing happened in our family! My then young nephew was asked by his mother (who wanted to review the concept of "stranger" with him) "What do we call those people in those other cars?" He answered "assholes". Not Boston, but within a 50 mile radius.

  26. Bryan D said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 12:09 am

    As a young man in his 20's I'd say fag isn't always used as a slur against homosexuals. Often it really is used as proposed by the South Park group and I would imagine it is likely drifting that way amongst younger people.

    That said it still often is used in fashion to imply someone is gay in a very derogatory manner so maybe the episode it just a little ahead of its time.

  27. dr pepper said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 1:57 am

    It seems obvious to me.

    "faggot" meaning "firewood" => "faggot" meaning "cigarette". "Fag" is just an abbreviation for it.

    "fag" meaning "exhaust, work hard", possibly short for "fatigue" => "fag" meaning "servant" => "fag" meaning "boy who does stuff for other boys" => male homosexual. Btw, some american colleges had a similar system in which the younger boy was called a "wife".

    My father went to a british boarding school and he only ever used the word "fag" in the school sense.

    The british soap opera "Eastenders" once played with the two meanings. They had just introduced a new character, an architect who from the beginning was obviously supposed to be gay. But at first they only dropped hints. In one scene someone asks him "got a fag?" He says "sorry, i don't smoke". She turns away saying, "oh, well you look the type".

  28. George said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 6:45 am

    Molly Mooly mentioned the Italian term 'marsupio' for bum bag / fanny pack. There's also the French 'banane'.

    What I've always found odd about both 'bum bag' and 'fanny pack' is the implication that the bag part of the device is worn behind rather than in front. In fact, if 'fanny pack' were the British rather than the American term it would probably be a better description….

    As an aside, I didn't know the term 'marsupio' (go raibh maith agaibh, Molly agus Language Log) but the French do use 'kangourou' for those baby-in-the-front carrier things. I once assumed that the 'K' of 'K-Way' (originally a brand name but which became the generic French term for any light rain jacket that folds into its own front pocket and is worn around the waist) stood for 'kangourou' but a bit of googling has now revealed to me that it is actually an abbreviation of 'en cas'.

    Just in case any of you might be even vaguely interested in knowing that.

  29. outeast said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 6:46 am

    dr pepper

    "fag" meaning "boy who does stuff for other boys" => male homosexual.

    Was having just this discussion a couple of days back. While plausible on the face of it, the OED's chronology seems to refute your hypothesized explanation: 'fag = homosexual" was initially (exclusively) faggot, and was US slang, while 'fag = schoolboy slave' was only ever fag and was UK slang. So the UK 'fag' would have had to gross the Atlantic, changed its meaning without ever being adopted in its UK sense, then expanded to 'faggot', then re-imported… an unlikely scenario.

    Faggot was a 'chiefly dialect' insult meaning 'an objectionable (old) woman, child, animal, etc.', which may be a more likely source of the 'homosexual' meaning.

    "faggot" meaning "firewood" => "faggot" meaning "cigarette".

    Again, logical but not supported by the evidence: it does not seem that 'faggot' ever meant cigarette. Actually, the story is a bit offer: 'fag end' for the end of a cigarette actually came first – derived from 'fag end' to mean 'the last or ttail end of something, typically after the best has been used up' (and earlier still 'the last of a piece of cloth'). 'Fag' meaning cigarette is a later innovation: if the fag end is the butt, the reasoning must have gone, the fag must be the whole cigarette.

    "fag" meaning "exhaust, work hard", possibly short for "fatigue"

    Maybe related to, but from the OED 'fag' in this sense actually predates 'fatigue' (in English, that is).

    I love it when etymology is counterintuitive:)

    Incidentally: Adge Cutler and the Wurzels had a minor hit with a song called (IIRC) 'Faggots is good for you'. In the meat rissole sense, this time…

  30. Colin John said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 6:51 am

    I'm aware of all the meanings, but as a middle-aged BrE speaker the first meaning for me is 'cigarette' (as in 'a packet of fags'). I would guess that that would still hold true for the majority of BrE speakers although it's usually pretty obvious what is meant. How else do you understand the Monty Python exchange (between a group of elderly clubmen):
    - When I was at school I was a fag.
    - I was a fag-end.
    - I was a dog-end.
    - I was a hot-dog.
    - Eton?
    - Damn nearly.

  31. Colin John said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 7:17 am

    Simulposted with outeast, who seems to have hit all the nails on the head, but can I just add a bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins from about 1880.

    'O then, weary then whý should we tread? O why are we so
    haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged,
    so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered,'

    From
    The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo
    (Maidens' song from St. Winefred's Well)

    This also contains a favourite word from my childhood, when my Scottish granny would say 'Dinna fash yersel', meaning approximately '
    'dont get upset'.

