"In most schools up and down the country, the word 'gay' is being used thousands upon thousands of times in a derogatory context. If you fall over in school and look a prat, that's gay; when you're given homework, it's gay; if you're wearing unfashionable trousers, they're gay. It is the "in" insult of the playground, along with faggot, queer, bender, bum boy, batty boy, lezzie and dyke."
So says Sue Saunders of the campaign group, Schools Out. And we all know it's true. So why is this type of language generally looked upon as less serious than racist abuse? In an article about homophobic bullying in yesterday's Guardian, the impact of homophobic language is discussed at length, and the point is made that - rather like the n-word discussed earlier - there is a history to terms like "gay" which goes beyond the current use of it as a generalised term of abuse for anything remotely "crap" (a form of broadening in language change). And there's also a history of suffering, abuse and violence - not least for younger people who are either open about their sexuality or just lazily labelled as "gays", "battyboys" or "faggots" by other children for whatever spurious reasons.
Again, all comments on this article and the wider debate about terms of abuse, would be welcome!
ENA1 - Language & Representation
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates