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I just thought this would interest everyone. Here are the origins of two words; 'Dyke' and 'Faggot'. I copied the articles from - The 'Label It' section. Anyone know anything about other words like 'queer', 'gay' .etc?

Anyway...Here they are:


"Faggot" is the classic anti-gay slur. Most people think it's a funny coincidence that the word also happens to mean "bundle of sticks." But there may be an ancient and awful connection between the two definitions: During the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, homosexual prisoners were forced to collect wood for the Inquisition's witch-burning fires--and their own bodies were then used to fuel the pyres when the flames died out.

The word's journey from Latin to Modern English is hard to trace; along the way "faggot" was, among other things, a reprimand for boys who were "sissies" and a putdown for women.

By the early 20th century, the term (by then usually shortened to "fag" had made it into American prison slang in reference to men who dressed in women's clothes. (And into British English to mean "cigarette"--possibly because cigarettes were considered effeminate by cigar- and pipe-smokers.)

"Fag" has remained a criticism of men with stereotypical female traits--long hair in the 1960s, an earring on one side in the '80s--as much as of actual gay behavior. It has also spawned expressions like "artfag" (a name-dropping, wannabe artist who is not necessarily gay) that play on the stereotype of gay men being sensitive and artistic.

"Fag" is still a direct insult when spoken with hostile intent to a homosexual man. But it has also morphed into a more generalized insult, to the point where kids and sometimes adults use it to refer to someone they find wimpy, not "manly" or just plain not good enough.


A "dyke" is a female homosexual or a low wall built to prevent floods (this second kind is also spelled "dike". Some people suspect there's a connection between the two definitions: that women who were not interested in having sex with men might once have been compared, with disgust, to a stone barrier.

On the other hand, Boudicca, a Celtic warrior queen in Britain in the first century AD, could have inspired "dyke." Or the 19th century black women who dug ditches in the American south and were known as "bulldikes" (or even the black male laborers of that time called "bull dicks" by white plantation owners).

It's all mostly a game of guessing. Lesbians by any name were mentioned very little in print until about 1920, so it's hard to say when the word "dyke" hit spoken english.

When it did hit, it meant--and still often means--a particularly "butch" lesbian: with stereotypically "masculine" clothes and appearance. ("Butch" is actually about a lot more than looks; it was a full way of life in the underground lesbian culture of the early to mid-20th century.) In African-American slang of the 1920s, to be "diked up" was to be "dressed up" and came to refer to women dressing butch.

In the '60s, activists fighting discrimination against gay people got their first mainstream notice. And after that, the word "dyke" acquired, for some lesbians, a sense of pride.

Like lots of names people call each other, the word changes a lot with context. Shouted at someone in school or on the street, it's mean--and is meant to make a girl or woman think she is not being friendly enough to men. As a less-bookish-sounding alternative to "lesbian," it's mostly just descriptive.

Used by present-day lesbian activists and media--Dyke TV or Dykes to Watch Out For, for example--it's descriptive, but with a slightly rowdy we're-here, get-used-to-it edge.

Well now you know...

(just fixing the link - ook)

'I don't mind straight people, as long as they act gay in public.'-Dennis Rodman, well know basketball player and cross-dresser

'I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'-Voltaire, French philosopher

[This message has been edited by ookuotoe (edited 06-23-2002).]

Posts: 86 | From: South Africa | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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