  32. Colin John said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 7:26 am

    Oh, and one more thing –
    George said:
    'What I've always found odd about both 'bum bag' and 'fanny pack' is the implication that the bag part of the device is worn behind rather than in front.'

    That's exactly how they usually were (and still often are) worn. Basically it's a mini backpack.

  33. George said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    @ Colin John

    I know they are sometimes worn like that (a lot handier when running or cycling for example) but I don't think it's how they are usually worn now, whatever about in the past. Simple matter of security. Would you leave your wallet or passport where you couldn't see them? (Although, having worked as a consular officer, I have to admit that some people obviously do leave their wallets and passports where they can't see them. I'd just always assumed that the people I came across weren't a particularly representative sample of humanity…)

  34. George said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 8:05 am

    Oh, and one more thing -

    The term 'marsupio' certainly suggests something worn in front… and I'm sure we wouldn't want to suggest that there might be more pick-pockets in some parts of the world than in others….

  35. George said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 8:10 am

    BTW Colin, I just love that 'Dinna fash yersel'…. ne te fache pas? What with th'aul alliance and all? (I won't be left behind in the uninformed amateur etymology stakes, me, but I'm sure you'll disabuse me quickly enough!)

  36. Richard Howland-Bolton said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 9:06 am

    @ various faggot-mentioners:
    at the end of this (rapidly-written) essay is a snip from a paper that might be considered relevant-ish.
    http://howlandbolton.com/essays/read_more.php?sid=215

  37. Chris said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    What next from South Park? An episode that winds through the lexicomical labyrinth of the word "cock"?

    My local grocery store sells a product prominently labeled as cock-flavored soup mix.

    Fortunately, the equally prominent illustration defuses the double entendre, but still…

  38. Maureen said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    When fanny packs were introduced, I seem to recall that they were backpacking equipment, not something worn in crowds.

    Of course, as soon as they became "things you wear in town among other people", they had to be turned around to be kept under one's eye.

  39. Janice Huth Byer said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 10:37 am

    I appreciate the summary of an episode that redeems a show that's generally too mean-spirited for my viewing pleasure. I love how it seems to spoof the strategy of an anti-gay marriage lobbies, which has been to fix the legal definition of marriage. They feign it will protect marriage, but, of course, it merely protects their exclusive, and, imo, unConstitutional privilege to define it for our legal system.

  40. Estel said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 10:37 am

    George: My French is not good, but it looks like you might be right. The OED traces fash back to Old French fascher = Modern French fâcher.

  41. George said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 11:24 am

    Well fancy that! Thanks Estel. By the way, how did you get the accent circonflexe on the 'a'?

  42. Craig Russell said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

    I'll grant that the under-20 crowd today probably does use 'fag' as an indiscriminate insult.

    I'm skeptical that it has also lost its homophobic connotations. One thing this episode got dead wrong is the scene at the assembly when the mayor and school administrators accused the boys of being homophobic, and the boys protested innocence. "Why would we want to get rid of gay people?" asked Stan. No way.

    From my experience, children that age (especially boys, especially the kind that say 'fag' every ten words) tend to be extremely homophobic. 'Fag' may be used in other contexts too, but one use is most certainly to point out and mock effeminate behavior or dress or whatever. Maybe the word has been extended in its meaning, but I don't think it's lost what is, in 21st century America, its primary connotation of making fun of gay people.

    In my eyes this is kind of like the expression "retard". It has come to be used as an insult in all kinds of situations that have nothing to do with someone literally having Down Syndrome, but nobody has forgotten that that's its "real" meaning, and the fact that it's more commonly used with the extended meaning doesn't mean that people who use it have stopped being cruel to the mentally handicapped.

    (Still, having made this disagreement, I'll say that I liked the episode, and I think South Park is often more intelligent and more fruitful of real thought and discussion than many of its critics give it credit for.)

  43. Amanda Verandah said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

    @ George, the circumflex accent in 'fâcher' replaced the 's' in 'fascher', as it did in 'hôpital' from 'hospital'.

  44. Aaron Davies said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

    @George: entering accented letters varies greatly among computer systems. on my mac, "â" is created by typing "option-i", then "a". on windows, it's alt-0226, done by holding down alt and typing 0226 on the numeric keypad. on linux, it probably involves compose or alt-graph or something. (note that all my experience is on systems set up for american keyboards and localization. this probably varies drastically in other countries.)

    speaking of accents, @Colin John: why is there an acute accent over the "ý" in "whý"?

  45. Graeme said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

    Once I landed in trouble at work when the Eudora word screener alerted a boffin to my using 'suck on a fag' in an informal email.

    The context made it clear I was talking of a ciggy.

    No one can not know Am Eng these days; unless he avoids tv and computers.

    South Park's fnarr, fnarr crusade against what it sees as PC was amusing once; long, long ago. Most folk have a small quota of creative ideas, which is quickly exhausted.

  46. Alissa said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    @Craig Russel: It's possible the under-20 crowd would use 'fag' as a generic insult, maybe someone still school-aged, but I don't think most people in their 20s would. As someone in my early 20s I would never use it that way. I agree with you that it still definitely has its homophobic connotations. To call someone 'fag' would be like saying "You are gay and I find this unacceptable." Of course, to use it wouldn't require the speaker to actually believe that the addressee is actually gay.

    I think this may eventually be like 'retard', but from what I have seen, 'retard' has gone further down the path to generic-insult-hood. I know people who will say 'retard' but have no prejudice whatsoever against people with Down Syndrome or anything like it, but I haven't heard 'fag' used without any implication of homophobia. This could be my age; while 'fag' definitely has had its homophobic meaning in my lifetime, I have never heard 'retard' used to refer to someone with Down Syndrome. There is more distance now between the word and its original meaning. While I wouldn't use 'retard' because I know its connotations from being told them, I wouldn't use 'fag' because its discriminatory meaning is still very much part of the word for me.

  47. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 7, 2009 @ 4:55 am

    @ Aaron Davies: speaking of accents, @Colin John: why is there an acute accent over the "ý" in "whý"?

    Because Hopkins put it there and Colin James has taken the trouble to reproduce the quotation faithfully. Read the introduction of the Penguin Hopkins for more information about the "various stress- and expression-marks" that the poet used in order to elucidate his "new rhythm", or more precisely new rhythms, called Counterpoint Rhythm and Sprung Rhythm respectively. I'll leave it at that in case Colin James wants to write a fuller explanation.

  48. Simon Cauchi said,

    November 7, 2009 @ 4:56 am

    Apologies to Colin JOHN, not James!

  49. George said,

    November 7, 2009 @ 10:10 am

    @ Amanda Verandah

    I did know that an accent circonflexe is "une pierre tombale érigée à la mémoire d'un 's' disparu" (not sure whose formula that was originally but it's lovely…). I just didn't know how to do 'â' on a UK/Irish keyboard(but have now searched around and discovered it's Alt+131 for me on a bog-standard XP machine…)

  50. Ken Brown said,

    November 7, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

    Mihai Pomarlan: "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary … "faggot" (the bundle of sticks thing is, amazingly, there"

    Why "amazingly"? Even if that word and meaning were no longer productive of new texts, they still exist in old texts; so unless you are going to insist that no English learner ever read anything written before about 1960, you will want to see those meanings in a dictionary intended for learners.

    Usual irresistible anecdotal egosplurge bit – for me, (50-something native speaker of "Estuary English") "fag" is the normal colloquial word for a cigarette, as it is for many younger than me in their teens and twenties (including gay men) I don't think that sense is dying out at all. If anything its taking over both from other uses of "fag" and from other words for cigarette such as "cig", "tab", or "snout".

  51. J. W. Brewer said,

    November 7, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    I think in AmE we barely have colloquial words for cigarettes. It's been 20 years since I quit, but in hindsight (at least in the '80's) youthful American cigarette-smokers were a very linguistically impoverished subculture, compared to, say marijuana smokers or practitioners of minority-preference sexual acts. We most certainly did not have "fag" in the tobacco sense, and other than just "smoke" as a noun and the occasional boring short-form like cig or ciggie, I can't recall any colloquialisms at all. "Coffin nail" would have sounded like you were trying to imitate dialogue from some old noir movie.

    Relatedly, I was baffled for a long time by the title and lyrics of the old Kinks song "Harry Rag," before I realized it must be Cockney rhyming slang for "fag" in the cigarette sense, and then it all made sense. (Nowadays I'm sure some googling would have provided the exegesis, but you darn kids don't know how primitive it was in the old days.)

  52. Mark Anderson said,

    November 8, 2009 @ 3:21 am

    In the UK, "gay" has recently acquired an additional meaning, particularly among the young, of ineffectual. Eg "that was so gay."

    There are several Scots dialect words that seem to have French origins, including bonny, and the use of the word doubt (verb) to mean suspect.

    At my Scottish public school, third formers (13 year olds) had to fag for prefects.

    And completely off-topic, pluke is a Scottish term for spots (zits).

  53. George said,

    November 8, 2009 @ 7:38 am

    I do sometimes wonder whether this generically pejorative sense of the word 'gay' isn't so much an extension of "gay=bad" as a comment on the sort of tacky pop-culture that at least part of the gay community, albeit 'knowingly' and 'ironically', celebrates, the world of 'gay icons' like Kylie Minogue, the world of a classics PhD I once knew who possessed every single episode of the British sitcom 'Are You Being Served' on VHS…

  54. Simon said,

    November 9, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

    In August of 1998 as I was being beaten to the point of hospitalization by three 20-something men yelling "fag" at me at the same time, the primary definition of the term was entirely clear to me and to them. I have serious doubts that semantically much has changed in the 11 years since.

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